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Backyard basics

Tips for raising healthy chicks
Todd Steen, TFC Nutritionist 2/24/2020

As spring approaches, it’s time to consider raising young chicks. Since the space requirement is so small when compared to other farm animals, chicks are excellent choices for owners as well as a great project for children. Below are a few considerations for proper care and nutrition for growing chicks into producing poultry.

Begin planning before the arrival of new chicks to ensure the most beneficial


1. Prepare a clean, dry area for young birds.

• It should be well ventilated but free from drafts.

• If an older building is to be used, clear as much dust and cobwebs as possible and consider disinfecting the whole area with an appropriate cleaner.

• Allow the disinfected area to dry, then bed with dry pine shavings.

2. Prepare a brooder area.

• Construct a brooder area utilizing a 250-watt infrared bulb and a “brooder ring.”

• Use the brooder ring, which can be constructed from cardboard, to keep chicks close to the heat source.

• Position heat lamp so that the temperature is 95°F (position approximately 3 inches above litter). As chicks grow, reposition the height of the heat lamp to reduce the brooder temperature by 5°F each week until a temperature of approximately 70°F is reached.

• Monitor chicks often; if conditions are not warm enough, chicks tend to swarm each other in an attempt to remain warm. If the temperature is too warm, chicks will move away from the heat lamp.

• After approximately a week to 10 days, remove brooder ring, but leave heat lamp in place.

3. When preparing feeders and waterers, clean/disinfect with a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Consider purchasing feeders and waterers as older bowls/tubs fail since young chicks easily drown in very shallow water. Also, chick feeders generally are designed to reduce fecal contamination.

• As a rule of thumb, two quart-size waterers and approximately 48 inches of “double-sided” feeder space are required per 100 chicks.

• As chicks grow, the space requirement will increase – allow three linear inches of feed space per bird. Consider replacing smaller waterers as chicks grow.

• Always provide unlimited access to clean, fresh water. Changing soiled water (even

multiple times per day) is required.

4. Start chicks on a crumble or a mash starter feed.

• Chick starters should be at least 19% crude protein (CP), including the proper balance of amino acids, energy vitamins, and minerals.

• Co-op All-Natural Chick Starter (#104) should be offered for the first several weeks of life. No need to supplement this product with other energy sources such as corn or wheat as dietary imbalances will impede growth.

• If chicks are slow to consume feed, encourage intake by placing crumbles on a small paper plate. After indoctrination, plates should be removed.

• At approximately 20 weeks of age, broiler chicks should be switched to appropriate grow/finish feed, while pullets should be offered appropriate layer feed.

Visit your local Co-op for feed, health supplies, equipment, and advice to get your chicks off to the best start possible.

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