At MacFarlane Farms we believe the best way to have strong healthy birds is to start out with the best brooder barn you can set up. We can't emphasize enough how important it is that the structure you are using is draft -free, clean and that it has the appropriate light, heat, feed and water. Before your new chicks arrive, have everything ready to create the most stress-free environment possible.
Your brooder barn should be clean and disinfected one to two weeks before the chicks arrive. At MacFarlane, we clean and disinfect barns and leave them empty for a time before we move a new flock in.
As soon as your chicks arrive they should be removed from their boxes and put into a barn with plenty of heat, food and water. Having everything available reduces competition among the chicks which reduces stress. Keeping a proper density will also reduce stress. 4 chicks per square foot of floor space until 3 weeks of age, and 2 chicks per square foot from 3 weeks to 6 weeks are typical density measurements we use here at MacFarlane.
For small flocks, you should have at least one 250 watt infrared bulb for every 100 chicks. Hang the heat lamp from the ceiling with about 18 inches from the floor to the bottom of the lamp. Use bulbs with the red end because they keep the chicks calmer and reduce aggression.
For the first five to seven days, you may confine the chicks in a ring or draft shield. Brooder paper or cardboard that is between 14 and 18 inches high in a four-foot diameter circle can help prevent drafts and can confine 50 chicks. Place the heat lamp in the center and then pay close attention to what the chicks do. If the chicks bunch up and start to pile, lower the heat lamp height and add bulbs because they are cold and looking for more heat. If they move away from the heat lamp, raise the lamp slightly.
Wean the chicks off of direct heat by raising the heat lamp a few inches each day. Then supplement some forced air heat to keep the birds comfortable. The temperature in the room should be decreased by one degree each day in order to transition the birds to the outdoors. By the time the chicks move outside, the temperature inside and outside should be similar.
Since you invest money in your chicks, and want the best for them, it is important to be prepared. Making sure that their arrival is as stress-free as possible by having the brooder barn ready will ensure an easier adjustment. Seeing to their comfort by having a draft-free environment with plenty of heat, food and water will give the chicks the healthy start that they need.