What Temperature Should 1 Week Old Chicks Be Kept At The Care and Handling of Baby Chicks

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The Care and Handling of Baby Chicks

It’s 7:15 in the morning. You’re checking email and drinking coffee in your robe and slippers when the phone rings. The US Postal Service says they have a box for chicks.

Whether you expect them or not, they are here and you need to go get them. The post office is a cold and scary place for a box of chicks. Take scissors, tape and a camera with you to the post office. Always open a box of live birds when the postman testifies. Many live bird shipping containers have zippers, so keep scissors handy to cut them, or any tape to keep the box closed. Carry extra tape to reattach the box for shipping home. When you open a box of live birds, do so only long enough to determine if they are all alive. You don’t want chicks escaping and running through the mail. Some of the containers actually have a cardboard covered window that opens for viewing. These are often only for larger birds.

Posti does not guarantee shipments of live birds. They don’t even honor the $100.00 insurance that comes with Express shipping. They also don’t guarantee overnight delivery, and in fact will only cover shipping costs if they exceed one day over two delivery days. Then they just pay back sender for shipping costs.

The reason for opening the box in the presence of a post office employee is proof of possible problems for the seller. Sometimes, but not always, the seller reimburses the cost of the birds or replaces birds that cannot survive the shipment. Be sure to ask your seller for live broadcast insurance and get it in writing if the birds are expensive. Many rare breeds cost several hundred dollars, and you want to know what to do if they don’t arrive alive. Often the seller will bring extra chicks for warmth and they will only compensate for additional losses. Often, large hatcheries put extra roosters in a box for warmth, and these are not taken into account when compensating for losses.

So make sure your birds are alive in front of a witness. Have them sign a short note certifying that some or all of them arrived dead. Take pictures if the seller requires additional proof. We like to think everyone is honest, but anyone who’s been in the chicken business long enough knows that’s not the case. It’s nothing personal; they just need to be sure. Please notify the seller as soon as possible if you have any losses. Include the name of the postal worker you spoke with and offer to email the photos. Many senders have time limits on refunds, so act fast.

Then home. Don’t stop to get your nails done or pick up a few items from the market. Day-old chicks can live up to 3 days in the yolk sac after hatching. After that, they need water and food to survive. When you open the box of chicks, don’t be surprised to find a pile of green wads in the box. This is a good thing. That green goo is a product called GroGel. It is a powder that turns into a thick gel when water is added. It provides nutrients and fluids to the transported chicks during their journey. The regulations prohibit water in the transport box and GroGel is a good alternative. I routinely offer GroGel to the chicks the night before shipping so they know what it is and will eat it during transport.

When you get home, hopefully you will have everything ready for the chicks. Here’s what they need from you now.

HOUSING: You need a chick for chicks. This can range from a simple cardboard box to a Taj Mahal funeral. Many people use plastic storage containers and these work great. The most important thing to remember about your brooder is that the floor should not be slippery. This means no plastic, no newspaper, and no cardboard-type surfaces. Puppies are very prone to foot problems in the first days and weeks of life, and a stable footing is paramount in preventing untreatable injuries. For the first two days, use paper towels on the floor. They are safe to walk on and absorbent. After two days, replace the paper towels with a vinyl shelf. It gives them good grip when running, is quite affordable and you can cut it to fit your brooder.

You will find yourself changing the brooder liner several times in the first few days. When the chicks are 5-6 days old, you can move them to a bigger grave. Cover the floor with puppy pads, which are readily available at pet stores, although you can probably get them cheaper elsewhere. Place a 2″ thick layer of pine shavings on top of the puppy pads. Just use pine shavings, preferably triple Screened types. Never use cedar shavings, shredded paper, corn on the cob, or many other pet store bedding materials. They can be toxic when inhaled by chicks. They can taste good, so chicks will eat them. They can become moldy as they break down. Stick with what’s tried and true. Don’t rush to put chicks on chips until they’ve been eating for a few days and know the difference between food and chips.

HEAT: The chicks have to be at the right temperature or they can get sick and die. You can do this by using a heat lamp. Despite this, the use of a heat lamp involves the risk of fire. You can NEVER be too careful when using a heat lamp. Accidents can and do happen. There are horror stories of fires caused by pets and children accidentally knocking over a heat lamp. The clamps that come with heat lamps are in no way sufficient to prevent accidents. You have to use zip ties, clips, whatever to keep the heat lamp from moving. The chicks are rambunctious as they grow and can also cause a heat lamp fire. Bottom line, make it as safe as possible, and then make it safer!

The temperature for the first week should be 90-95 degrees. Lower the temperature by five degrees per week until you reach 70 degrees. You can achieve this by raising the height of the heat lamp or by using one of the heat lamp units with a dimmer switch (my personal favorite). Chicks should be feathered and should no longer need heat after 70 degrees. Use a thermometer with a probe to check the temperature at the level of the chick. Another important thing about heating is that you don’t try to heat the whole brood. Some chicks may like it cooler than others. If you find your son all curled up directly under the heat source, it’s probably too cold in the bath. Ideally, they should sleep around the perimeter of the heat source, and are often arranged in a circle around the outer edge of the heat lamp’s red glow. They are lucky chicks! Set aside areas for chicks that can get away from the heat completely. Keep heat at one end of the incubator and food and water at the other when the chicks are about a week old. Another option now available is a contact graver called EcoGlow manufactured by Brinsea. It completely eliminates the need for heat lamps. There is a version for 20 chicks and one for 50 chicks.

WATER: As soon as the chicks are settled in their cleaners, whether transported or hatched at home, they must have access to water. There are many options available to waterers for chicks, but care must be taken to prevent drowning. It sounds silly, but chicks can and do drown in half an inch of water. Use a chick waterer that is designed to be drown-proof by only allowing a low water level and do not allow chicks to drown in it. Using any shallow container and only filling it about half an inch is an acceptable option.

Another good way to prevent drowning in the dish waterer is to put small rocks or stones in the water so the chicks can drink around them but not get too far. If you can get red rocks from the aquarium section of a pet store, they work well. Chicks are attracted to the color red. When you first offer the chicks water, it helps to dip their beak in the water a few times. Make sure you only dip the tip of the beak and not the nostrils or you could drown them too. As soon as one or two chicks start drinking, they usually all have to try it. It takes persistence to keep the water clean and free of chips. They need clean water to stay healthy, so check it several times a day to make sure it’s not empty or messy. Another option is to use nipple solders, which work really well in the bath and stay clean.

FOOD: When the chicks are a day or two old, they are ready to eat. You’ve probably already noticed them looking at poop and other little things in the graves. Chicks aged 1 day to 6 weeks must be offered starter feed. Some feeds contain amprulium for coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a disease that can kill chicks that have not built up immunity to it. Chicks pick it up when they come into contact with the droppings of other birds, including wild birds. Give them a medicated feed that controls coccidiosis while the birds can build up immunity. Only feed medicated chick starter until they hatch and for a few weeks after that. Never use feed with added antibiotics. Always have feed available for growing chicks. If you have an emergency and run out of feed, an acceptable short-term substitute is mashed, hard-boiled egg yolk.

SAFETY:After a few days, the grave must definitely be covered. Iron cloth, easily available at hardware stores, works great. Cut a piece about three inches larger all the way around than the top of the brooder and place it on top. Use something heavy to press down on the blanket. Chicks often want to explore the world outside the fetus before they are ready.

ACCESSORIES: This refers to additional things that should and should not be added to the brooder. Even small chicks like to sleep, so a peg or some kind of branch to sleep on is a good idea. You can buy perches sold at the bird shop. They have a bolt and nut on one end so you can drill a hole in the brooder and securely mount it to the wall.

If you ever settle on one chick, you’ll soon find that there can be a handful. Happy chicks chirp quietly, but one chick chirps constantly because it’s lonely. You have a couple of options. First, you can usually buy the club folk from the feed store, unless it’s chick season. Sometimes you can post on Craigslist and ask if someone will sell you one chick. In the end, you just have to live with it. Try putting the mirror in the cleaner. The boy sees his reflection and thinks it has company. Put a stuffed animal in the incubator for warmth and comfort. A chick’s chick snuggles with it like a chick. Another trick is to put a feather towel in the cleaner, but be very careful when doing this. Hang the feather towel so that the chicks can get under it, but do not get tangled in it.

Do not put fragile plastic containers in the funeral. The chicks try to stand on them, knock them over and suffocate under them. Styrofoam is also not a good choice. Make sure all dishes are heavy enough to prevent them from tipping over and are not edible.

Raising chicks can be fun and rewarding if you follow these few basic rules.

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