So you’ve decided to add backyard chickens to your homestead! That’s so exciting! Before you bring home your new chicks you will need a few items to keep them alive and healthy. So here’s what your going to need for your chick brooder.
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You need a safe place to keep them
Your new chicks will need a safe place to stay. Either in a barn, garage, living room or some other place where you can plug in a heat source. I kept mine in my living room until they were old enough to be out in their coop full time which is about 6 weeks. A large tub or bin with tall sides will work as a good temporary home while your chicks grow. You can find one of these at any big box store or online. I prefer to use a plastic bin because it’s easy to clean. You can use a box but that’ll get yucky really quick.
Feeds stores sell stock tanks that could be a great place to raise chicks. Use a piece of chicken wire or some other strong mesh to cover the top of your bin to keep your chicks inside. Once they get bigger they’ll start jumping and trust me you don’t want them walking around your living room leaving messes everywhere.
The chicken coop we use for our girls is from Nestera. You can check them out here!
You have to keep them warm
Baby chicks require specific temperatures in those first few weeks of life. What you have to do is mimic the warmth that they would get if they had a mama hen looking after them. You can provide warmth several ways by keeping them in a warm room and providing supplemental heating. You can supplement heat by buying a heat lamp or a brooder plate. Be careful with using heat lamps as they can be dangerous, causing fires or over heating the chicks. The first week you will want to keep the brooder at 95 degrees then decrease the temp by five degrees each week until they are fully feathered around six weeks of age.
Food and Water
Chicks should be provided fresh food and water daily. Because chicks are so small, they can’t typically eat the same food that you would feed adult chickens and they also have different nutrient requirements so you will want to buy them food specific for chics. Be sure that the food is labeled for chicks specifically and is in a crumbled form.
You also have the option of medicated and non-medicated food for your flock. This is entirely up to you if you want to feed medicated or non-medicated food. It’s recommended that if your chicks are not vaccinated, then you should buy medicated food; if your chicks are vaccinated, you can use non-medicated food.
The point of medicated food is to protect chicks from coccidiosis, which is a deadly disease that affects chicks that haven’t quite built up an immunity to it. This food reduces the risk, but doesn’t completely eliminate it.
Please be aware that some breeds are not recommended to have medicated food so please do research to see if your breed of chicks are safe having medicated feed.
The biggest concern will be keeping the water fresh as they like to kick their bedding and sometimes poop into the food and water.
There are many different options for bedding but we chose Aspen bedding for our chicks. We chose this because it was safe, cost friendly and easy to find. Some of the other types of beddings include shredded newspaper, Pine shavings, compressed wood pellets (not the fuel pellets) puppy pee pads, clean sand, used coffee grounds and many more.
Along with the Aspen bedding we used the puppy pads. We laid the pads down in the storage bin then put an inch of bedding on top. This made clean up so easy because we would roll up the pads with the bedding and put it straight into the trash. The only drawback from using this bedding was the dust. Chickens kick up their bedding so our living room was covered in dust for weeks no matter how much we cleaned.
It can feel scary at first making the decision to raise chickens but once you get than hang of it you’ll find that they are really easy to take care of. Then you’ll be like me wondering how many more chickens you can add to your flock! I think that’s what they call “chicken math” but no matter how you configure your chick brooder just know that there’s so much information out there to help you along the way. I have learned so much from chicken facebook groups and reaching out to people directly on social media that are seasoned chicken owners. If you still have chick brooder questions after reading this feel free to leave a comment!