So, we've got chickens coming. (Well, now they're here, but I'm writing this a bit late.) The biggest job when you're waiting on your chicks is to prepare for them. There are a number of things to be aware of before you start trying to piece together everything, so let's go over what I've learned.
Baby chickens can't just go straight into a coop. They need a smaller space to grow in first. That's when a brooding box is needed. You can find a lot of examples of DIY boxes online and tweak them to fit your needs or what you have. I've used a cardboard box.
The box/cage/whatever should offer at least half a foot a square space for each chick it'll be home to. As I learned, you should try to make it a little larger in case of extras.
Our brooding box is two feet by two and a half feet. Or five feet squared.
It may not seem big, but it is a pretty good size. It originally housed an inflatable kayak. The box should also be able to close. I fashioned a lid out of one side and added plenty of holes for ventilation. Closing isn't just to keep the family cat out. It's also a must have because baby chicks can jump.
Warning, they will climb to the highest point they can get to and attempt to jump out!
Inside the Brooding Box
Chicks need food, water, and bedding. I've also added a heating cave, but we'll get to that in a moment. If you can't go out and buy a food and water bowl meant to keep little creatures out there are a number of ways to make them. A quick Google search led me to a few interesting ideas.
Feeding the chicks. My daughter did some research and told me that the food needs to be covered somehow. Apparently little chicks will get up in the feed and scratch, poop, and any number of things. I grabbed a 16oz Faygo bottle and cut it in half. After cutting a couple of opening in the bottom half I turned the top upside down and secured it inside the bottom. This created a self feeder.
For the water I just used two dollar containers from the Dollar Tree, a low plastic bowl and a squat dry storage container. We poked a hole in the container just below the top height of the bowl. Then we took the container and sat it in the bowl. Water flowed from one and filled the other.
The bedding is pretty easy. Use pine shavings. Everything I've read said those were the best. Chicks have reactions to other types for some reason, so I didn't risk it. The shavings should be large chips. Dust from small shavings can cause breathing issues.
Alright. This one is important. Chicks need a heat source. Without heat they won't survive or thrive. Most people use a heat lamp. Some people use a heating table. Others use other things. The important part is that there is heat.
Chicks need a heat source in the upper 90's the first week of life. Many say they need over 100 degrees. Do your research and ask around to see what you feel/know to be best.
I didn't go for a heat lamp. There are cats and dogs in our household and the last thing we needed was a frantic call to 911 that sounded like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Instead, I created a heating cave. A heating pad was placed on the inside of an old planter I'd cut in half from top to bottom. Then a t-shirt was cut up to fit over the cave. I made sure to knot of as much of the ends as I could to keep folds from being a danger to the chicks.
To support the heating cave, the chicks stay in a small room where I've set up a heater to keep the room warm as well. The room stays about 80 degrees while the heating cave is in the upper 90s.
There are people who've used a heating rock. The kind you can find for pet reptiles. I've heard these can work well. Little chicks will roost on the rock when they're cold and scramble off when they need to cool off.
That's it for now. Remember, this is just how we're setting up for chicks. I always advise doing as much research as possible before committing yourself to any project. You can find out about what kind of feed to get chicks at just about any hardware or feed store. So, stay tuned for the arrival of the chicks!