What Do I Need To Know Before Getting Chickens?
Clean and disinfect the brooding area some days before the chickens arrive, so there is time for the area to dry. Cover the floor with dry absorbent litter material (wood shavings, rice hulls, chopped straw, sawdust or shredded paper) to a depth of 50 mm.
Place a surround of cardboard, metal sheeting or masonite around the brooding area. The surround should be about 450 mm high to protect the chickens from draughts, and the enclosed area should provide at least 50 cm2 of floor space for each bird.
Figure 2 shows a plan for a brooding area. For the first two days the litter in the brooding area should be covered with newspaper. Starter feed and clean, fresh water must be provided. Ideally, the water should be in specially designed drinkers consisting of a plastic jar inverted into a shallow circular trough. The drinkers hold about 2 L of water, and the shallow troughs are designed so that the chickens cannot drown in them.
Ordinary flat dishes can also be used, but if the water is too deep the chickens may drown. A large stone or block of wood placed in the centre of the pan will usually prevent drowning by reducing the amount of water in the vessel, without restricting access by the birds.
Depending upon the outside temperature, switch the brooder on at least two hours before the chickens arrive, so that the area is warmed and the necessary adjustments to temperature can be made.
Place feeders and drinkers near the heat source and, for the first two days, sprinkle food liberally on the newspaper to encourage the chickens to eat. Also, dip each chicken’s beak in the water as it is placed in the brooder, to encourage it to drink. With large numbers it will not be possible to do this with all of the chickens, but it is generally worthwhile dipping the beaks of 10% of the flock.
The base pans from hanging feeders can be used as feeders for young chickens; as the chickens grow, the tube hoppers can be attached. The tube will hold enough feed for several days. To reduce feed wastage, the feeders should be gradually raised as the birds grow. Small flat pans or trays can also be used for feed for the first week.
Keep fresh food and water in front of the chickens at all times, and clean and refill the feeders and drinkers regularly. Cleaning will have to be carried out at least twice daily until the chicks have grown sufficiently and the feeders and drinkers can be raised above the litter.
After three days, the newspaper can be removed, the feeders and drinkers moved further away from the heat source and the surround gradually expanded, until it can be removed completely at two weeks.
Make sure that the brooder room is well ventilated, but that the chickens are free from draughts.
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