10 Tips for Raising Healthy Chicks
It’s almost spring time, and everybody knows that means the days get longer and we can start to put away those ever-so-helpful winter jackets. But did you know that spring time is also the best time to update or purchase poultry products that can help increase the health and productivity of your flock? To help you raise happier and healthier poultry, we’ve picked out the top ten items your chicks need and included some helpful tips.
Housing is a vital aspect for any living thing, especially chickens. Without the proper housing chickens are left exposed to the elements, meaning they must deal with changing temperatures and weather, as well as natural predators. These factors can be extremely stressful to chickens, especially young chicks. Whether you are looking to establish a long-term, self-sustaining chicken farm (meaning a rooster fertilizes the hen’s eggs and you hatch your own chicks) or if you are looking to raise new chicks every year, proper housing is of high importance. Housing chickens in a shelter, such as a Chick-Inn Hutch, will provide the protection and comfort that they require. A sturdy, safe environment can help increase the life span of a chicken, and a longer, happier life span can result in higher production over time.
Feeding can be done in a variety of manners. Chickens are foragers by nature, so they are always looking for something to eat, and anyone who owns chickens knows that they will eat ANYTHING. However, a well-balanced and reliable diet is important for chickens. While they are capable of feeding themselves, it is essential to know what is in your chickens’ diet in order to ensure that they are as happy and healthy as possible. Whether you provide feed using a trough feeder, hanging feeder or range feeder, a proper, nutritious diet is a must when raising and caring for chickens.
3. Watering Systems
Water systems are another thing that can be done in many different ways. You can provide water for your chickens in a simple manner by using a plastic fountain that sits on the ground. You can also water in a more complex manner with a Hobby Drinker Kit, which is a completely sealed water source that can be suspended in air. While a suspended and sealed water supply is ideal for overall water sanitation, a simple, plastic fountain that is placed in the coop or pen will supply your birds with the water they require. However, there is an interesting alternative to providing a sealed water source from an elevated location if you so desire. To create a hanging nipple drinker on a smaller budget, you can take a 5-gallon bucket with a snap-on lid, drill holes in the bottom, insert as many 360° Push-In Nipple fittings as desired, fill the bucket and hang in a location within your pen or coop. This alternative can be a life saver if you find your ground level water source is becoming contaminated and spending the extra money on an elevated fixture isn’t an option.
4. Brooders & Heaters
Keeping your newly hatched chicks warm is highly important. Brooders are intended to provide the warmth and comfort that is required for newly hatched chicks. Heaters also provide comfort for your coop, but are intended more to keep the adult chickens comfortable and calm. Having a comfortable temperature in the coop helps keep your birds regulated and comfortable year-round, helping their egg production remain fairly consistent. If the chickens become too cold, they will start to conserve their own heat, which will cause them to become less active and potentially slowdown their egg production.
Lighting is another very valuable, but commonly overlooked, aspect of raising chickens. Proper lighting helps keep birds calm and increases winter egg production. Chickens lay the most eggs during the spring and summer months due to the increased amount of daylight. When daylight shortens, chickens become less productive due to molting. Chickens focus the majority of their energy on shedding and re-growing their feathers when the daylight shortens. With proper heat and adequate light during the shortened days, your chickens will be less aware of the outdoor conditions, which will help them maintain a stable egg production.
A note of caution with lighting: too much light can agitate the birds and cause them to become more aggressive. A calmer, lower wattage light bulb is recommended for use within chicken coops and houses. A high-watt, bright light bulb, while good for egg production during winter, can be overpowering for the chickens, and cause them to become more restless and excitable. Lighting is a tricky factor to get just right, but experimenting with different bulbs or talking with someone that has experience with proper lighting will greatly benefit your birds.
Fencing your chickens is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to contain the birds, knowing where they are at all times makes feeding, watering and egg collection an easier task. Second, it protects the birds from natural predators, while still allowing them an area to roam around in freely. DuraMeshTM PVC-Coated Hex Wire is highly effective at containing chickens, while also keeping predators, both large and small, out. A fenced in area makes an excellent addition to any chicken coop, because it gives the chickens space to walk freely and enjoy the daylight and warmth, while also ensuring that your flock is protected and contained.
Flooring contributes to health equally as much as food and water. Messy, damp chicken coops are dangerous places for your birds. Disease can be much more easily contracted and spread in coops that have poor flooring. PolyMax® Poultry Flooring is designed to keep your coop cleaner and drier, improving the health and safety of your birds. The nonporous, polypropylene material of PolyMax® flooring is designed to prevent bacterial growth and also allows for quick and easy cleaning, keeping your coop cleaner and chickens healthier.
8. Laying Nests
For egg collection, whether to sell or use personally, providing laying nests for the chickens is necessary if you are looking for easy collection and regular production. Without a safe and secure spot to lay eggs, chickens are less likely to produce eggs. Providing a safe location for your chickens to lay will not only ensure reliable egg production, but also make it quick and easy to extract the eggs. Laying nests provide comfort for the chickens and ease of use for the owners, making them a near necessity.
9. Egg Handling Equipment
Collecting, cleaning, weighing and packaging eggs can require lots of hands-on work if you are not utilizing the proper tools. There are many types of tools and helpful equipment that will help any chicken owner, from a small residential raiser, to a large-scale commercial farmer. Egg scales, for example, come in various shapes and sizes, and are available with dial or digital readings. Egg cartons and crates also come in various sizes and are available in a recycled-paper material or heavy-duty plastic. No matter if you are operating a large farm with 10 acres or raising a coop with 10 chickens, the availability of egg handling equipment is almost endless; there is something to help anyone out.
10. Protective Clothing & Gloves
Disease can spread in chickens, just like humans, and while you may have followed all the steps to keep your birds happy and healthy, the one thing that could compromise all your hard work could be yourself. Coveralls, disposable shoe covers, latex-dipped gloves and dust masks are just some of the products that will help ensure that you do not expose your chickens to outside diseases. The biosecurity of your flock is a valuable and vulnerable thing. Without taking the proper precautions, a few simple chores could end up meaning a world of difference for your birds.
These products and tips, if utilized, can help you raise a happier and healthier flock. Chickens are relatively simple animals to care for, but without proper care, your chickens will not grow to their full potential. A little time and effort, combined with the proper tools will help you raise your healthiest birds yet. For more tips or a full list of products, we recommend either visiting our Poultry Equipment Buyers Guide, watching our product videos, or taking a look at our customer testimonials to see what others have to say about our helpful poultry products.