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 incubate or before you allow your kids to persuade you to buy, think hard and long about it.
And then - prepare well.
Do not leave it until the last minute or worse - fail to plan at all. 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? What size does it need to be? What should it contain? How warm should it be?
Your brooder needs to be prepared well, long before your chicks are ready to go in it.
In this article you'll learn exactly what a brooder is, how you can make an inexpensive d-i-y one and what it needs to contain to keep your chicks safe.
Your brooder's set up, your chicks are almost at the point where they can go into it - but which bedding is best?
This article 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 examines ideal temperatures to keep baby chicks safe and healthy, and gives tips about how to tell whether your chicks are too hot, too cold or just right.
It also looks at the pros and cons of different ways to heat your brooder, from traditional heat lamps to the more modern, safer, equivalent.
A safe, reliable heat source is a critical part of a chick's first weeks of life.
Here's my review of Brinsea's two most popular heat lamps: the EcoGlow Safety 600 (previously the EcoGlow 20) and the larger EcoGlow Safety 1200 (previously the 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. What comes next?
This article will 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.
It's always a good idea to introduce chicks to their food and drink source as soon as they're in the brooder.
One of the main problems with drink in the brooder is keeping it clean, and free from chick poop and bedding.
In this article I examine the best drink of all for chicks, and how to keep it clean and safe to drink.
Your chicks are safe, warm, and have learned how to drink.
But what about food? 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 to a different level of feed.
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 and which is the most cost-effective.
You want to give your chicks the very best start in life, so you're thinking of giving them treats.
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.
Raising a flock of friendly chickens starts right here in the brooder.
This article describes how to begin handling baby chicks so that they become the friendly adults everyone wants their flock to be.
It also contains sections about how to allow children to handle even very young chicks, safely.
Section 3: After the brooder.
There comes a time when your chicks are ready to move out into the big wide world. But when is that time?
This article explains what to look for in the chicks' growth and feathering, and details how to integrate them into an existing flock.
Complete with a video explaining the whole process.
Section 4: 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 150 of the most popular chicken names, from those kids will love to the cute and funny, 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, hatching or buying chicks, and how you managed caring for them in the brooder.
Always a delight to look at, these pages will make you smile even on the darkest of days!
More articles that may interest you.