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Some basics if you want to raise chicks

By Morgan Watts

N.C. Cooperative Extension

One of the hottest commodities right now is chickens. If you talk to the feed stores in the county, baby chicks are going faster than normal.

Most hatcheries are booked out until summer, so this is a good time to go over the basics of raising chicks.

Some of the items you will need to get started: a heat source, feeders and waterers, a dry and safe place from predators, brooder/box/container, and a thermometer.

When it comes to picking out a container, you need to make sure it has tall sides and a screen cover. I prefer to use something oblong shape; that way, the chicks can move away from the heat source if needed. For bedding material, I typically use pine shavings.  When it comes to temperature, make sure it is 95 degrees for the first week and then, you can drop it 5 degrees each week. Just don’t go lower than 70 degrees. It is recommended to keep your brooder box in a warm, dry area away from drafts. Consider the temperature fluctuations and ventilation of the area.

When it comes to a feeder and waterer, I normally start out with something small like a peanut butter or mayonnaise lid and then after a few days, I will upgrade to a larger size chick feeder and waterer.

Keep in mind the feeder and waterer should not be next to each other, and the waterer should be away from the hear source.

Once you have the chicks, it is recommended that you spot clean the brooder daily and do a full clean weekly. By full clean, I mean replacing the bedding, washing down the sides with soapy water, taking apart and cleaning feeders and waterers.

Finally, I get a lot of questions about space needed for chicks. It is recommended that chicks up to 4 weeks old have half a square foot per bird of floor space, and chicks 4-8 weeks of age have 1 square foot per bird of floor space.

If you have questions about raising chicks or backyard poultry, email to Morgan Watts, Livestock Agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Rowan County Center at amwatts@ncsu.edu or call at 704-216-8970.

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