August 14, 2013
Getting Ready For A New Batch Of Baby Chicks
I've been raising chickens for so many years that it's difficult to remember not having these wonderful creatures and their fabulous eggs. As anyone who raises chickens knows, when a hen gets older, she begins to lay fewer eggs. Most breeds lay productively for five to seven years. To maintain a steady supply of eggs, it's important, from time to time, to bring in a group of new layers. This is usually done by ordering baby chicks and raising them to adulthood. We're expecting new chicks any day now and a hen house has been prepared for their arrival.
1 This is Phurba Sherpa, who takes very good care of all the chickens, guinea fowl, and Pomeranian geese.
2 Recently, Phurba got one of the hen houses ready for a new shipment of baby chicks.
3 Because chicks need to be kept nice and hot, heat lamps were suspended from the ceiling.
4 For the first week of their lives, the air temperature needs to be about 95 degrees, the second week 90 degrees, dropping 5 degrees per week until they're strong enough to venture outdoors.
5 To provide ample heat and space, it's a good idea to hang two lamps. You don't want to stress the chicks by having them crowd beneath a single lamp.
6 Phurba screwed in 250-watt infrared heat lamps.
7 Red heat bulbs are used because they shine darker than bright white lights, making it easier for the chicks to sleep. Also, because red lights cause less stress, the chicks are less likely to peck each other.
8 The next step is to line the floor with an absorbent material as the chicks make a lot of droppings.
9 We've always used sheets of newspaper, which can be easily lifted and changed, making for fast cleanup.
10 Some people prefer using a layer of pine shavings.
11 Phurba covered the entire floor with newspaper.
12 Baby chicks need to be protected from drafts but also need to have sufficient ventilation.
13 Phurba used a large cardboard carton to make a baby chick house, also called a brooder.
14 He used a box cutter to remove the flaps.
15 He then cut down one corner, opening the carton entirely.
16 You can also use a large plastic storage bin as a brooder, or even a small kiddie pool.
17 The height of the walls only needs to be about 12" or higher, so Phurba cut the height down by half.
18 He then pieced the sections together, enlarging the space.
19 More newspaper - This brooder contains the chicks, keeping them huddled beneath the heat lamps. As they get larger, the brooder will be removed, giving them more area to explore - the final step before releasing them to the outside pen. This happens after about five weeks.
20 Baby chicks need plenty of clean water to drink and this is called a chick waterer. When filled with water, several chicks can drink at the same time. An open dish of water is dangerous, as chicks could drown.
21 To keep the chicks healthy, it's important to clean and change these waterers a few times a day.
22 This is a baby chick feeder, again, designed to allow many chicks to feed at once and to keep the food nicely contained. It's filled with a special organic chick starter feed, formulated with everything chicks require.
23 All set! Now we just need the chicks to arrive.