[This series is a diary of our experience with raising chickens for our home flock. To see all articles in this series, please visit Home Flock Series.]

A man from the post office called at 8:23AM to let us know our baby chicks had arrived.

The chicks (all 40 of them) are healthy, energetic, and doing well. We have had a bit of a cold snap both yesterday and today and are expecting a few more days of cool weather, so we setup a 30 gallon plastic cow water trough indoors as a brooder.  This will keep them contained, and the approximately one foot high sides and open top will allow plenty of ventilation. The plastic bottom will also keep any manure from leaking out, which would be a concern were we to use a cardboard box. In a few days, when the weather warms, we will move them to the homemade brooder out on our porch.  We lined the floor of their temporary brooder with wood shavings to help soak up moisture then topped it with newspaper, so that the chicks can’t eat the wood shavings.

For water, we are using a plastic waterer. We filled it with lukewarm warm (slightly above room temperature) so that the chicks wouldn’t be chilled by their drinking water. We also added three tablespoons of white sugar per the instructions in the catalog.  This will give them a little extra energy and help them to get off to a good start.

As we put each chicken into the brooder, I dipped its beak gently into the water so that it could get a taste and so that it would know where to find water.

We set out a tray feeder with chick feed crumbles and scattered some feed onto the newspapers on the floor of the brooder, so that the chicks could all find some feed easily. Most of them seemed to prefer eating the feed off of the newspapers rather than from the feeder.  After watching them awhile, we were sure that all of them were eating and drinking.

We also recommend using Gro-Gel Plus on Day One. Gro-Gel Plus comes in a packet of dry powder.  You add water to it, and it turns into a greenish gel that the chicks like to eat. It gives them water, nutrients, and vitamins and helps them get off to a good start quickly.

To keep the chicks warm, we rigged up a rack so that we could hang a 250W red heat lamp bulb over the brooder in a brooder fixture.  Right now, the lamp is close to the top of the temporary brooder, and the temperature seems about right, since the chicks are scattered through the brooder fairly evenly.  As they get older and their adult feathers begin to grow in, we’ll raise the light to give less supplemental heat.  Watching how the chicks behave in the brooder is one of the best ways to tell if their brooder is at the right temperature.  If they spread out and stay on the edges, away from under the light, that means it’s too hot for them. If they bunch together beneath the light, then they are too cold.

The breeds we got are Turkens, Americanas, Partridge Rocks, and Buff Rocks.  We ordered mostly females and some males.  We’re planning to raise the hens for layers and hatch some of their eggs so that we can raise their offspring.