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Starting baby poultry is a great way to kick off your homesteading journey. It can be a bit more labor intensive than other animals, but it doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what tools and supplies you’ll need ahead of time. Here’s a quick breakdown of the basics for raising healthy chicks, guinea, duck, goose, and turkey.
Baby poultry need heat to thrive—specifically 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. To help maintain this temperature in their brooding area, you will need heat lamps with red light bulbs (which helps prevent pecking) and a small space called a brooder box. This can be an old stock tank, or boarded area. Throughout the day, check the temperature by observing how the chicks are behaving. If they’re all huddled together under the lamp, they’re cold; if they’re spread out around the room or away from the heat lamp entirely, they’re too warm. At an ideal temperature, some chicks should be under the lamp while others explore and eat/drink on their own. After about a week they can move to a bigger area, mine is shown in the picture.
In addition to heat requirements, your chicks will also need plenty of water throughout the day—especially when they first arrive. To keep them safe while drinking, elevate their water dish slightly and add small rocks in the bottom so that they don’t accidentally drown themselves while drinking.
Choosing food for your baby poultry can seem tricky at first but it doesn't have to be difficult! The easiest route is to buy chick starter food specially formulated for baby poultry. This type of feed contains all the essential nutrients that your birds need to grow healthy and strong (and no antibiotics are needed). Be sure to monitor your birds closely for signs of malnutrition or poor health—if you notice any problems with their condition after making changes to their diet or environment contact your vet immediately! After about 2-3 weeks, I start to transition the babies to my home mixed feed.
For bedding, the first day or two simply used newspaper, then add shavings once all the chicks have figured out where the food is. Otherwise, babies will peck at the shavings instead of the food, and starve out.
You will take the chicks out of the box, dip their beak in the water and then the feed, before setting them down. They will all crowd together until you leave, so when checking on them later, you will need to be quiet to see the chicks actual behavior. In general, hold the chicks as little as possible the first 48 hours, to reduce their stress.
Raising baby poultry can seem intimidating at first but it doesn't have to be hard! With just a few basic supplies like heat lamps and chick starter feed, you'll be well on your way towards having healthy birds that are ready for life on your homestead. Keep an eye on them regularly and make sure they're getting enough food and water throughout each day—with proper care you'll soon have a flock of happy birds! Best of luck!
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