Be sure you have some flexible time to pick up your birds from the post office and be home the first day and night to watch them. I request all chicks be held at your Post Office for you to pick up. This is much easier on the chicks. Although the Post Office will give us a tracking number and expected arrival time, sometimes they do not arrive when expected.
Be sure to have your brooder area set up and heating source tested so that the birds can go straight into the brooder as soon as they arrive. If your brooder has a wire floor, you should place a few layers of paper towel on the floor to assure the chicks legs do not go through the wire.
Refrain from over handling or playing with the birds the first 24 hours.
Your chicks will be thirsty when they arrive in the mail. A taste of water right away will help them find more water soon. Dip the beak of each chick into the warm water before you turn your chicks loose.
Most baby chick loss is caused by the chick not starting to eat or drink due to them being too cold. This causes them to be lethargic.
It is recommend for the first day to have the drinking water at 98 degrees (or very warm) because the birds are small with little weight to them on arrival. They will drink a lot of water, which if too cool, can rapidly decrease their body temperature and put them into shock or make them sick.
You can add 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1 quart of very warm (98 degree) water and shake well. Use this mixture for the first 4 hours and then change back to regular very warm water.
The next 2 days the water should be warm and by the 3rd day it can be room temperature.
A small waterer is sufficient for 8 to 16 chicks. I use a quart to gallon jar in my brooders without an automatic watering system. It is recommended the water be changed daily.
NEVER LET YOUR CHICKS RUN OUT OF WATER.
After 4 weeks, increase to larger waterer, at least 3gallon for 10-20 chicks. If you prefer, you can introduce a nipple system.
Prevent water puddles around the waterer. Place waterer on low wire platform. Move waterer periodically to new locations to keep area dry so you can prevent bacteria from forming.
BROODER HEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
You will need a source of heat for the chicks. A drop light with reflector shield is one good source of heat. You can use a 75, 100, or 150 watt bulb. The bottom of the bulb should start out about 18 inches above the floor. Hang a reflector light from something secure to insure that it does not fall and hurt the birds or burn anything. The wattage of the bulb you are using will factor in how high or low you hang it. A guide is one brooder lamp per 25 chicks.
CHICKS ARE ESPECIALLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO DRAFTS SO KEEP THEM DRAFT FREE.
Make sure to use a thermometer at floor level under the light to be accurate. Make sure there is plenty of room for the chicks to walk away from the heat source.
From days 3 through 7, the temperature in the brooder should be 95°F at floor level. Then you will reduce it 5 degrees per week until the temperature reaches 70°-75°F.
You can lower or raise the reflector to obtain the desired temperature or you can change the wattage of the bulb. Temperature is very important, therefore, a thermometer is highly recommended. Regular white bulbs are fine; however, red bulbs may work better to reduce feather picking.
After two weeks, it is best to provide an alternate heat source other than by light bulbs, such as an infrared hanging heater. The constant bright light from bulbs can stress the birds and cause health issues and picking where an infrared hanging heater will help decrease this. You will have to watch the birds for piling up during this transition.
WATCH YOUR CHICKS to determine if they cuddle under the heat source indicating they are too cold; or stay on the edge of the heat source indicating they are too warm. Adjust your temperature accordingly. If the temperature is right, the chicks will range within and on the edge of the heated area.
CHICK BEHAVIOR IS THE BEST INDICATOR OF A COMFORTABLE TEMPERATURE.
FIRST DAY INSTRUCTIONS:
Use a good chick starter/grower feed.
Show the chicks where the feed is when you put them in the brooder. You can sprinkle the feed on the floor the first day so it is easier for the chicks to find it. Place feed in troughs low enough so that the chicks can see and reach it easily. Use one foot of trough feeder or one round feeder for every 25 chicks.
Adding crumbled boiled egg yolk on top of the feed gets the chicks off to a good start and encourages them to start eating feed right away. It is important to remove all uneaten boiled eggs after 2-4 hours.
It is not recommend adding grit to the feed or brooder because the chick starter/grower feed is formulated for what the chicks need to digest the food. Chicks should stay on a full feed ration of chick starter/grower until they lay their first egg.
NEVER LET THE CHICKS RUN OUT OF FEED.
After 4 weeks, increase the feeders to provide 2 ½ to 3 inches of space per bird.
Try to provide ½ square foot per chick at the start.
After 4 weeks, Increase the floor area to 3-4 square feet per bird. Install roosts at back of brooder area. Start roost poles low and gradually raise from floor. Allow 4 inches width per bird and 6 inches apart.
Depending on temperature, you can now open windows during the day for fresh air. Leave only partly open at night. Make sure to avoid drafts on the chicks.
At 4 weeks, the Chicks can range outside on warm, sunny days. Be sure this is on a clean range. Protect from stronger winds. BEWARE OF PREDATORS!
Large pine shavings make a good litter. Rice hulls, dry straw, or hay can also make good bedding. Do not use small shavings or sawdust because baby chicks that are learning to eat will eat it and this can lead to possible death. Do not use sand because it can also be eaten by the birds and can cause their craw to have impaction, which may cause health problems and/or death.
Put the litter all over the floor at least 1 to 2 inches thick. On concrete floors, use 3-5 inches of bedding. Do not use cedar or cypress shavings as they are highly toxic to poultry.
SPECIAL SITUATIONS AFTER THE CHICKS ARRIVE
IF THE CHICKS HAD A HARD TRIP: instead of using the standard feed and water suggestions listed above, try this: Put 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1 quart of 100°F water and shake well. Add a little of this water mixture to a small amount of feed, stir and sprinkle it around the chicks. Do a small amount at a time. As the chicks eat it, mix some more and sprinkle it around them to get their attention. Never leave this mixture for more than a couple of hours; it will sour and cause illness.
REAR END “PASTING UP”: Sometimes the stress of shipping causes the manure to stick to the back of the chick. It is important to remove this daily. Pull off gently using a warm wash cloth. It will disappear in a day or so as the chick starts to grow.
You should always have Amprolium medication on hand when raising baby chicks.
Do not give them medication unless there is an obvious reason to do so. Also, never give medication right away upon arrival. The chicks are too thirsty and can easily overmedicate themselves.
After 8 hours, if the chicks appear weak, droopy, have diarrhea, or continue to have pasty bottom, then you can give them medication. I recommend the use of Amprolium for medication of these symptoms. It is available in liquid or powder form. You should be able to find it at your local feed store and is available on-line and at many of the hatcheries. Do mix it with the sugar water or any other medications.
It is very common for birds to use their own beak to groom or pick themselves. The oil gland above the tail provides oil for their beak to groom their feathers. New feathers are full of blood and if pulled out will bleed some and this can attract other birds to pick at this area.
Baby chicks will often pick each other if they are too hot, too crowded, without fresh air, and even when they are bored. Occasionally, bright lights can cause them to pick and having lights on 24 hours a day can cause stress; changing to a red light will help.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to picking. When the birds are picking for no apparent reason, you can put fresh green grass clippings in several times a day and darken the room. Chunks of grass sod can also be set out for them to pick at. As a last resort, try cutting off about one-third of the top beak with a very sharp knife or box knife. Cut from top to bottom; straight down. Be careful not to crush the beak by pushing too hard on the knife. Do not cut the lower beak.
To treat chicks that have been picked, smear some type of menthol ointment on the area that has been injured and keep up the treatment until healed
SAFE HANDLING OF POULTRY
Live animals and pets can be a source of potentially harmful germs including salmonella and bacteria. Therefore, precautions must be taken when handling and caring for them to prevent fecal/oral transmission among people. Children should be supervised as they handle animals and pets to make sure they do not put their hands or fingers in their mouth. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling animals.