Here are some tips that have helped us and will hopeful help you successfully care for and raise your chicks.
Chick Supply Checklist
Ideally you want to have all the items in place before your chicks come home.
Brooder Box – A large box or tote. Cute little chicks grow quickly to the size of a football! It is important to have the brooder ready and warm to 95 degrees before your new chicks arrive as they are highly susceptible to being chilled. Clean the brooder daily to remove soiled and wet shavings. Chick health is directly linked to the cleanliness of the brooder, water and feeder!
Heat Lamp – Invest in a quality lamp and a 250 watt red bulb. Secure it well as heat lamps can cause fire
Thermometer – To monitor the temperature in the brooder.
Litter – Pine shavings work great. For the first day or two, place layers of paper towels on top of the shavings until chicks learn the shavings are not food. NEVER use cedar shavings because they are too aromatic and can kill you chicks!
Feeder – A multi slot chick type is best chicks.
Waterer – 1 gallon size for more than 5 chicks. Provide clean fresh water at all times!
Food – Never use adult layer feed for chicks, the higher levels of calcium is known to shut down their kidneys. Use Chick Starter from day 1 to 8 weeks, Grower for weeks 8 though 20 and feed Layer from week 20 on. Sometimes you can find a feed that is a starter/grower in one that can be used from day 1 to week 20.
Chick Grit – Add it sparingly, like salt and pepper, to the feed 4-5 times per week. Grit is required for chickens of all ages for optimum feed digestion and to develop healthy gizzards. If you are feeding a process commercial crumble
Tips to Keep Your Chicks Warm
Begin heating your brooder 24 hours before you bring your chicks home
It is recommended that you place the heat lamp 20 inches above the litter surface
A thermometer placed at the chicks' level is an accurately way to gauge the temperature in the brooder
You'll know if your chicks are comfortable if they are happily walking around (Too cold and they will huddle around the heat. Too hot and they will sprawl out around the brooder away from the heat)
You can use a dimmer switch to lower and increase the heat from the heat lamp as needed
A good rule of thumb to follow to keep your birds comfortable is to reduce their brooder temperature by 5 degrees per week, as the chicks begin to develop feathers
To keep your birds happy, do not reduce the brooder temperature below 55 degrees and avoid drafts.
Turkey poults are susceptible to chill and the #1 cause of death. Please be sure to keep them away from drafts.
Tips on Caring for Turkey Poults
The following information is for those looking for a little guidance to get their newly hatched poults off to a good start.
Brooder/Housing - We start our poults out in a homemade brooder, which measures approx. 22” wide x 42” long x 15” high, Yours doesn't necessarily have to be quite this large.
Litter/Bedding - Pine shavings work great. For the first day or two, place layers of paper towels(we use puppy pads) on top of the shavings, scatter their feed right on the paper towels so they can easily pick at it and get use to eating. NEVER use cedar shavings because they are too aromatic and can kill you Poults! After a few days of using the paper towel or puppy pads we remove the pads and add a small chick feeder.
Heat - Their heat source is a heat lamp (With either a 75 or 100 watt bulb) I recommend the red colored heat bulbs as the red light helps prevent cannibalism. Hang the light approx. 8” from the brooder floor, securing it well as heat lamps can cause fire! Place the heat with plenty of room for them to get away from it on each side if they get too hot. Be sure their drinking water is placed off center of the heat lamp so it doesn't get too warm. Young turkey poults are very susceptible to chill and the #1 cause of death. Please be sure to keep them away from drafts. Follow the temperature chart gradually reduce the heat as you notice them not needing as much heat. This can easily be done with a lamp dimer attached to the heat lamp. (Also see above - tips to keep your chicks warm)
Feed - Turkeys need a higher protein level than chicks. It is recommended to start poults out on a 26% protein turkey starter. Around 6-8 weeks of age, switch to a 22% protein turkey grower/finisher.
Water - We add a vitamin/electrolyte supplement to their drinking water for the first 3 days. Make sure NOT to use softened water. Most sodium problems arise as a result of young chicks and turkey poults consuming too much saline water. So avoid using softened tap water to supply water to your birds while brooding. Sodium poisoning can cause kidney damage (more so in young birds than adults because their kidneys may not be fully developed when first hatched), and heart failure.
At about 2 weeks we add apple cider vinegar to their water as well, 1/2 Tbs per quart of water. This is reported to reduce the incidence of coccidiosis and inhibits harmful bacterial or algae growth in the water. This can be mixed with the vitamins. But needs to be changed daily and new batch made. We offer this apple cider vinegar mix once weekly from age 2 wks - 6 wks. Then once turkeys are moved outside we continue to offer the mixture at 2 Tbs per gallon of water monthly though out adulthood.