So you want to raise chickens?
Sacramento Feed & Co. is here to help with our new blog series specifically for people who want to raise chickens but don't know where to start.
Alright, you have selected the perfect breed of chicken, now what?
Before you buy your chicks and bring them home there are a few things you will need to know.
Brooder: A brooder is an enclosed and heated area to raise baby chicks, turkey poults, ducklings, or goslings. You can create your own brooder, buy a brooder kit, or your local feed stores often carry large tubs that can be used as the enclosure for brooder and all the accessories needed.
Heat Source: After you have selected the perfect brooder set up you will need to consider a heat source. Temperature is extremely important when it comes to baby chicks! Chicks will die if they become too cold. You will need a heat lamp, 250-watt bulb and a thermometer to closely monitor the temperature. For heat lamps we love the Little Giant Brooder Reflector Lamp, the ceramic socket is heat resistant (so it wont melt your light bulb) and it comes with a metal guard over the bulb in the event that it falls.
Week 1: 90-95 Degrees Fahrenheit
Week 2: 85-90 Degrees Fahrenheit
Week 3: 80-85 Degrees Fahrenheit
Week 4: 75-80 Degrees Fahrenheit
Week 5: 70-75 Degrees Fahrenheit
Week 6: Chicks should not need additional heat beyond 65 Degrees Fahrenheit but you should still be monitoring your chicks frequently for signs of cold or heat stress(more on this later).
The Bulb: The best option is a 250-watt red bulb. You can go with a 250-watt white bulb, the choice is yours. We choose yo use a red bulb for the following reason, it helps prevent the chicks from pecking, and it doesn't disturb their sleep patterns. The red bulbs are slightly more expensive but the bulbs are more durable and promote healthier chicks.
Food & Water:
Head to your local feed store! They will have the best selection of chicken feeders and waterers. At Sacramento Feed & Co. we work with each customer to find the supplies that best fit their needs. There are tons of different sizes, shapes, and features to feeders and waterers. For chicks, we start with Little Giant 1 quart plastic jars that screw onto the watering bases and feeders. For fully grown chickens, we like to use hanging feeders and waterers in the coop, it keeps shavings/bedding out of the water and feed. DO NOT USE A BOWL FOR WATER! There are specific waterers for chicks to prevent them from drowning.
Bedding: Bedding is very important for baby chicks! We use Mallard Creek and Dorris Pine shavings because they are absorbent and easy for the chicks to burrow into to keep warm. Rice Hulls and Straw are an option but they do not absorb moisture (spilled water and chicken poo). It is best to refrain from laying down news paper for chicks as it can become slippery and cause a condition called "spraddle legs" (more on this later).
All of these are the basic essentials you will need to start your brooder. Next week we will cover chick feeds, supplements, vitamins, and medications for happy healthy chicks.
Sacramento Feed & Co. has two wonderful (and large) brooders in the store. You can get an idea of essential items you need for your own brooder!