Diamond B Ranch
Chick Brooder Set Up
Before you can get all those fresh eggs, you need to start with chicks. Chickens have a remarkable ability to thermoregulate their bodies under their feathers, but chicks hatch with only fluffy down on their backs. They'll need to stay warm in the brooder until their feathers come in, about 6 weeks after hatch.
Here's What You Need:
A tub, box, or pen for the chicks. I use a Rubbermaid feed tub.
Pine shavings (You can use any kind of shavings except cedar)
Heat Lamp & Bulb
50lb Bag of MEDICATED chick starter/grower feed. If brooding waterfowl, use unmedicated.
A cover for the tub. I use a piece of hardware cloth. Chicken wire or plastic snow fence will also work.
Here is what my completed set up looks like
A Note On Heat Lamps
Heat lamps scare the heck out of me! We've been brooding chicks for over a decade and we've only had one brooder fire. Luckily we were home and caught it right away. Make sure your lamps are secure!
One thing we do is use a reptile heat lamp and bulb. These aren't usually found at the feed stores so you might need to order online. The reptile bulbs are the size of a standard heat bulb and sit inside the lamp. If the fall down, it buys you a little extra time to grab it since the bulb won't make direct contact with the shavings. Also, reptile lights are made to hang, not clip on. We've screwed a small T Post to our tub. Then we use 2 separate zip ties to secure it onto the T Post. This light isn't going anywhere.
So how do you know the temperature in the brooder is right?
It's super simple. If the chicks are huddled under the light, it's probably too cold. If they are on the edges of the tub and panting, it's too hot. You want the chicks loosely scattered around the brooder sleeping casually where they please.
Cleaning Your Brooder
Baby chicks can be pretty gross. We clean out the brooder every other day, daily when they're bigger. I use a dust pan to scrap all the shavings out into a paper bag. Then replace the shavings. You need enough shavings just to cover the bottom, nothing deep.
When To Kick Them Out
About six weeks after hatch or whenever the birds are fully feathered and then it's time to move on. I wait until my overnight low temperatures are at least steady in the 50s. I integrate my chicks into the big barn of mature hens. Before they go to the big barn they spend a couple of weeks outside in the grow-out pen. Here, they are just growing bigger, that's it! When they are big enough to defend themselves from the older hens in the pecking order, I move them again to the big barn. More on flock integration in another post.
Also when they move outside is time to switch their feed to lay crumble. If you have any left, finish using your bag of chick starter/grower and then make the switch to crumble.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments!