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one of The Urban Chicken TM Click Here!
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Before you purchase your chickens you need to give some consideration to some of the basic needs that your chickens will have. If you are buying young chicks, you will need to fashion a brooder for them. This is not complicated as a cardboard box will do the trick if you have a lamp to hang over it and use some chicken wire to fashion a lid (when they are very young they will not be able to jump or climb out but as they grow this will change). You will need to start with a box about the size of a fruit box from the grocery store (for two to eight chicks). You will want a larger box as the chicks grow.
Line the bottom with a heavy gage plastic sheet. The plastic should be thick enough that if one of the chicks works its way under the plastic the chick will not easily suffocate. Several layers of newspapers placed on top of the plastic will help to absorb the droppings and help to keep the chicks clean and healthy. The papers will need to be changed at least once a day, (twice is better and more frequently if you cannot stand the odor or if the drinking water gets spilled). Replace the box each week or when it becomes saturated with droppings, spills or just becomes too small for the growing chicks.
Hang a 50 watt light bulb over the box focusing the light more on one end of the brooder. This provides warmth that is adjustable to the chicks as they can move closer or further from the heat of the light as they need. Look for signs of overheating or chill. When they are too hot they will move as far away from the light as the box will allow and will appear to pant with their beaks open wide. If they are too cold they will huddle together and peep loudly in complaint. You should be able to tell if the chicks are comfortable by the way they are moving and playing. Adjust the light closer or further from the box as is necessary, or partially cover the box if needed to provide additional warmth. When the chicks are very young they will need to be kept around 90º but reduce this temperature each week to help them to acclimate to the out door temperatures that they will soon live in.
Make sure that they have food and water available constantly. Your tack and feed store probably sells a variety of feed and water dispensers. A small dish, bowl or even the lid to a large Mayo jar will work quite well for food and water. Purchase feed when you purchase your chicks. You will want a special chick mix which is ground finer that what you would give to an older hen.
Chicks that are days old are very cute and will bond easily with their care givers. If you have the time and interest pick them up and hold them often. They are not as fragile as you might think however do be gentle and keep them away from the hands of young children and other pets whose instincts might get the better of them. Holding the chicks at this age will make it easier to handle them if some care requires it latter.
Keep the brooder in a warm place, inside the house or enclosed garage, away from cold and drafts. Keep the brooder clean and dry.
When the chicks can move around easily when they are a couple of weeks old, let them run free from the brooder out doors on warm afternoons while you watch them. When they are young they are easy to manage, you will be able to catch them and replace them into the brooder. They must be watched by you as they will be a happy find to a hawk or the neighbors cat. Keep them away from wild birds as they might bring disease. This journey out of doors will provide them with exercise and also allow them to start exploring the world which they will soon live in.
As they get older, they will return by themselves to the brooder as dusk falls and the cool night air comes on. If they do not return on their own you will find them cuddled together in a "nest" that they have made. Pick them up and place them into the brooder. It is important that they get used to sleeping indoors from the start or they will want to sleep in your trees as they grow to adults, leaving them vulnerable to the elements as well as cats, coyotes raccoons and what ever lives in your wilds (even large cities will have these problems).
As they get older you can help them to find insects. When they are out doors, turn over rocks for them or place a worm into their food dish in there brooder. It is great fun to watch them chase each other around fighting over such a treat. You can train them to come by making the same noise each time you give them a special treat and later each time you feed them. A noise suck as a whistle or a tongue click or say "chick chick" or some other noise that is easy to repeat by all that will handle the birds will work well.
Continue raising them in the brooder for about six to eight weeks. You can remove the light after a few weeks, but keep them in the brooder until they are ready for the hen house. Make sure the transition to the hen house occurs after the weather has warmed a little so that the adjustment will not be too traumatic.
In our next segment we will discuss the needs of your growing chicks including hen houses, and the care that they will need up to the time that they start laying.
To read part one of The Urban Chicken TM Click Here!
To read part
two of The Urban Chicken TM Click Here!
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