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Are you thinking about bringing baby chicks home this spring? They are so fun to raise and they make a really great family activity that provides lasting fun and enjoyment!
Keep reading to find out how we raise them here on Chicory Fields Farm!
Here's a list of the items you will need to gather before bringing your chicks home:
A heat lamp like this one. Or a warmer plate.
An infrared bulb like this if using a lamp.
A large plastic tote or something to contain them with plenty of room
A feeder and small waterer. You can find them in sets on amazon like this
Chick starter feed. You can get medicated or non-medicated. Typically, the medicated has amprolium which is a coccidiostat and aids in coccidiosis prevention during the first few weeks. I've had success with both kinds but typically stick with non-gmo chick starter. My favorite is from Tucker Milling. You can always add amprolium to their water if needed later. I personally don't suggest using medicated feed with Silkie chicks. It has
Electrolytes. sav-A-chick is my go-to to add to their water.
Chick Grit. This is a digestive supplement.
Now it's time to Get the brooder ready
First, you'll want to add a few inches of whichever bedding you choose to the plastic tote. Enough so that the plastic on the bottom is not easily exposed as they walk around. You don't want their feet to touch the plastic as they can slip and develop a condition called splay leg.
Next, you'll need to set up the heat lamp. For the first week they need it be about 95 degrees. I like to keep a little thermometer in there to monitor the temperature. I like this one. It's the same one I use to calibrate my incubator. Each week, reduce the heat by 5 degrees until they're ready to go outside or about 8 weeks and fully feathered. Use caution when using a heat lamp.
Now, it's time to fill the waterer and feeder with chick starter of choice. Place the marbles in water for the first few days to first week to help reduce the risk of them drowning. I like to prop the waterer and feeder on something to help keep them cleaner. Otherwise, you'll be cleaning them out several times day. I also like to add the sav-A-chick electrolytes to their water right when I bring them home since they'll be stressed. Then just keep it on hand for other stressful times or illnesses.
Other things to know
You can introduce chick grit once your chicks start eating anything else other than their feed. Around 8-12 weeks old. After that, they can have regular grit if not free ranging.
You'll want to keep an eye out for something called pasty butt. This is where their droppings get stuck to their vent (located right under the tail and where their droppings comes out) and if it doesn't get cleaned off, it can get stuck and will prevent them from being able to pass more waste. It's usually due to stress, so it's more likely to happen the day you bring them home and a few days after. But keep an eye out for it for a while. The chance of pasty butt happening decreases significantly after about 10 days.
If you do encounter pasty butt, run the chick's bottom under some warm (not hot) water until its softened and gently wipe the droppings off. Do not pull it off. That can rip the skin and feathers/down. If it's very stuck and hard, you might need to soak their bottom for a few minutes but be mindful of them getting chilled since they cannot regulate their temperature for a while still. Once, they're cleaned up, you can blow dry them on a low setting and not too close. This will keep them from getting chilled and warm them up after being wet. You can add a little Vaseline or oil to their vent area to help prevent more droppings from sticking. Pasty butt should correct itself. If it does not, then that particular chick is probably sick.
And lastly, enjoy your time raising these adorable creatures! Hold them a lot if you want them used to you and friendly (start holding them after they're at least a few days old to not stress them out more), talk to them and show them all the love!
Let me know if you have any questions on raising baby chicks.
Thanks for reading!
Chicory Fields Farm