Check out our simple daily chick care routine!
I had been so excited to get chicks, I knew a lot of information from YouTube videos, books and online forums but when it came down to the first day with them…I wasn’t sure what exactly I was supposed to be doing.
Using common sense you would probably assume that you need to look for these main things when it comes to caring for your chicks daily:
- Clean bedding
- Clean and fresh water
- Access to food
- Sufficient heat in the brooder
Sometimes you can read and listen to all the information you can, and still be a little confused when it comes down to actually putting it into action.
Well, I had planned to use the deep litter method with the chicks once they got into the chicken coop. Would the deep litter method work for a small brooder too? Or would I really have to clean out all the bedding daily?
Clean and fresh water-
Should I wash the water container daily? How clean should the dish really be? Those little chicks sure like to kick shavings in it quite a lot!
Access to food-
To free feed or feed 3 times a day? How low is it ok to let the feeder really get during the day? How often should I add chick grit?
Sufficient heat in the brooder-
We opted to use a chick heating pad for the main heat source of our chicks…would they still need more heat? And if we use a heating pad, should we add additional light?
Before we get started, I am going to link the feeders and other handy chick care items we use right here:
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Can you see why I was a tiny bit frazzled once we brought the chicks home?
Its been a couple of weeks now and I’ve gotten our simple daily chick care routine down.
I’m no expert whatsoever but this is what is working for us! These are the things I am looking at each day with the chicks and what I am physically doing in their brooder.
I’ll break down our routine!
Here’s a video on our chick care routine too!
Turn on the little 25 watt incandescent light above the brooder for the chicks. We are using a heating pad specifically for chicks but the little 25 watt lamp does emit a small amount of heat (which was a nice little extra heat source in the early days with the chicks). Our laundry room where the chicks are currently staying tends to stay on the dark side so we like to keep a light on for them until night time (note about the light down below).
Check the feeder, there’s usually a little bit of food left. In the mornings I take out the dry feed and put in some fermented chicken feed for the chicks. Learn more about how and why we fermented our chicken feed here.
Check the water dish. Even after elevating it a bit, it’s always full of shavings and poop by the time I get there in the morning! I like to take it outside and just dump it into our planter, shavings and all. Then I’ll bring the waterer to the sink and give it a good rinse and refill. We have some week old chicks right now and I am just using a plastic mason jar lid for their water but the older chicks are using an actual chick waterer!
At this time I also usually do a quick “health check” on the chicks. I check for things like pasty butt, a potentially fatal dry waste blockage on the chicks vent that needs to be dealt with ASAP! I check that all chicks are accounted for and bright eyed, making sure no one looks lethargic or the like.
At some point in the late morning my girls like to hunt for some chicken treats in the garden for the chicks. Some days it’s a few pulled weeds with the root ball still attached, a small container of dirt for dust baths or some picked chard leaves. So, we add those daily in the morning too!
Take out the fermented feed dish and put in a freshly filled feeder with dry chicken feed. I usually dump out whatever fermented feed is left right into the brooder floor. I feel that it encourages them to scratch around and mix up the bedding.
Sprinkle some chick grit around the brooder for the chicks to scratch around and look for. I’ve been adding a little grit daily since I started adding any additional treats (grass with root balls and other plant treats from the garden) to the brooder, which was around maybe 1 week old.
Check their water once more. If its pretty full of shavings I will dump it again.
If the weather is nice I like to take the chicks out in their run that we built. It’s just a small PVC pipe run that has bird netting around the sides and top. It’s not completely predator proof so we only take them out while being supervised.
Sometimes the feeder needs a little more feed added by this time, so ill add it in an hour or two before sun down.
Check water again and dump shavings out if needed.
Around 6 or 7 in the evening I will turn off the little lamp above the brooder. I feel like turning the light off at night has really helped the chicks get into the routine of settling down for the night. I know it sounds weird but early on, we left the light on all night and they made so much noise!
A note about light in the brooder-
The following is a quote from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences– “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes.”
I believe that light affects the way an animal’s brain works. If a chick is under a light 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I feel that it could be stress inducing. The chick’s brain would not get a great chance to rest and reboot, to switch into sleep mode completely. Here is a source that speaks more about light influencing animal behavior from an agricultural college in Illinois.
So because of information like what I am sharing above, it’s just even more reason to not use a heat lamp and to turn off the brooder light at night. With the light off all night, the chicks are pretty sound asleep besides a few peeps here and there.
Things we do two or three times a week-
If you notice above in our daily routine, you won’t see that I change out the bedding. This is because what I have liked doing is sort of like a deep litter hybrid method.
Using pine shavings from the feed store, the brooder starts off with a couple inches of shavings on the bottom. Within 2-3 days the brooder may start to smell a bit like a hamster cage.
To combat the smell I add a few more cup fulls of shavings right into the brooder floor and fluff it around a bit. The chicks actually do a pretty decent job and mixing up everything themselves when looking for the sprinkled grit and other goodies we throw in.
In another 2-3 days it may start to smell again. I can then add more shavings, but by then it might be getting pretty full in that little brooder tub we use. So my next step of action is to use a plastic cup to scoop up about 75% of the shavings and throw those into our compost pile.
After collecting most of the dirty shavings I then add a few cups of fresh shavings and continue in that fashion in the next 2-3 days.
Why not just take all the shavings out after the smell comes back?
Honestly, I don’t know! I just don’t mind doing it the way I am, and I don’t see the harm in it. If the smell is gone and there is no animal waste being caked onto little bird feet then I am happy with it.
And that’s about it, friends!
Seriously. It’s a pretty simple daily chick routine we’ve got down. No need for all the extra fuss and labor. If the chicks are healthy and happy then we must be doing something right!
Check out my instagram @TheHomespunHive_ to see my stories with the chicks and our garden adventures!
Do you have a different routine for your chicks? I’d love to hear it!