Brooding Questions

We often get questions about raising chicks. Here are answers to some great questions we recently received:

Q- The chicks are in our house with a heat lamp running 24 hours. I’m wondering if we should be turning the light off for a period to give them some darkness… but that won’t keep them above 90 degrees. What do you recommend?
PP- While it would seem natural to have the chicks in darkness for a period of time every day, this is not necessary for their health. The most important factor in raising healthy chicks is to have proper heat. This will require a brooding lamp to be on 24 hours a day. They are like babies in that they will take naps throughout the day. Most chicks will also settle down naturally in the night and sleep through.

Q- How often do we need to replace the food in their feeder? Do they pick out the nutritious bits leaving filler that we should be throwing away?
PP- The food should not need to be replaced unless they are soiling it with droppings or getting it wet with water from the drinker. Most chick feeders are gravity fed, so they will be getting fresh food as they eat whats in the bottom of the feeder. If you are using a trough feeder, remove any pine bedding that they have kicked into it. Then move the remaining feed to one side and add feed to the other side. That way you’re not putting new feed on top of old. I am a big believer in getting the most out of the feed we give. If there is left over feed from the chicks I’ll often give this to the adult birds. (They love the high protein feed.) Of course, if there are a lot of droppings in the feed, then it goes straight to the compost pile.

Q- I think Ben mentioned that your starter feed can be used until they start laying. Can you confirm I heard that right?
PP- Yes, chicks can be given starter feed until they are moved to the layer at 18 weeks of age (or when they start laying). Commercial feeding systems have the birds drop the protein when the chicks reach about 8 weeks of age. This is not nutritionally necessary, but rather to save money. The major cost of feed is in the protein. If you can afford the high protein feed, (not a big deal for a few chicks) then it gives them an edge in growing healthy muscle.

Q- I’m not sure that the brooder we have will hold them until they go outside to their coop. How much space do you recommend for the four chicks?
PP- Four chicks do not need a lot of space for their first 5 weeks. Generally, for 6 or fewer chicks, a large Rubbermaid container or a medium moving box has sufficient size to keep them comfortable until they are ready to move to the coop.

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