It's getting crowded in there! These babies are ready to come out of my Brinsea Eco Advance incubator.
But wait - what do we need to have available for them to eat and drink?
Baby chickens can survive without food or water for up to 72 hours after hatching - the yolk, which they absorb in the hours before hatch, provides all the nutrition they need.
But after that (actually, I tend to move them out as soon as they've fluffed up, and certainly no longer than 48 hours) they will need both. Be sure you have supplies well in advance.
Baby chicks need to drink water. Simple. Without it, they will dehydrate and die very, very quickly. All you need to do is make sure it's kept plentiful, clean and fresh.
There are two basic options available : a ground waterer and a hanging bottle system.
Personally, I use the hanging system, but let's look at the pros and cons of each, starting with the basic ground waterer.
My particular favourite is this mason jar design. It's not cheap (at least in Europe), but it lasts much longer than the plastic style - and OK, I admit it - I just like the way it looks.
The problem with any kind of ground drinking system is that baby chickens kick. A lot. They kick shavings, they kick food, they kick anything that gets underneath their little cutesy feet.
It's in their nature. They're just experimenting with foraging.
So it's quite difficult to keep the water clean. You'll find yourself clearing out the dish several times a day. If you don't, the danger is that the water will become infected - and so will the chicks.
There is also a small risk of tiny chicks drowning in the dish. It's easily avoided, though, by adding a few pebbles so that, if they do happen to fall into the water, there's not enough room for them to drown.
I use a bottle waterer which hangs from the side of the brooder.
It's made from 'Brooder Bottle Caps' from 'The Chicken Fountain'. It's a simple nipple attachment, screwed into an everyday soda bottle. The chicks tap the nipple and, as if by magic, water drips out!
It works a treat - my littlies always get the hang of drinking from it immediately they're introduced into the brooder at just a few hours old, and can't wait to use it ever after.
Sadly, these are no longer available to buy, but there's something similar with this simple nipple waterer system...
No current system is as handy as the original brooder bottle waterer", but other than that there aren't really any drawbacks to speak of. You'll need a system to hang it - the second example above comes with a wall bracket.
You do need to have enough nipples for everyone to be able to get plenty to drink. As a rule of thumb, I use one to three or four chicks.
Chicks can get a bit messy and slop drips onto the shavings in the brooder. To avoid this, I simply place a piece of absorbent matting underneath.
As soon as you take the chick out of the incubator, dip her beak into the water if you're using a ground system, or tap her beak against the nipple if using the bottle system.
You only need to do this once - chicks are very quick learners.
Just keep an eye on them for a day or two to make sure that everyone is getting their fair share. It's very important that they all keep hydrated, otherwise you're likely to get issues like pasty butt, which can be fatal.
It can seem like a minefield when you first raise chicks - what's good to feed them at what age, what's not good, what treats are healthy for them ...
If those things are a concern for you, these articles will help. Click on any of the pics for more information.
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