How We Raise Our Chicks
First off, we'd like to acknowledge the fact that everybody does things a little differently, and how that is perfectly fine! One person's experience raising a certain breed, using a certain type of feed/bedding may or may not mirror somebody else's experience doing so, and that is perfectly ok with us!
Here we will just be writing down our personal experience with things. What we've done in the past, why we continue to do it, or why we stopped. We have all made mistakes, and we hope that by writing down some of the mistakes we have made, or instead the reasons why we have choosen to do somethings differently than others, that we can save others from making those same mistakes. 🙂
One of the first mistakes we made when we start incubating/hatching on a slightly larger scale, was using a Styrofoam incubator for incubating. Some have had great success with these, but unfortunately we have not. We do still use our Styrofoam incubator for hatching eggs. It is much easier to clean and provides more head space for chicks than the ones we use for regular incubation (Nurture Right 360 & JANOEL12).
We are still in the process of choosing a cabinet incubator, and hope to continue to use our Styrofoam incubator as a hatcher but, NOT for incubating. We have found the Styrofoam incubators to have plenty of hot and cold spots, resulting in early death in the embryos. Based on our experience, we would never recommend a Styrofoam incubator for incubating.
Now for the cons..
- Fecal matter just sits on the automotive paper towels, meaning they need to be replaced multiple times a day. Fortunately we haven't had issues switching to shavings as the chicks get older (3-4 weeks), but we still find it important to change the towels a couple times throughout the day, especially if chicks will try to eat spilled food off the ground.
- Chicks are not able to forage/scratch around in them, nor are they able to "dust bathe." We don't have mite/lice issues in our chicks so although they don't need to dust bathe, we do prefer when they can "be chickens" by dust bathing and foraging.
(Will add more as we think of them)
We have had so much success using pine shavings in brooder boxes for chicks in the past, and honestly we weren't quite sure when writing this, if we should consider this a mistake or not. We have always used pine shavings in brooders without problems, until this year.
This year (2021) we have had some trouble with chicks scratching around in shavings and consuming smaller parts of them, unfortunately resulting in the bits of shavings getting clogged in their throats.
As a result, We started using automotive paper towels (NOT regular paper towels) for brooder lining instead - and this has some advantages and disadvantages. The pros of this are..
- Very easy to clean/change. Just pick them up, throw them out, and replace
- Non-slip surface works great for the occasional chick with splayed leg, or for a newly hatched one still getting their legs
- So far, we have noticed that spilled food still does get eaten instead of wasted however, it is especially important that the paper towels are clean around the area that food could be spilled.
- Chicks do not try to eat them. We do make sure however, that all the edges are "clean" instead of shredded. Shredded/ripped ends seem to catch the interest of the chicks.
The last mistake we'd like to cover for now, would be grinding chick feed. Although we have never had this problem until this year, we are finding the chick crumbles to be a bit too large for our bantam (and slightly smaller large fowl) chicks. Sadly, this results in a scenario just like the one with the shavings - clogged throats. Fortunately, we have been able to prevent this by grinding the chick feed. We do this by placing the food in a small plastic baggie, and grinding the food with a rolling pin. Afterwards, we take a look through the food and remove out any larger pieces. (It doesn't take as long as you'd think 😉)
Since we have started grinding food, we have not had any issues with clogged throats!