Ever heard the word brooder when people talk about raising baby chickens, but you’re not quite sure what exactly a brooder is and what it does? Everyone that decides to raise their own baby chickens from egg to adult will need a brooder during the process.
A brooder is basically a mommy to a baby chicken who was incubated without a hen. It keeps them nice and warm and protects them while they grow into fully-fledged chickens. Having a brooder full of babies is a real exciting experience so read on to learn more about brooders and brooding.
Raising day old chicks require constant warmth, protection, light food and water. It is quite simple to care for young chicks. Setting up your brooder is also quite simple as long as you take the following into consideration:
In the beginning, your little ones won’t need much space because they will primarily be either napping or eating. You can start off with a smaller container for the brooder or you can partition off a space in the bigger brooder to keep them nice and cosy. As the chicks grow, they will need a bigger space to move around in.
If you started off with a smaller space, you should keep an eye on their growth and activity. Once they start looking a bit cramped it is time to give them a larger space to run around in. As they grow you will also have to provide them with extra stimulation. There are some things they need to learn like how to roost on a perch so you will need to provide roosts for practice.
You will need some form of a heat source to keep the chicks warm and developing properly. They don’t have a mother to sit on them so this source of heat will be like their mom. Most use a heat lamp which provides both heat and light to your babies.
Heat lamps are also easy to adjust so that the chicks get used to environmental temperatures over a period of time. Simply raise the heat lamp if you need to reduce the heat in the brooder.
Heat lamps can also be attached to timers and temperature regulators to keep the temperature in the brooder stable. You can also use heat pads for your chicks creating a little spot where they can huddle together to get warm.
It is very important that you make sure your brooder is secure. Chicks are excellent jumpers and can run quite fast so if they escape you’re going to have quite a hard time catching them. Escaping also puts them at risk because they won’t have the heat they require and might get eaten by the household cat or dog and I’m sure you don’t want that.
Chicks grow bolder as they grow taller and get their feathers so you might need to consider some form of a lid for your brooder. Make sure there is still ample ventilation though. It is best to create a lid out of some form of mesh or netting.
If you have a large dog cage, you can relocate them in there for extra safety if it’s easier than creating a lid. Your youngsters will start practising flight and perching so you don’t want them to get hurt.
Getting the ventilation right can be a little tricky. You need to have ample ventilation without chilling your chicks and definitely no drafts. Any sudden changes in temperature can lead to dead chicks very quickly.
At this age, they are super fragile. Brooders kept indoors are easier to keep draft free than those kept outdoors. Make sure to set up your brooder away from doors and windows where drafts might sneak in.
Chicks are very clumsy so will undoubtedly walk over waterers and spill the water everywhere so you need to make sure they stay dry by providing proper absorbent bedding such as paper towels.
As your chicks grow, they will outgrow the paper towel bedding and will need more absorbent bedding such as wood shavings, straw or hemp. Make sure to change the bedding often to keep your chicks environment hygienic to keep them healthy and growing properly.
Bedding and Nutrition
It is advisable to have suitable flooring waterers and feeders in the brooder. Chicks aren’t very coordinated so will need a non-slip floor and waterers and feeders they cannot accidentally bump over.
If you’re using a plastic container, make sure to cover the floor in ample bedding to give the chicks some friction to stabilise their clumsy steps. Mason jar waterers or ceramic dishes that cannot tip over are a good choice for using in brooders. Mason jar feeders or shallow ceramic bowls also make perfect feeders.
Bedding should be picked carefully. You want to avoid any cedar wood shavings since they can badly affect your chicks respiratory systems. Paper towels make good first time bedding but should be replaced with something more absorbent as chicks grow. They do poop a lot. Straw and wood shavings, not cedar, is always a good choice for bedding.
Now you know enough to set up a good brooder. Keep in mind that raising chicks can be a dusty process. It doesn’t really matter where you put up your brooder as long as it is a safe, draft-free location. Set up your brooder well before your brood arrives. You will need the time to make sure everything works perfectly and that it is warm enough for your new chicks.
Once your brood arrives, gently pick them up, dip their beaks into the waterer and feeder and set them down to start exploring. By dipping their beaks into the food and water, you are effectively teaching them to eat and drink. You might need to do this a few times before they get it. Make sure you have a good starter feed for your chicks and that they always have clean fresh water available.
Initially, your chicks will need the brooder quite hot. Beginning temperatures should be set around 35 -37 degrees celsius. You can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week until room temperature is reached. Keep an eye on their comfort level. Chicks that are too hot will gravitate toward the edges of the brooder away from the heat lamp and if they are too cold, they will snuggle together under it.
You can adjust the temperature by either lifting or lowering the heat lamp to make it either hotter or cooler inside the brooder. If you see your chicks favouring a specific side of the brooder, they may be trying to avoid a draft. If the conditions are ideal, they will be scattered around the place doing what chicks do best.