Year of the chicken – Part 3: Getting started | Home & Garden
Just like bringing home a newborn baby, your little chicks will need a place of their own.
“We recommend having it all set up before bringing the chicks home. Turn on the heat lamp before you get your chicks, so that it’s nice a warm by the time you get home,” Assistant Manager at Big R on Trent Avenue, Cody Tylock said.
We kept our girls in a feeding trough. We used a screened window frame to cover the top. They graduated to larger cardboard boxes every other week until they were ready to be outside.
Ron Welker manages the Aslin-Finch in the Spokane Valley. He recommends heating up only one area of your chick space, whether you’re housing them in a bathtub, a feeding trough or a cardboard box.
“In one section of the area that you’re heating, it should be 90 degrees, we get them at two days old, so it should be 90 degrees,” said Welker.
The chicks need a section to stay warm and one to cool off. We made sure that warm area did not go below 70 degrees though by keeping a paper thermometer at the bottom of the trough. Ask about thermometers when buying chicken supplies.
“And then every week you’re backing the temperature off five degrees,” Welker said. “A good rule of thumb for when to put them outside is when you’re backing it off five degrees and outside temperatures are rising because we’re getting closer to summer, and then those numbers even out.”
The heat lamp is a 250 watt light bulb and the experts suggest red.
“It has a film over it so if a chick does hit it, it doesn’t shatter. It’s shatter proof. If you use a white lamp all the time and over night the chicks start to peck at each other, it could cause cannibalism,” said Welker.
By the end of this 4-6 week period, our spare bedroom looked like a zoo. There were feathers everywhere and dust from the shavings. We decided to let them fly up to the top of their box and perch, so we became quite efficient in cleaning up chicken waste. You will not be sad when it’s time to put your chicks outside.
“You do have to watch your overnight temperatures to make sure it’s not going to get too cold. And you might have to bring them in a couple of nights,” Welker said.
There’s nothing like holding a sweet baby chick, but be prepared to wash your hands constantly. Not only do they leave you with a surprise each time but…
“Salmonella is a natural substance in chickens. You need to make sure to wash your hands after handling them, don’t put your hands in your mouth,” Tylock said.
The set up you see at either Aslin-Finch or Big R, where they keep their baby chickens is about what you’ll do at home. Line the bottom of the tub or box with shavings. Those shavings should be safe for animals, ask the experts what’s best when you shop for supplies. Clean those shavings out all the time.
There are special starter feeders and water containers to use. Once they are full grown and outside, they’ll need bigger ones.
Your chickens will go through three different types of feed. Chick starter at first, culminating to chick grower and graduating to layer feed. Add grit to their food as baby chicks and oyster shells once they are outside.
We layered their food with a little grit instead of putting it off to the side.
“The grit helps the food pass through the chicken and that’s one of the ways your baby chicks can die, is becoming impacted. The grit will help move the food through them. So you want to make sure your chick starter does have the grit in it,” Welker said.
Lastly, we gave them fresh water every day and added in an electrolyte and vitamin pack. We were told to do that if we saw one of our girls swaying or acting abnormal. We ended up using it the whole time and all four chickens survived and thrived.
“It’s just like Gatorade with vitamins. Chicken Gatorade,” said Welker.
Anywhere that you go to buy your chicks has helpful information.
“We have little tip sheets, we’ve got magazines, we’ve got books, we did do a poultry class,” said Tylock. “Everybody here is trained on the chickens and what they need, so there’s always someone here to help the guests out.”
After a couple weeks we saw their personalities start to emerge. Queen Latifah, our Barred Rock, was the first to fly.
“Make sure that you have something at home that they can go into after about 4-6 weeks of age because they will want to fly out their little boxes. Have a nice chicken coop and outside run,” said Tylock.
Next Time: Check back with KXLY.com when we explore the many different breeds of chickens to choose from.
Previous Coverage: Year of the chicken - Part 2: The Cost of raising chickens