Spring is in the air! It’s time to start seeds, get the garden ready, and bring the bees out from being overwintered. But one of the most exciting events that marks the beginning of spring is chick season! Little chicks, ducklings, goslings, and turkey poults are being born and you need to ready before bringing them home. Here are the chick supplies you’ll need!
Spring is a new season full of life after a long, cold winter. Here in Alaska it’s still winter with temperatures below freezing and snow on the ground but there are signs of spring.
Seeds are being started indoors, bees are awakening and venturing out, and chicks are being born. It’s an exciting season!
We raise layer chicks to ad to our flock, ducklings for eggs, turkey poults for meat, and goslings. We always love having these little babies around and watching them grow.
Whether you are raising chicks for eggs or meat, you will need a few supplies on hand to care for them. Here’s what you will need to raise your own chicks.
Chick Brooder Supplies
Here are the basic chick supplies you’ll need:
A brooder is a small, contained area that keeps chicks safe and warm. There are many ways to make a brooder for your chicks that include:
- Wooden box-We built a brooder for our chicks that we use year after year. It’s 2 1/2 by 2 feet and 2 feet deep feet made out of plywood. We attached a lid using hinges so that it can open and close easily but allow plenty of airflow. A piece of 1 by 1 screwed into one side holds the lamp clamp.
- Plastic tub-You can use a plastic storage tub from the store. A lamp can clip onto the top edge. Be sure not to use the lid as it won’t allow enough air flow for the chicks.
- Pop-up pen-You can purchase a pop-up pen online or from a feed or pet store. These are great as the chicks get larger but can be too big for tiny chicks that might squeeze through the sides so use carefully.
- Cardboard box-You can even use a large cardboard box as a brooder. Just be sure that the bottom doesn’t become too saturated with their waste or switch to a clean box periodically.
A brooder needs to keep the chicks safe from predators, keep them warm and cozy, and have good air flow. Keep the brooder clean by scooping it out daily and adding fresh bedding.
Chicks will need light during the day from a regular lightbulb and darkness at night. And of course, space for their feed, water, and room to wander around.
Whether or not you use a heat lamp will depend on the temperature where you live and personal preference. Heat lamps are very dangerous so limit your use of them as much as possible. A broody hen or a brooder heat plate are much safer options for keeping chicks warm.
Of course, chicks need access to clean, fresh water at all times. Plan to check and possibly refill their water several times a day. Chicks are curious and playful and often make a mess of their water so it might need to be refilled more often than you think.
There are countless poultry waterers available online or at your local feed store. The size and style you choose is up to you.
For chicks, I like to use a small quart-size waterer that won’t take up much space in their brooder. It still holds enough to last them all day (if they don’t make a mess off it!) but we always check it and refill it as needed throughout the day and before nighttime.
You can raise the waterer up an inch or two by placing it on top of a wooden block or another dish. This can help keep bedding and waste from getting into the water.
As the chicks grow larger and move to a bigger area, their waterer should be larger as well. A half-gallon waterer works well. Finally, once they’re full grown it’s nice to have a really large waterer, 3 to 5 gallons, depending on how many birds you are keeping.
Keep their water fresh and clean every day. Adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar gives them a helpful boost as well. You can also purchase vitamins to add to their water at your local feed store.
Chicks don’t need a fancy feeder while they’re so small. Even just a small bowl or dish from your kitchen will do just fine. Feed stores sell small poultry feeders that you can use as well.
Just like with the waterer, the feeder can become filled with bedding and waste so will need to be kept clean. Fresh chick feed should be added daily.
Once the chicks have grown and depending on how many you have in your flock, you will eventually want to switch to a large poultry feeder.
Best Bedding for Baby Chicks
There are a few options for bedding for baby chicks. The most common bedding to use is pine shavings. You can buy these in large bags at your local feed store. Also check your local wood mill as they will often sell their own pine shavings for a much lower cost.
Pine shavings are soft and easy for baby chicks to walk on and lay in. Avoid using straw like you would for older birds as it’s too difficult for them to manage.
Newspaper or rubber shelf liner is another way to line the bottom of your brooder. These do not work as well for us with our wooden brooder.We have found the pine shavings to be more absorbent so the wooden bottom of our brooder doesn’t get saturated.
With just a few basic chick supplies, you’ll be on your way to starting your own flock of poultry for fresh eggs and homegrown meat!