Chicks from hatcheries often are shipped shortly after they’re hatched, as they can survive up to 3 days without food and water. When ordering chicks in Spring, it is important to order 20 or more so they have each other to keep themselves warm in case the package become exposed to the elements, potentially experience short whiles of subzero temperatures.
When chicks are first hatched, they will need to be housed (such as a brooder box) at around 35°C. Every week, temperature can reduce 3-5°C. Chicks shall stay indoors until they feather out at about 4 weeks old and can withstand a larger temperature range outdoors. Please note that when you have only a small number of chicks, you might want to keep them indoors for longer since they don’t have each other to huddle overnight.
Before receiving chicks, you should have a draft-free and heated space ready as their brooder box. We use a heat lamp to warm the space and water prior to their arrival. Temperature is adjusted by the height of heat lamp over the weeks. We start using a meshed top cover at 2-week-old to keep our chicks contained since they start jumping out.
When preparing the space for your chicks, 25 sq ft is good for up to 100 chicks until they reach 4 weeks old. You should have a bigger space ready for them to move into, as your chicks might become aggressive to each other by then. Some rules of thumb on chicken space requirements:
- If you’re keeping them indoors all the time, allow 3-5 sq ft per bird.
- If you’re keeping them in a chicken tractor that’s moved daily, allow 2 sq ft per bird as the tractor footprint. You will need 1/5 of an acre for 50 chickens in a tractor system.
- If you’re planning to let them free range within an electric fence and house them in a mobile shelter at nights, allow 1 sq ft per bird as roosting space. You should move them regularly base on your land’s response. You shall close the chickens in at night to protect them from predators.
Space aside, appropriate water containers and feeders will help save you time and feed cost. Slightly raising the platform (which water containers and feeders sit) will help prevent chicks from pooping into their water/ feed, which in turn require daily cleaning. The chicks have an increasing appetite as they age, so having feeders that can hold a day’s feed can help reduce the feeding frequency.
As they grow bigger and can shift to adult chicken’s feed with a bigger beak, it is recommended to slowly introduce the change by mixing your adult feed into their crumble. Don’t forget to make grit available as you make the shift.
Learn more about other tips we have about raising livestock in the North.