Fall is the ideal season to start your poultry flock. All winter they will acclimate to their new home. Most hens mature after four to six months, and by spring, you will get eggs.
A brooding pen is a small chicken coop to keep chicks warm, dry, and protected from predators. Keep it draft-free, clean and dry. Brooders can be fashioned from recycled boxes, plastic tubs, galvanized troughs, or your own bathtub. Chicks should have enough room to get away from the heat source and stretch their legs. Red light bulbs keep chicks warm without stressing them out.
Day-old chicks without their mothers love to make flock friends—remember, two is better then one—and need to be warm, between 90°–95°. Reduce 5° each week until the coldest part of the day is 65°.
Chicks can go without water for only 48 hours after they hatch. Make sure they know where the water stations are. One way to help them acclimate better is to dip their beaks in the water. Remember, the size of your waterer changes as they grow. You can get a health booster that can be added to water, or just use sugar water to give droopy chicks a burst of energy (a half cup per quart of water). You can also add probiotics or live-culture yogurt to water or feed for better digestion.
Chicks do not need to eat for the first two days of life because they survive on residual yolk. You should still keep their feeders full of feed with an 18 percent ratio of protein. No feed on hand? In a pinch, you could use mashed hard-boiled eggs, uncooked blended oatmeal and cornmeal, or ground up scratch grains.
Poopy bottoms—a.k.a. pasting—is a common occurrence. Carefully remove the hardened dropping with warm water, dry the chick completely, and coat the tender bottom with Vaseline or Neosporin.
Chicks grow fast, so make sure the outside coop is ready when they are. If introducing new pullets to an existing flock, make sure they’re big enough to defend themselves; slip into the coop late in the evening or before their new friends wake up in the morning. ✜
Renée and her husband, Aaron, are “do-it-yourself” homeowners in Armory Park. Contact her at
firstname.lastname@example.org or find her at Arizona Feeds Country Store in South Tucson.