Brooding

We highly recommend that people brood their own chicks. When chicks are little, they are impressionable.  Spending time with them early on will help develop a calm, trusting disposition toward people.  Especially their caretakers.

When a mama hen hatches out a group of eggs, the new group of chicks is called her brood.  She dotes over them and works to keep them warm and fed.  That’s why taking care of new chicks is called “brooding”.

The first step is to create a place.  For newly hatched chicks, they do not need a lot of space.  A cardboard box, or a Rubbermaid container work well.  Keep in mind that within two weeks, you’ll need a screen lid on it, because the first outer feathers to grow are their wing feathers.  Within two weeks, they can generate a surprising amount of lift.  For the first three days, I recommend lining the bottom with plain paper towels.  DO NOT USE NEWSPAPER. It is too slick and the chicks have trouble standing on it.   I slick surface will lead to some of the chicks developing spraddle leg.  After three days, instead of paper towels, use flake pine shavings.  The shavings can be used immediately, and many people do. However, without mama to show them what to eat and what not to, some chicks will try to eat the shavings.  After three days, they will have developed some of their taste judgement.  How often you change the towels or shavings depends on how many chicks you have for the space. A good rule of thumb, if it looks dirty, change it.

THE key element to brooding chicks is keeping them warm.  A heat source is necessary for them to maintain the proper body temperature.  When they are newly hatched, chicks only have the fluff feathers which are not very good at insulating.  As they grow, their outer layer feathers begin growing.  It’s these, with the fluff underneath, that allows them to control their own body temperature.  In the first week of age, one part of the brooder (the place where you are keeping your chicks) needs to be 95 degrees.  This temperature can be dropped by 5 degrees each week following, until they are about 5 weeks old.

 

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