Congratulations! You’re expecting. And your new bundles of joy will arrive any day now. Whether you are anticipating a trio of baby chicks or several dozen balls of fluff, it’s vital to be fully prepared for their arrival. These six steps will ensure you and your brooder are ready to welcome your poultry infants to their new home.
1. Communicate With the Post Office
The staff at the post office handles a never-ending assortment of parcels every day. More than likely, at least one resident within your delivery zone has received a shipment of live animals. Even if the clerks have experience handling live-animal shipments, it’s best to stop by and let them know you are expecting a delivery and on what date. Make sure they have your name and number, too. Making friendly personal contact with your postal workers is essential, as the clerks feel more inclined to call you as soon as your very important package arrives. Be sure to thank them for keeping an eye out for your chicks.
2. Prepare Your Brooder
It’s not enough to have everything you need at the ready. You need to make it ready, so you don’t scramble at the last second or, worse, have to wait for the brooder’s interior to come up to proper temperature while your chicks wait to be set free. Place your brooder in its designated location, then cover the bottom evenly with your bedding of choice. Cover the bedding with a layer of paper towels or gripping contact liner to provide traction and prevent spraddle leg, then set up your heat source. Some heaters, such as Brinsea’s EcoGlow, sit within the brooder and safely provide the warmth necessary to chicks during their first few weeks of life. Other brooder heaters hang overhead. If you use a brooder lamp, make absolutely sure it is securely hung and it has a protective cage over the bulb rather than a naked, exposed bulb. Hang a thermometer inside your brooder and bring the interior temperature to 95 degrees, which is what baby chicks need for the first week of their life.
3. Have Chick Electrolytes on Hand
Have a chick-appropriate waterer, but don’t fill it just yet. Waiting to fill the waterer means there is less chance of either accidentally bumping your brooder and sloshing water onto the bedding or having the water in the saucer get clogged with dust and bedding particles. The morning the chicks arrive, prepare your waterer by filling it with a blend of fresh lukewarm water mixed with a chick electrolyte such as Sav-a-Chick. Even if the birds all arrive arrive in perfect condition, they might be suffering from the stress of being shipped. Drinking water mixed with an electrolyte supplement for their first few days ensures your babies have a good start.
4. Review Handling Guidelines
Baby chicks are irresistible. Their fluffy down, glistening eyes and tiny size just make you want to pick them up and snuggle them. As tempting as this might be, do your best to avoid handling your chicks. Cuddling them can result in you contracting Salmonella and also aggravate your babies’ stress, or cause it. Make sure everyone in your household understands that they’re welcome to admire your new chicks, but only with their eyes, not their hands.
5. Be Ready to Feed
Because they are shipped within a day of hatching, chicks are still nourished by the nutrients they absorbed from their egg yolk. They might not be hungry upon arrival, but because there is no way of knowing when they’ll need to eat, have a supply of starter ready to offer in a feeder. Your chicks might ignore the feeder for the first day or two, but they quickly learn where to find their feed.
6. Remember Your Camera
Whether you have a smartphone, a disposable camera or a digital SLR, be prepared to take lots of photos. Your chicks’ escapades will keep you entertained for hours. This is a precursor to the antics that will entertain you once they’re adults.