Chick care 0 - 8 weeks
Caring for baby chicks in the brooder, 0 - 8 weeks: everything you need to know.
So you've hatched chicks in an incubator or bought from a hatchery and you're not sure what to do now?
It's not hard to care for a brood of chicks, but there's a lot of information out there which can be confusing and is often contradictory.
Which is why I've gathered everything together for you in one place.
This page is an overview of how to care for chicks from the point of moving them into the brooder, to the point where they're ready to go outside.
You'll find links to all the different aspects of chick care, from information about how to set up a brooder that's fit for purpose, to when to transfer chicks from the incubator, to the best food and drink - including treats!
In other words, every aspect of their care from hatch to roughly eight weeks old.
A word of caution.
It's very easy to get carried away by the process of incubation, or by seeing a clutch of chicks for sale in a food store, without being properly prepared for what lies ahead.
It's always important to think about whether those cute little chicks - which will grow into large, noisy hens (and possibly roosters) are going to fit into your family.
So before you start to hatch or before you allow your kids to persuade you to buy, think hard and long about it.
And then - prepare.
Do not leave it until the last minute. You will be stressed, and so will your new chicks. This ten-point quiz will help you think through that process, if you haven't already considered all the implications.
If you have, and you're ready to learn how to care for your brood of chicks - let's go!
Section 1: Setting up the brooder.
What is a brooder? How does it work? What size does it need to be? What should it contain? How warm should it be?
Your brooder needs to be prepared as soon as you've locked your incubated eggs down at Day 18 - preferably even before that - and definitely before you bring chicks home from the feed store, or order them online.
In this article you'll learn exactly what a brooder is, how you can make an inexpensive one and what it needs to contain to keep your chicks safe.
Your brooder's set up, your chicks are at the point where they can go into it - but which bedding is best?
This article examines the safest bedding for the very young chick straight from the incubator, and then reviews four different types of bedding for use as the chicks grow: wood shavings, sand, straw and newspaper.
Find out which is best for your chicks in the brooder, and which one you should never use.
Cold is the one thing more than any other which is sure to kill a newly-hatched chick.
This article looks at the pros and cons of different ways to heat your brooder, from traditional heat lamps to the more modern - and safer - equivalent.
I also examine ideal temperatures for newly hatched chicks in the first few weeks of life, and how to know without a thermometer whether your chicks are too hot, too cold or just right.
A reliable heat source is a critical part of a chick's first weeks of life. You need something that's safe, ultra-reliable and can grow with your chicks as they get bigger.
In this article I review Brinsea's two most popular heat lamps: the EcoGlow 20, which can manage up to 20 newly-hatched chicks, and the larger EcoGlow 50.
Discover the pros and cons, and read my assessment of whether these heat lamps are good value for money.
Section 2: Keeping chicks safe in the brooder.
So you've had a successful hatch in your incubator, your brooder is all set up - and you're not sure what comes next.
This article covers everything to help your chicks make a successful transition from incubator to brooder.
It covers how long the chicks should stay in the incubator; how to remove them while others are still hatching; what to do about gunk; and what happens when a chick can't get dry.
Chicks don't need to eat or drink for several hours post-hatch, but it's always a good idea to introduce them to their food and drink source as soon as they're put into the brooder.
One of the main problems with drink in the brooder is keeping it clean, and free from chick poop and bedding.
So in this article I look at the best drink of all for chicks, and the best way of keeping it completely clean and safe to drink for the whole brood.
Your chicks are safe, warm, and have learned how to drink.
But what about food? Chickens need a different balance of proteins, fats and minerals at different stages of their life. Not giving the right food at the right time will cause health problems.
This article discusses the best kind of food for newly hatched chicks, and looks at when they should be moved away from that and onto a different type.
So you've got the food right, but how do you feed it to your chicks?
Notorious for kicking food out of feeders and bedding in, there's no point using bowls in the brooder. You'll need a specific chick feeder.
This article reviews four of the best, with pros, cons, who it would best suit and which is the most cost-effective.
And there's one clear winner!
You want to give your chicks the very best start in life.
So you're thinking of giving them treats.
But is that wise? When is the best time to treat them, and what are the most delicious, gourmet treats a chick can have without fear of damaging their health?
Find out, in this article.
Section 3: Just for fun!
Now your chicks are safe, warm and have food and drink, it's time to relax and enjoy them.
Part of that enjoyment is naming your brood! This is a fun activity for adults and children alike. But how to choose?
Here are over 100 of the most popular names for chickens, from those kids will love to "old lady" names, names from literature and film, cute and funny names and a special section for naming that rooster!
Keeping chicks is a wonderful, exciting time - and it can be stressful sometimes, too.
This page is all about your experiences. Share your stories of incubating and hatching chicks, or what happened when you bought them in, and how you got on caring for them in the brooder.
Take a look at other people's baby chicks, and read their stories. They can be inspirational, happy, sad and everything in between!
Always a delight to look at, these pages will make you smile even on the darkest of days!
More articles that may interest you.