We’ve tried raising chicks several different ways. We’ve let a broody girl take over as mom – which, in my opinion, is the best way to do it as long as you’re not dead set on having hand raised birds. Our hen raised birds are not friendly, but we don’t mind that. And we’ve also raised chicks in a brooder. We don’t really have a place in the house to set up the brooder (cats!) so we set it up in water tower. Now, I won’t get into the exact setup and how to do that exactly, but you can find the information here.
|Our Indoor Brooder|
It worked well for us, but as the birds got older and needed to be introduced to the flock we ran into some problems. The first was getting everyone to, well, get along. The older girls were bossy and didn’t like these newcomers at all! They would chase them around the yard every chance they got. And this was even after we kept them in the brooder, in the coop for a week to get used to everyone’s smells. The second problem was that our chicks all ended up coming down with coccidiosis. The treatment had to go in the shared waterer which meant for 10 days we couldn’t use any of our hens’ eggs.
|Our Outdoor Brooder|
This time we decided to keep the brooder outside in the chicken yard. We also decided to keep the bottom of the crate that we use open so the chicks could scratch the soil as needed. We did add some hay though to soften the ground a bit and plywood around the sides to keep heat (and chicks) in. After a couple of weeks we created an opening in the brooder that the chicks could get in and out through the hens and any predators could not. This of course led them to having full run of not only the chicken yard but all the garden. We noticed a significant decrease in any aggression shown to the chicks by the adult hens. Most were curious about the chicks, but there was no aggressive pecking or chasing. We also have had no issues with coccidiosis. After researching how organic poultry raisers deal with the disease, litter management and early exposure seem to be an effective control. Because we exposed the chicks early on to soil, which can harbor the organism, but in an area that wasn’t highly used by the hens, they have remained healthy. We also use the deep litter method in the barn, which appears to help as well. From the above link:
“Poultry-house litter becomes significantly anti-coccidial after about six months’ use, as organisms that eat coccidia start to thrive and knock down the coccidia population… By never removing more than half the brooder house litter at a time, it can keep its anti-microbial properties indefinitely.”
For us this new way of management seems to be successful. Only time will tell, but as the chicks get older (they are now 7 weeks old) they will be less likely to get sick. Since chicks are most susceptible between 3 and 8 weeks of age they will hopefully come out of this 8th week free and clear.