Have you been in any farm store lately? A common theme in many of them has been “Chick Days.”
Folks who want to get started raising their own chickens have been able to get started by purchasing their chicks from many of these retail outlets. Raising chicks can be a rewarding and a great learning process for your whole family.
Just this week, I ran across a great simple article on raising chicks provided by Sabrina Schirtzinger, Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension Educator in Knox County.
Deciding to raise chickens is a considerable task, especially, if this is your first time. Chicks require housing, a heat source, water, feed, and a bedding source.
In her article, Sabrina shares a few quick tips for getting starting raising chicks …
• Upon arrival home chicks should be housed in a brooder. A brooder may be an enclosed box, small corner of the garage, or a cardboard guard keeping the chicks in a contained area. Brooders should be free from drafts, or other animals; whichever style you chose to build, the walls need to be 18 inches high.
Brooding is approximately six weeks, during this time the brooders size will need to be adjusted to allow more space for the chicks. In 2 week intervals increase the brooder 1 square foot per bird.
• For the first few weeks chicks need extra heat to grow stronger and improve feathering. Temperatures should be between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week, then decrease 5 degrees each week until the chicks gain feathers, or ambient temps are reached.
Watching your chicks will alert you to adequate temperatures in the brooder. When your chicks are too cold they will be chirping loudly and huddled under the lamps. Simply lower the lamps until normal behavior is resumed. Normal behavior is described as birds exerting daily behaviors of sleeping, eating and drinking.
If your chicks are too hot they will be further from the heat source. There should always be space for the chicks to be warm and cool in the brooder.
• Begin feeding your chicks a starter feed with a crude protein of 20%. Use this feed for approximately 6 weeks, then switch to a grower/developer feed. When your chickens reach 18-20 weeks of age switch them to a layer feed with a 15 to 16% protein and 4% calcium. Eating is a social activity to chickens. When selecting a feeder allow two inches of space for chicks within the first two weeks. After two weeks and beyond allow 4 inches of feeder space per chicken.
• Your chicks will require clean, fresh water several times a day. Use the 1- or 2-gallon water jugs for the first few weeks, then you can increase the size as they grow larger.
• Good bedding sources are ones that catch and absorb the manure; but also, keep the chicks from slipping on the ground. Lining the floor of your brooder with newspaper helps to make cleaning easier. Types of bedding are: pine shavings, straw, course ground cobs, or oat hulls. Producers should clean the brooders several times a week, and then add 2-3 inches of bedding back into the brooder.
• Finally, be aware that the dreaded highly pathogenic Avian Influenza has been in the news with several small outbreaks down in some of our southern states.
A bird flu outbreak that has led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states already is the nations worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up. The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month and has since been detected in northern Alabama and western Kentucky.
Most recently, a second USDA Confirms Second Case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in a Commercial Flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The flock of 55,000 chickens is located in the Mississippi flyway, within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case.
Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for 29 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.