Starting Chicks On The Right Foot
The month of February is when a good many poultry farmers and fanciers
start to think about chicks. They have either began or just about
to begin to plan for the next breeding program reviewing past records,
hatching and in general, setting goals for the upcoming breeding and
show season. Will it be good or will it be poor? This is a question
that pops up in every breeder's mind at this time of the year. Always
bear in mind that to have success in poultry raising, it is not the
large number of chicks that one raises each season, but how well one
has raised them and the number raised after they are hatched. It is
far better to begin in a small way and expand later than to start
on a big scale and let the business get the best of you.
There are, however, factors that contribute to a successful breeding
season. The first is proper management of chicks - a point that should
be given much attention whether one is hatching his own young or purchasing
The first six weeks are probably the most important in a chick's
life. It is during this period that it receives its best or worst
management, which will have a great deal to do in determining whether
one's breeding season will be a success or a disaster. The knowledge
of proper brooding management is essential, yet many poultry breeders
who have this knowledge, do not use it to the best advantage. So many
times something will go wrong in the brooder house and either the
breeder who supplied the chicks or the feed manufacturer who supplied
the feed will be blamed. The old adage 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness'
is well borne out in caring for poultry, especially young and growing
stock. Therefore, the first job in brooding chicks is to have a clean
brooding environment. Ensure that the brooder house is in good repair;
sweep out the house thoroughly, including the walls, floor and ceiling.
Make sure that all dirt of any description from previous occupants
has been removed. Then scrub the floors and walls up to a height of
about two feet with hot water and lye. It is a good practice to put
some potassium permanganate in a porcelain dish and add a little formaldehyde
after first making sure that all cracks are sealed and the doors and windows are closed.
The poisonous gases given off by this
mixture kill all germs and parasites and help prevent any infestation
from last year's birds.
One cannot be too careful about sanitation. There are so many diseases
which attack baby chicks, that it is imperative to have totally sanitary
quarters for them. One breeder also suggested painting the brooder
house every year, using the cheapest paint available, after the yearly
thorough cleaning. Painting helps fill up the cracks besides acting
as a disinfectant. All equipment-troughs, water fountains, and hoppers
should also be thoroughly scrubbed and disinfected with a good commercial
For those who choose to purchase chicks, several points should be
kept in mind. Buy only good chicks from a reliable breeder or hatchery.
Be prepared to spend considerable time in brooding these chicks, and
have everything ready before their arrival. Do not try to skimp and
save on feed, for a good sound, properly balanced and commercially
mixed feed will give the chicks a good start and induce proper growth.
Before the chicks arrive, make sure that the brooder is thoroughly
cleaned and operating efficiently. The temperature should be 95F.
Clean shavings are used as litter when brooding chicks.
A thick layer of clean papers are spread on the floors and on these are
placed the feeders and waterers. Here
and there, on the papers are spotted handfuls of chick starter, while
a few handfuls of fine scratch grains are spread out. Feeding the
chicks off papers for the first two or three days helps teach them
where their feed is and what it is. Each day a layer of papers is
removed so that from the fourth day on, all feed, mash and grain is
fed from hoppers. Ample water fountains are provided and they are
always well filled with clean, fresh water. By using a retaining ring
made of wire or cardboard and about 18 inches in height, the chicks
are kept near the brooder stove for the first few days. The first
day this chick guard should approximately 20" away from the stove
and each day moved back a piece. This ring will teach the chicks where
to get warm. It should be round in shape, so that the birds cannot
pile up in the corners. Make sure that the chicks are comfortable.
If they are huddled under the hover, they are cold, and the temperature
should be raised a little. On the other hand, if they are piled up
in the corners, the temperature is too high and therefore, it should
be adjusted accordingly. Avoid overcrowding. The condition of the
chicks is the best gauge of their comfort. It is very important that
the chicks be kept from contamination of any kind. It is best to remove
and destroy any birds that are weak, sickly or pasted up, thus eliminating
any possible the source of infection that could threaten the rest
of the flock. If any outbreak of disease does start, remove the worst
cases and be very careful about sanitation. A good germicide should
be added to the drinking water and a mild flush administered.
Litter should be removed periodically as the chicks grow older, or
as soon as it becomes damp. Damp spots around the drinking fountains
should be cleaned away and fresh litter put down. If the weather is
wet and cold, it will be necessary to change the litter more often.
Always avoid drafts and dampness in the brooder house for either may
weaken the resistance of the chicks to some degree. Baby chicks should
be kept in the incubator 36 to 48 hours after they are hatched before
being placed in the brooder. During incubation, the albumen of the
egg is used for the development of the chick and the yolk is used
almost entirely for nourishment. The remaining part of the yolk is
absorbed into the chick's body cavity just before it breaks out of
the shell. There is sufficient nourishment in this yolk to maintain
the chick with very little food for several days. Heavy feeding at
first retards the digestion of the yolk and is apt to cause bowel
Food plays an important part in getting the baby chicks started right,
and it is best to buy from reliable chick feed dealers and well known
feed manufacturers, who know the proper ingredients and proportions
to use in making a well balanced ration of either cracked grains or
dry mashes. They may cost a little more than one that is self-mixed,
but it may be cheaper in the end to buy the right kind from the start.
Remember poor or cheap foods yield poor and cheap results.
In feeding baby chicks the following principles apply, especially
where chicks are destined to be raised as breeders rather than for
1.Practice limited early feeding.
2.First feed should be nutritious (medicated "chick starter")
and easily accessible.
3.An abundance of grit and shell are invaluable.
4.Fresh water is always necessary.
5.Feed often and sparingly the first two weeks.
6.Avoid sloppy, wet foods.
7.Keep the chicks busy and hungry.
8.Some animal protein is necessary for growth.
9.Succulent or green food in some form is essential.
10.Feed early and late each day.
11.Practice absolute cleanliness in feeding.
12.Avoid hampering and unduly fussing with baby chicks.
13.Feed to ensure steady growth in chicks.
14.Constant thought and judgment are necessary in early feeding.
From the time the chicks are hatched until maturity, the flock
should be observed carefully for signs of weakness or lack of vitality.
It is a good practice when the chicks are about a week old to separate
those which show loss of vigor. Keep them by themselves, feed them
for rapid growth and dispose of them at about broiler age. Do another
sorting of the chicks as soon as sex can be determined, or at about
10 weeks of age. Take out all males and those which are not being
kept for breeders.
Leg weakness is a common trouble in chicks that are grown on dry
board floors. The weakness usually develops when chicks are two weeks
old. To solve this problem, get the chicks on the ground. Their legs
will grow stronger on a cool, moist earth. It has been found that
a small amount of cod- liver oil added to the ration will prevent
or cure leg weakness in baby chicks even though they are never outdoors.
Fresh cod-liver oil thoroughly mixed with mash has been found to be
effective. Care must be taken to use up this mix and it should never
be kept too long.
The future health and productiveness of the average flock depends
directly upon the amount of care and attention given the chicks. Their
feeding requires more thought and skill than the feeding of mature
birds. It does not matter what method of feeding is used as long as
the ration is digestible, appetizing, nutritious and has a variety
of sweet, clean foods to stimulate heavy consumption. Poultry breeders
use plenty of green food in the form of lettuce, lawn clippings, sprouted
oats, etc. as well as plenty of grit and fresh water. Invest time,
good feed and proper management and your reward will be healthy, vigorous
chicks-foundation of your flock.
Updated JAN 20, 2012
Need A Poultry Incubator?
Return To © 1995-2012, Kemp's Koops® Home Page