Chickens, Again

It was the plan to get chicks this year as soon as I was done with some professional travel (which would have been mid-May). Well, it's not like I'm going anywhere for a while so I ordered chicks, and this week they arrived. We got an assortment from Meyer Hatchery, six for us, six for our neighbors who also wanted chicks.

Box of chicks in the mail

Chicks are one of the types of live animals you can ship through the mail. My post office calls you when the package arrives and you go pick it up; in some places they deliver it. The package was cheeping VERY LOUDLY when I picked it up because it was getting to the end of the viable time for chicks. The way it works is that chicks hatch with the residual yolk still inside them. They can live off that yolk for 2-3 days, then if they don't get food and water they die.

These chicks hatched on April 13. They arrived on April 15. That's the longest mail-order chicks have ever taken to get here. They were HUNGRY.

Chicks in the brooder

I unpacked them into the brooder, where I had a towel on the floor and this new heating panel I got this year. Heating panels are safer than heat lamps, and the chicks can sit on top of it for more usable space in the brooder. More on the panel in a second.

Here's a video of the chicks having their first meal and drinks of water.

Anyway, I was having trouble with the heating panel all day. I initially set it too high, so the chicks were complaining about the temperature. But it was nearly impossible to reach in and adjust it. I tried to pull it out but the towel came out with it, then I couldn't get it back in because I'd apparently hit some sweet spot with the towel the first time and gotten lucky, plus there were a dozen chicks in the way.

Anyway, I pulled the heating panel out to figure something out, and installed the heat lamp for the night.

Heat lamp for the nighttime

It looked like an illegal chick nightclub in our back hall.

Brooder setup

So this is the setup I had in the morning. I'm really not crazy about this brooder, and the struggles with the heating panel are only part of it. The green mesh cover? Doesn't come off. So cleaning it is going to be a pain. Also, the heat lamp was the right temperature in this position, but it was also in the highest position available on the arm for it. Not super helpful when you are supposed to raise the lamp weekly.

I do like the observation window, though.

Heating plate

This is what the heating plate looks like outside of the brooder. I read some things and did some testing and lowered the plate waaaay down, and set it at an angle so the chicks could kind of cram themselves under there.

Then I pulled out the towel and put in some pine chips, because the chips would move out of the way of the heating plate as I slid it in.

Because chicks are chicks, this new setup terrified them, and they cowered in the corner until some of them realized wood chips are FUN. (Yes, I know the dangers of wood chips.)

Fortunately, in short order they got the lay of the land and were back to eating and had started exploring the top of the plate.

The other benefit of the heating plate is that they will sleep more at night, which is more natural to chickens than being lit up and partially awake all day. They are definitely settling into a more natural routine with the plate than they did with a lamp, ever. My plan is to build a better brooder this summer or fall for the next chick setup, not because I'm getting more chicks so soon but because I want to have it ready next time.

posted by ayse on 04/16/20