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Melhorn Manor & Farm's Guide to Raising Chicks

You found the perfect chicks! They get tucked into a tiny box for you to bring home, but now you are reading about pasty butt and heat lamps... The poultry industry thrives on eager new chick parents looking to buy the best, easiest, and most foolproof contraptions to keep their chicks healthy. We have raised thousands of chicks to 6-weeks-old (we'll come back to that age later), and our chicks have thrived without all the bells and whistles.

Chick Checklist

Brooder box - storage tubs, wooden boxes, and fancy brooders all act to contain chicks in a small area AND retain heat in that area. The chicks won't jump or fly much for a couple weeks, but by weeks 3-6, you will need something on top to prevent escapes.

We have used this exact storage tote to make our own brooder box.

Heat source - until chicks are fully feathered at 6 weeks of age, they require supplemental heat to stay warm. Broody hens are nature's heat source, but in the absence of a hen the chicks will still need some way to stay warm. We'll explore the options more below. We do personally use either the brooder plates or a Hatching Time brooder.

Measure the temperature on the floor of your brooder.

Ensure the brooder is kept at the proper temperature for the chicks' age.

Food - chicks have different nutritional requirements than actively laying adult birds. They need to be on a Chick Starter or Chick Grower type feed. They should have 24/7 access to clean food. We love these feeders to prevent them from walking through their food. But you can use even small food dishes from other animals.

We really like making them food pies when they are tiny.

1. Ensures they are always getting some hydration even if they haven't figured out the waterer completely.

2. Significantly reduces the amount of food wasted from them scratching.

Simply pour chick water over feed until it is moistened.

Waterer - we do often add some molasses and electrolytes to chick water for the first week or two. Make sure they have 24/7 access to clean drinking water. They will poop in it, spread food to it, and kick bedding into it. Because they're chickens...

Mason jar - most waterers come as a base that can screw onto any regular mouth mason jar up to 1 quart in size


Chick Care Tips

Now that you have the basic equipment, how do you use it?

  • Set your brooder up. Ensure there is enough room for chicks under their heat source, and enough space around the feeder for all the chicks. Overcrowding can lead to overheating or trampling.

  • House chicks of a similar age together. No more than a 1-2 week difference in age, especially for day-old chicks. Chicks grow rapidly, and a 3 week old chick could injure or kill a day-old chick on accident.

  • Check their food and water at least twice a day. If they are running out mid-day, they need a larger container of food and/or water.

  • Keep their environment clean. Replace bedding that looks soiled. Place the chicks in a warm, safe place (box with air hole or another storage tote). Completely dump out the bedding and wipe down the brooder with very dilute vinegar water to help reduce bacteria.

  • Regularly wash the feeder and waterer. They can get pretty nasty, and drinking contaminated water can result in illness.

  • Evaluate the temperature of the brooder frequently and carefully.

    • Happy chicks should be evenly spaced out as seen below, or under their brooder plate coming out to eat and drink.

    • Cold chicks will tightly clump together to stay warm, and they are vulnerable to dying from hypothermia.

    • Overheated chicks will spread apart as much as possible and pant. They are at risk of dying from dehydration.

  • Check their butts for "pasty butt." This can occur when they are dehydrated or overheated and is a strange name for poop drying over their vents. Without early intervention and reversal of the cause, this can prevent them from being able to poop, which can be fatal.

    • Food pies are a great way to prevent pasty butt!

    • You can add 1 tablespoon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar per gallon of water to help boost natural bacteria in their gut.

    • If you discover pasty butt, rinse under warm water until it comes loose or use a bit of coconut oil to loosen the poop off the feathers around the vent. DO NOT yank the poop off.

Lastly, don't hesitate to message us with any questions. We reply fastest to Facebook messenger, link below.


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