Environment: “Keep it clean, keep it dry” Warm, dry housing without drafts is absolutely necessary. Make sure your enclosure (barn, coop or housing) is predator proof. Clean and disinfect housing, feeders and waterers before chicks arrive. Disinfect regularly. Bedding should be 2″-5″ deep; use pine shavings or straw. Do not use cedar. This will make certain that your birds get off to the right start.
Space Requirement: “No crowding allowed” Chicks need approximately 0.8 sq. ft. of floor space per bird until 6 weeks of age. Increase this to 1.0 – 2.0 sq. ft. from 6 – 20 weeks, as they grow, depending on size of breed, outdoor run availability, temperature, etc. That’s about a 5′ x 5′ space for 25 chicks. Double it at 6 – 8 months old.
Temperature: “Avoid the Big Chill” Day old chicks need to be kept at 90°F – 95°F. A red heat lamp may be suspended about 20″ above the birds. Only use a red heat lamp bulb! (White ones stress the birds) Monitor temperature daily by placing a thermometer at chick level. Comfort can be observed. If chicks huddle under the light, they are too cold. If chicks huddle in corners, they are too hot. Reduce 5°F each week until minimum of 65°F is achieved and the birds are ready for your yard or chicken coop. Always be certain your brooder has enough room for the chicks to get away from the heat if they get too hot!
Water: “Wet their whistles” One 1-quart waterer per 25 chicks. Use fresh, cool (not cold) water, and be sure to clean and replenish daily. Disinfect waterers prior to use and then weekly. Dip beaks of the chicks to induce drinking. Elevate waterer after first week to reduce contamination from litter. Waterer should not be higher than the chick’s back. Double waterer capacity at 6 weeks. Provide adult birds 1 – 2, one-gallon waterers, depending upon floor space for every 25 birds.
Feeder(s): Keep full at all times, scatter Nature Serve Chicken Starter feed on the ground around feeder for first day or so to encourage eating. For adult birds provide 36 inches of feeder space for 25 chickens.
Egg Laying Chicks: Give Nature Serve Chicken Starter feed until 18-20 weeks old and then switch to Nature Serve Layer Pellets. For best egg production, use artificial light in laying house to create maximum 17-18 hour day. Do not decrease the length of lighting period when flocks are in production. Light and Nature Serve Layer Pellets, not protein, are the keys to healthier eggs.
Disease Control: Over the long term, disease is likely to occur in almost every poultry flock. Signs will be reduced feed consumption, reduced egg production, droopy, sick looking birds, very loose droppings on the floor or dead birds. Immediate action should be taken when any of these problems appear.
Predators: “Safety First” The surest way to prevent losses from predators is to be sure fencing is secure and high enough to keep birds in. Confining birds eliminates losses. Double-check housing for gaps or “holes” in housing that might be attractive to predators. If they are allowed to run in a yard (free-range), be sure that all birds are in at dusk and the door of the house securely closed for the night. Be sure to store feed in metal containers such as big garbage cans to avoid attracting rats, mice, raccoons, etc. This will reduce a predators’ desire to invade your birds home area. Local predators include raccoons, possums, hawks, owls, snakes, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, domestic cats and dogs. Try burying 1/4″ hardware cloth and securing it inside the coop to prevent predators that dig from getting in.
Egg Collection: Your birds will start laying on average at about 20-24 weeks of age. Daily egg collection is very important! Frequent egg gathering serves two purposes: First, it helps to keep the eggs cleaner and prevent bacterial growth, thus eliminating the need for washing. Secondly, it lessens the opportunity for hens to learn the bad habit of egg-eating!
Contact with live poultry can be a source of salmonella infections in humans. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live/roam. Salmonella germs are shed in their droppings and can easily contaminate their bodies when they walk in it, as well as anything in the area. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer instead. As recommended by the CDC, always wash hands after handling poultry. CLICK HERE to view more information.
We do NOT recommend chickens for pets or for Easter gifts. Chicks are farm animals raised for the enjoyment of their owners (they like the way they look & act) and/or for egg and meat production.