Caring for chicks in the brooder: everything you need to know.

Caring for chicks in the brooder: everything you need to know.

So you hatched chicks in an incubator or bought them from a hatchery and you don't know what to do now?

Poultry farmers often say that chickens raised by mother hens are better than chickens raised at brooder. Recent scientific research shows that the environment of the brooder may be the cause of this difference more than the chicken. So how do you improve your brooder?

Read on to learn caring for chick in the brooder.

What are the benefits of raising chickens in a brooder?
If you are laying eggs or buying chicks, they should be raised in a brooder.There are many advantages to raising chicks in a brooder:

  • Protection against predators and adult birds.
  •  Less risk of parasites or disease, as older birds usually carry them
  • Easy temperature control .
  • Medicated feed can be used without the risk of been consume by laying bird.
  •  Many chickens can be raised at the same time.

Understanding the development of the chick - the first week of life
The first weeks after hatching are important for chicks. The environment at this stage affects the chicken's health, behavior and productivity for the rest of its life.

During the first few weeks, the baby's brain, bones and muscles are still developing. Providing a variety of stimuli and experiences affects how well the hen socializes as an adult, as well as its effects on stress and feeding ability. Level of activity affects future health.
It makes sense that we raise chicks to prepare them for adult life. Even so, even backyard brooders are often sterile boxes with little food, water, a light source, and bedding. This is good for commercial chickens that will spend 2 years on the floor of a large barn, but not for free range chickens that need to be able to run, fly and feed themselves!
Backyard chickens spend most of their time with people and pets. They must be able to manage a complex environment and cope with change.
Fortunately, it's easy to create a beautiful environment to help your chicks develop the skills and spirit that will help them succeed as adults.

Everything you need to know about caring for chicks at brooder

Think of babies chicks as puppies. You have to spend time interacting with them and exposing them to different stimuli from the moment they appear. This will help them cope with the varied life of a backyard chicken, where eating and consistency are the keys to success!

1. Litter on the ground

Once the chicks are able to recognize the feed well, use floor litter in the brooder.

Litter promotes foraging behaviors, such as scratching and pecking. Studies have also shown that having the opportunity to express these natural behaviors appears to increase the immune response and brain development of chicks, as well as reducing problems with feathering and fear as adults.


 2. Opportunity to jump, climb and fly
Early exposure to perches reduces injuries and fractures in mature hens, and flight opportunities help develop wing bones. Climbing opportunities also develop spatial awareness in chicks, which is very important for independent hens who need to adapt to complex environments.
In general, chicks prefer to stay on the ground for the first week of their lives. After this, ramps, platforms and perches will be gradually introduced and space will be expanded so that the chicks can flap their wings and fly.
Use a soft surface to ensure the chicks don't injure themselves and gradually increase their surface. Changing routines over time also helps chicks adapt.

3. Opportunity to earn money

Chicks will start pecking from the first day and it is important to give them different opportunities to pay as part of their development. Provide simple toys, such as CDs attached to a string. But make sure that there is nothing that the chicks can swallow or get into, and avoid food options until the chicks are at least one month old. Providing something to peck can also reduce feather pecking.

 4. Simple changes
Chickens are known to get stressed when things change. And stress is the main factor that causes the development of many chicken diseases.
In the commercial setting, even one person walking past the chicken coop the wrong way can cause a stir! Although backyard chickens are often stressed, it is still important to expose them to easy changes in the brooder. 

Research shows that mild stress response is good for chicken development and immune response. Exposure to change also prevents them from becoming fearful as adults, which is especially important for adapting to independent environments.

Introduce new things to the brooder, as well as changes in feeding and cleaning procedures to new people. Keep it simple - you're just looking for a mild stress response!

5. Visual stimuli

 Isn't it funny that most chicks grow in a brooder with hard sides and smooth walls? Still, visual stimulation in the days after conception is important for brain development and negative behavior!
Although chicks prefer animated images and studies, even pictures or toys can help. A brooder window is also an option, but you need to be careful that there are not many things outside the window that can stress the chicks, such as friendly pets!

6. Occlusions

 What is occlusion? These are things that disappear. Like children, chicks must learn that things they can't see still exist!
First-hand experience and close-up help chicks discover things they might not see as adults, like finding a chicken coop after a free day! It also improves brain function and spatial awareness.

 Even something as simple as something in the brooder that the chicks can't see, but can walk around, together! Or provide a screen, for example between the main light and the light. Start when the chicks are a few days old and just leave the grid in place for a while at first, to make sure the chicks don't stick to one side or the other.

 7. Natural light
Like everything else, chicks' eyes also grow. Keeping chicks in a dark environment can stunt their development, while constant light can cause feathering and stress.
The best way is to use a light bulb that always gives light. If you can, keep your brooder in a room with natural light, and avoid direct sunlight for more than 10 to 20 minutes a day.


8. Probiotics

 Some studies show that the use of probiotics can strengthen the immune system and digestion of chicks raised without a mother.
Microbiota control the gut microbiota of chickens after hatching. When the chicks interact with the mother hen, an established microbiota develops over a period of more than a week. On the other hand, commercially raised chickens can take years to develop mature microbiota! A healthy microbiota improves immune function and digestion. 

Feeding a bird-specific probiotic, such as 2 Pak Probiotic, is the best way to help chicks develop their microbiota. Exposure to unrelated chickens is not recommended because older birds can harm chicks and often carry parasites and diseases, as well as beneficial microbes.

 9. Timely outdoor exposure
For free-range chickens, early outdoor exposure is recommended. In commercial free range systems, chicks usually have access to an enclosure at six weeks of age. In your backyard, you can give your chick access to grass for a few hours a day in a small chicken coop or chicken tractor. Chicks need access to heat for 4 to 6 weeks, but on hot days, they can spend time without heat, especially where they can get sunlight.

10. Handling

 If you want your chickens to be friendly, always treat them like chicks. Little time at first, and slowly and gradually. This can make them familiar with handling and humans, reducing stress when handling your grown chickens.

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