How to Care for Baby Chicks, Ducks, & Geese
BABY CHICKS NEED FEED, WATER, HEAT, LIGHT & SPACE.
Use a commercial chick starter for the first 8 weeks or follow the instructions that are specific to your feed. Cover the floor with several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle the feed on top of the papers all around the area where the chicks will be. Use plenty, better to waste some then not have enough. The chicks will find the feed more easily this way at the start; do this for 3 days. Change the papers daily. Next put the feed in troughs low enough so the chicks can see and reach the feed easily. Use a two-foot trough feeder for each 50 chicks. Never let the chicks run out of feed. Be sure that the feed that you purchase is a brand name that has had a short shelf life. When feed gets old it can lose many of the vital nutrients that baby chicks need.
Have a one-gallon chick waterer for every 50 chicks. For the first two days, add 3 Tbsp. of table sugar to each quart of water for extra energy if desired. Use plain water after that. Dip the beak of each chick in the water before you turn it loose. Your chicks will be thirsty when you get them; a taste of water right away helps them find more soon. Most baby chick loss happens because the chick doesn’t start to eat or drink. Never let your chicks run out of clean water. Be careful that the chicks cannot get into the water.
When chicks arrive they should be kept at 90 to 95 degrees for the first week. Reduce the temperature five degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees. They shouldn’t need any heat after 70 degrees. Use a thermometer for accurate readings—do not guess! If the chicks are huddled together under the light, they are too cold. If the opposite occurs they are too warm, allow adequate room for them to escape the heated area.
A good source of heat is a 250-watt heat bulb. Red bulbs are better than white and cause less picking. Hang it 18 inches from the floor. Be certain to secure the bulb properly as they can be a fire hazard if they fall into the bedding. The temperature directly under the bulb will be higher than 90 degrees; let the chicks adjust to the area that they like. Use one bulb for each 50 chicks in colder weather. Use one bulb for each 100 chicks in warmer weather. Make sure your chicks have ample space and a cooler area to move into in case it gets too warm for them under the bulb. This is especially important for ducklings and goslings.
If you use a heat bulb it will also serve as the light you need. Otherwise, be sure to give your chicks light. Use a 75-watt bulb on dark days. Have a small light at night- 15 watt- to keep them from piling up.
Try to provide ½ square foot per chick. When starting 50 chicks, use a draft shield and make a circle about 5-8 feet across. For 100 chicks make the circle 7-9 feet across.
OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS
Cardboard put in a circle about 18 inches high around the chicks helps cut down on drafts. Be sure the circle is large enough to allow chicks to get away from the heat should they need to.
Peat moss, shavings, or ground corn cobs make great litter (for 2+ week old chicks) If you are using shavings for litter be sure they are kiln-dried and not fresh. This is very important. Place the litter over the floor at least 1 inch thick. Keep the litter covered for the first three days with paper towels to keep the chicks from eating the litter instead of their feed. This is especially important for pheasant chicks.
Starting after the third day, sprinkle some baby chick grit on the feed daily, as if you were salting your food. Avoid putting too much at any one time as the chick may fill up on grit instead of feed.
Baby chicks will often pick at each other if they are too hot, crowded, without fresh air, or short of room. Occasionally, bright light causes them to pick, especially in game birds. Sometimes, they will pick for no reason. To stop it, try putting in fresh green grass clippings several times a day and darken the room. Chunks of grass sod can also be set around for the chicks to peck at.
Always wash hands well before and after handling birds, their equipment and manure. Do not kiss or nuzzle any of your birds. Keep poultry outside away from human inhabitations or food preparation areas. Always supervise young children around poultry making sure they wash their hands well.
AFTER FOUR WEEKS
- Increase floor area to 3/4 sq. ft. per chick.
- Increase feeders to provide 2-1/2 to 3″ of space per chick.
- Increase waterers to one 5-gallon fount per 100 chicks.
- Make sure grit hopper is filled with proper sized grit. Check with your feed store.
- Install roosts at back of brooder. Allow four inches per bird with roost poles six inches apart (Not necessary for waterfowl).
- Open windows in daytime. Leave only partly open at night.
- Prevent water puddles around founts.
- Chicks can range outside on warm, sunny days, but only if clean range is available.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS AFTER THE CHICKS ARRIVE
IF THE CHICKS HAD A HARD TRIP
Instead of using the standard feed and water suggestions listed above, try this: Put 6 tablespoons of sugar in each gallon of water. Then mix some of this extra sweet water with some of your feed to make a soupy mix. Give your chicks this special feed and water mix for 3 to 4 days to get them over the effects of shipping. Also try hard boiling eggs and mash up the yolks and give it to them. It is always good to give your birds a vitamin supplement upon arrival.
REAR END “PASTY BUTT”
Sometimes the stress of shipping causes the manure to stick to the rear of the chick. It is important to remove this daily. Pull off gently, or better yet, wash off with a cloth and warm water. It will disappear in a few days as the chick starts to grow. Make sure chicks have access to water at all times.
CORNISH ROCK CROSS
Try starting these chicks on broiler starter. The higher protein seems to help them avoid leg problems. After the first 2 weeks, remove uneaten feed at dusk. Fill the feeders again in the morning. Leave access to the waterers 24hrs/day..
QUAIL, PHEASANT, CHUKAR, GUINEA, TURKEY CHICKS
A higher protein feed is needed by game birds – 28% to 30% protein is a must! Many feed companies make an excellent line of gamebird feeds with the needed higher percentage of protein. If you cannot get this gamebird starter ration, then a turkey starter will be sufficient. For day-old quail, the feed must be ground fine to avoid “starve outs”. Quail chicks do best when the brooding floor is warm. Draft free brooding and drinkers with narrow founts are a must for starting quail chicks. Some quail hobbyists add 1-2 T. of red Kool-Aid to 1 qt. of water for the first few days. The red color seems to be attractive to the quail chicks and encourages them to drink. Turkey poults are slow to start and they like to be warm. Poults have poor eyesight so make sure you have extra feeders and waterers in the brooding area so they can always find one. GUINEA KEETS, use the information provided for quail chicks.
EXTRA CAUTION TO THOSE STARTING DUCKLINGS AND GOSLINGS
Do not feed a “medicated” feed to them – ask your feed dealers advice on this! All major feed companies do make a duck & goose starter. You may have to request your feed store special order this starter feed. If using a non-medicated chick feed, add vitamin-niacin to feed or water. Chicken layer ration has too much calcium for young waterfowl. Ducklings have a tendency to become dehydrated during shipping. Initially let the ducklings drink all they want for 10-15 min, then remove the drinkers for another 10-15 min; repeat this process then return the drinkers permanently. Ducklings and goslings grow more quickly than chicken chicks. They need less brooding heat for a shorter time compared to chickens. Start at 85-90 degrees F and decrease by 5 degrees F each week until birds are fully feathered. Make sure to provide them with waterers that are deep enough for the birds to put their heads/bills in, but not their bodies.
Peachicks need warmer brooding temperatures. Start at about 100 degrees F. and decrease by 5 degrees each week until peachicks are fully feathered. Peachicks are VERY sensitive to drafts. Draft free brooding area is a MUST. Hand water each peachick on arrival. Add marbles/small rocks to fount tray to keep peachicks from climbing in. Our breeder starts peachicks out on scrambled eggs/yogurt for the first few days. Also offer 28% protein starter feed, gamebird or turkey starter. Like turkey poults, peachicks are slow to start. Make sure to change the litter frequently and remove any damp spots. Contented peachicks often stretch out on the brooder floor. Peachicks can be prone to coccidiosis so make sure to frequently clean the litter. A high protein starter feed that is treated with coccidiostat medication is ideal..
Finely chopped boiled eggs!
GIVE EXTRA ATTENTION…
Chicks not starting to eat need special care. It’s important they drink & eat early!
SEPARATE CHICK OR CHICKS NOT OFF TO A GOOD START:
Your extra attention to hand feed is a MUST!
Have your brooder operating at the optimal temperature, the feeders and drinkers filled before the chicks arrive. GO TO THE POST OFFICE AND PICK UP YOUR CHICKS AS SOON AS THEY ARRIVE. Let your postmaster know they can call you anytime the chicks come in. The chicks need to be put in the brooder and be fed and watered right away. We recommend having a good reference book on hand for the particular species of bird you are raising; complete reading BEFORE the chicks arrive!
General Guidelines Age Floor space sq.ft/bird
Pheasants 1-3 weeks 0.5
4-8 weeks 1.0-2.0
9-16 weeks 4.0
Mature 20.0 confined settings
Quail/Keets 1-3 weeks .25
4-8 weeks .5-1.0
9-14 weeks 1.5
Mature 5.0-10.0 confined settings
Ducks 1-3 weeks 0.5-1.0
4-8 weeks 3.0
9-12 weeks 3.5
Mature 9.0 confined settings
Geese/Turkey 1-3 weeks 1.0
4-8 weeks 1.5-3.0
9-12 weeks 6.0+
Mature 20.0 confined setting