Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chicks Arrive Tomorrow!

Tomorrow Jason and I will be bringing home a peeping box of 28 straight run (boys and girls) chicks. We are going to drive out to Polk Ohio to pick up my order from Meyer Hatchery.  Last year I ordered chicks from Meyer Hatchery for Garden Dreams and I was pleased with them.  We plan to keep some (not all!) of the pullets (hens) from this batch for eggs at our house.   They will be a mix of breeds: Wyandotte, White Rock, Partridge Rock, Delaware, Dominique, and Easter Egger.

I learned a lot raising up a batch of chicks last year, and I figured out some things to do differently. 

Brooder Setup
I set up the brooder space in a narrow room off the basement.  Cardboard walls and floors, pine shavings for litter.  I have partitioned off a smaller area for them for the first bit so they don't wander too far from the heat source, but I can remove it as soon as they need more room.  Ambient temperature stays about 20 degrees warmer than outside, so at night it is getting down to around 40 degrees.  

Brooder Stuffs
I set the brooder up with the essentials: 
  • Chick Starter from Hiland Naturals.  I picked this up from Serenity Hill Farms in Cheswick, which I recommend as a great source for pastured meat, eggs, and gmo-free or soy-free feed.  I have an additional feeder should this not be enough space around the feeder.
  • Waterer (see next picture).
  • Heat Source(s).  Jason and I fashioned the metal hover from a galvanized tub and a 250 watt heat lamp.  We cut a hole for the lamp to shine through but not large enough for it to fall through.  The galvanized tub doesn't get hot, greatly reducing the risk of fire should the thing fall onto the litter.  It is secured with strong chain to it does NOT fall because it could trap the chicks underneath and roast them with too much heat.  As it hangs, they can scoot under when they need a warm up and come out to eat and drink and be merry.  
  • Chick Grit to help them grind and digest their feed.
Bucket Nipple Poultry Waterer
I like nipple waterers.  Jason and I made two last year with screw in nipples on the bottom of 2 gal buckets.  The chickens peck at the nipple and it releases drops of water.  It keeps the water clean, and they can't roost on top of the waterer and poop in their drinking water.  When you start chicks on them right from the start, they really get the hang of it quick.  The pain was, since the nipples were on the bottom of the bucket, you couldn't set it down to refill the water.  I found this design online with nipples on the side.  A bit pricey, but worth it.  Aquabarrel makes them from recycled food-grade buckets.  
Chick Grit
I learned last year that if I don't anchor down the grit container, the chicks will dump it out with all their jumping around.  This one is hooked on wire that is attached to the pallet (that is behind the cardboard).
EcoGlow Heater
This little yellow sucker is made by a company in the UK.  It supplies radiant heat to the chicks when they scoot underneath, like they would a mother hen.  It's made for 20 chicks but I find it did very well for 15 if the room is on the colder side.  So, it won't work for the 28 that are coming, but will be a fine backup and additional heat source.  The manufacturer says it is not effective if ambient temperature is below 50 degrees F but I think it will be fine since it is an extra heater.

Getting the heat right
To find the right height to hang the hover, I placed a digital thermometer at "chick height" about 3" above the floor, directly under the 250 watt heat lamp, aiming for a temperature of around 92 - 95 degrees F.  The room is cold, so they need to all be able to huddle under here and warm up.  I'll drop the temperature weekly by about 5 degrees.

Ambient Room Temperature =  50 degrees F during the day when it's 30 degrees F outside

Will post pictures soon of the fuzzy things!

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