Whether they arrived in the mail or came straight from your incubator, it’s important to prepare a brooder for your chicks ahead of time.
Baby chicks need to be kept warm for approximately 11 weeks until they are fully feathered. And once they’re ready to leave the incubator, a warm brooder will make them feel at home instantly.
To make sure you’ve got everything you need, we’re walking you through brooder supplies so you can confidently welcome your chicks into the world.
Everything you need for your new baby chicks is here on this list. So let’s set them up for success by having everything ready for them before it’s time to move to the brooder!
The Brooder for Chicks
Choosing a container to raise your baby chicks in depends on what you have available and the number of chicks you plan on housing.
As a rule of thumb, consider giving each chick about 6 square inches of space to call their own. In general, more space is usually better.
With that being said, you can always expand and change brooders as your chicks grow to allow for more space. These chick brooder panels are the perfect solution for new baby chicks, especially if you’re unsure of how much space you’ll need to start with.
When baby chicks first hatch, their momma hen keeps them nice and warm. In fact, chicks need warmth to grow into healthy young chickens.
So, you’ll also need a way to consistently keep your new chicks warm.
Many opt for heat lamps, but we prefer brooding plates for even, safe, warming of the brooder. Plates like this are perfect for regulating temperature and avoiding dangerous fire hazards. Plus, they’ll cost you less in energy expenses.
The Bedding in the Brooder Box
Baby chicks grow fast. But while they’re growing, they need a sturdy, safe, and dry environment to live in.
Bedding serves three purposes for baby chicks
- It keeps baby chicks dry
- It provides insulation and keeps them warm
- And it supports them developmentally as they grow
Number three is important because many find out much too late that smooth floors, like newspapers, are detrimental to a baby chick’s development.
Instead, opt for grippier bedding like our aspen wood fiber pads, wood shavings or straw which are also absorbent and help keep peepers toasty in their first few weeks of life.
Feeders and Waterers Made for Baby Chicks
Baby chicks need clean food and water. And the best way to keep things clean is to use founts and feeders made specifically for baby chicks.
When providing water to young chicks, it’s also important to ensure chicks aren’t at risk for drowning.
All-too-often, brand new baby chicks fall into waterers (yes, even the founts) and accidentally flip over. They’re often too weak to escape and can easily drown.
Opt for waterers with preventative measures in place or simply add small rocks to the bottom to make the water level more shallow.
Chick Starter to Start Them Out Right
Baby chicks have special nutritional needs. So it’s important to purchase a feed that’s been formulated specifically for baby chicks.
Commercial feeds will be either medicated to prevent coccidia or non-medicated. It’s up to you which you prefer to use but we suggest looking into coccidia so you can make an informed decision.
Whichever you decide, just be sure that the feed you’ve chosen is either labeled as chick starter or has at least 22% protein to promote healthy growth and development.
Baby chicks don’t need grit until they begin foraging. Then, they’ll need it to digest their food. (remember, chickens don’t have teeth!)
Once they’re old enough, typically around three weeks of age, it’s safe to add grit to their brooder and give them the option of helping themselves when needed.
They’ll know what to do!
Brooder Temperature Regulation
When setting up your brooder for the first time, do so at least a day before you welcome your baby chicks into their new home. That way, you can be certain that the temperature is perfect for new residents.
This is also when a thermometer comes in hand. Simply place a chicken thermometer under your heat source and adjust the height of your lamp or plate to approximately 95 degrees for the first week. Then, raise the plate to decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the heat source is the same as the external temperature.
With that being said, always refer to your chicks’ behavior to ensure they’re comfortable.
If chicks are crowding each other under the heat source, they’re probably too cold and need a bit more heat.
On the other hand, if they’re spread out and appear to be trying to escape from the heat, or they’re panting, they are likely too warm. In this situation, raise the heat source and monitor your chicks.
You’ll know your baby chicks are comfortable with the temp if they’re leisurely hanging out here and there.
Once your chicks are adjusted to the external room temperature or outdoor temperature (and after about 6 weeks), they’re ready to move out of the brooder box and into the barnyard!