Before we brought home our first batch of chicks last year, I worried in the weeks proceeding the pick up. I worried about keeping them warm. I worried about keeping them alive. I worried about being able to discern their needs. But one of the things I worried about the most was ~ what exactly did I need to have in place for a “nursery”?
After reading the classic Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and consulting my more experienced chicken keeping friends, we made a visit to the local feed store, the local Dollar General and assembled the following gear. This set up worked well for us, so much so that we’ll use it again when we bring our second batch home this spring.
1. A large plastic tote
…the kind with the handles on either side and a snug fitting lid (although you won’t be using the lid). Since we only had a few chicks, it was roomy enough for them until we officially moved them out to the coop and the walls were steep enough to keep them inside when they learned to fly at a few weeks. The plastic also made for an easy clean up.
2. Flooring of some sort
While wood shaving are used often, I had heard they could cause problems if ingested. I opted instead for rubber drawer liner. I purchased several sets so one could be washed and dried while the other was in use. This helped absorb the droppings, while providing traction for their little feet in those early days. In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t): traction is important. A slippery surface can cause the chicks legs to slide out from under him creating a condition called splayed legs. They can’t get back up, they can’t learn to walk properly; it isn’t good.
3. A heat lamp
We purchased ours from our local feed store for less than $10. It was clamped onto the side of a table over the edge of the plastic tote. We then positioned the tote so that the lamp favored one side. This allowed the chicks to come and go under the heat as they pleased. Then, carefully following the prescribed formula, we raised the lamp each week using blocks or books decreasing the temperature in the brooder by five degrees each week. New chick folks please note: this was something I really stressed about. We couldn’t always get the temperature just so, I couldn’t always easily raise and lower the lamp. I worried about cooking my chicks. I worried about freezing my chicks. In the end, I quit looking at lamp height and temperatures and took my cue from the behavior of my chicks. If they were active, eating, drinking, and eliminating, they were fine. I don’t know what the temperature was the day we moved them to the coop outside, but they are now full grown healthy hens who give us three dozen eggs per week so I think our approach worked.
4. A screen
Some sources suggest using a utility knife to cut a hole in the lid of the tote and replace it with hardware cloth. We used a makeshift frame stapled with screen that we were using as a sieve in the garden. We put this in place after the clamp from our heater gave way during a cleaning session one afternoon. No one was hurt but it was clear we couldn’t rely on the clamp alone for safety. This also came in handy when they began to fly around ~ the screen kept them safe inside the brooder.
5. A feeder and waterer
You’ve most likely seen these: the plastic feeders/waterers that screw onto a base. I used the smallest size I could find to give more space in the brooder. One set was plenty, but it wouldn’t hurt to have two waterers, so that the one in use could be replaced with a clean one from time to time.
6. Proper feed
Just like you wouldn’t hand an infant a t-bone steak; don’t start your chicks on layer feed. They need a specially formulated starter feed for the first eight weeks. If you are concerned about soy and GMOs then use Scratch and Peck. We order ours through Azure Standard. Otherwise, just use the best that you can find through your local feed store. For the record: we did not give our chicks medicated feed. They did fine.
7. A roost (totally optional)
Once our little girls were about three weeks old(ish) we noticed they were sitting on top of their feeder more often than not so husbie decided to provide them with a little roost. He cut a dowel rod slightly wider than the width of the tote and pushed it down inside. The plastic from the tote held it in place. It took a few days for them to get the hang of it but once they discovered it, they enjoyed hanging out on their roost. If you use one, just make sure to position it away from their food and water so as to keep everything clean. Also, be sure to position it away from the heat lamp.
If you think you might enjoy hatching and raising your own chicks, Incubator Warehouse is graciously offering an incubator to one lucky winner.
Enter the Incubator Giveaway!
The Hova Bator 1602N is a great incubator for the hobbyist, homesteader, or small farmer. Read a Review and How to Hatch Chicken Eggs in an Incubator on The Self Sufficient HomeAcre. Be sure to check out the Review and Incubating Duck Eggs post on Joybilee Farm!
- IncubatorWarehouse.com Gentle Flow Fan kit
- Reliable wafer snap thermostat for accurate temperature control
- Washable plastic sanitary liner for easy cleaning
- Durable Styrofoam construction provides excellent insulation
- Built-in water trough for humidity control
- Two viewing windows to watch eggs as they hatch
- Includes bulb thermometer
- Easy-to-follow color installation guide and links to install videos
Now you have a chance to win this incubator for FREE! Just use the Giveaway Tools entry form below.
Many thanks to Incubator Warehouse for sponsoring this giveaway!
Incubator Warehouse sells an array of incubators for the beginner through the professional. They also offer incubator accessories, poultry care products, and chicken coop supplies. Be sure to check out their website and like them on Facebook! Also check out their blog for poultry care articles.
Read More Reviews of Incubator Warehouse Products:
Prudent Living on the Homefront – Incubrite Egg Candler and Incutherm Hatch Monitor
Black Fox Homestead – Fodder Seed Blend
Colored Egg Homestead - Incubrite Egg Candler
Stop by to visit all of the blogs sharing this giveaway!
Incubator Warehouse Blog, Lisa at The Self Sufficient HomeAcre, Nancy at Prudent Living – On The Homefront, Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens, Janet at Timber Creek Farm, Cheryl at Pasture Deficit Disorder, Krystyna at Spring Mountain Living, Kathryn at Farming my Back Yard, Meredith at ImaginAcres, Chris at Joybilee Farm, Khristi at Colored Egg Homestead, Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading, Tammy at Trayer Wilderness,Holly at Midwest Punk Rock Homesteaders
Giveaway runs from March 10th through 17th
Be sure to enter by 5pm on St Patrick’s Day!