Spring means chick season.

It’s the time of year for ordering and receiving baby chicks here in the Yukon. In fact, I will have already received my first batch by the time this paper is released.

In our sometimes unpredictable spring weather, it is very important to be properly prepared for the arrival of these little chirping balls of fluff.

If old equipment is to be used, take a few moments to make sure that it is in good repair before disinfecting it. Bleach water works quite well to clean everything before use. But it is very important that you rinse everything thoroughly and it is allowed to air dry for at least a couple days before it is to be used.

The brooding area, whether it be in your home or in the chicken house, must also be thoroughly cleaned and then refilled with fresh straw. I would not recommend using wood shavings on young chicks, as they tend to eat the chips and this will create a blockage in their digestive tract resulting in death. Once they are a few weeks old, shavings are usually fine to use.

Chicks, especially turkeys, need the temperature at 90F for the first week at least. The hatcheries recommend lowering the heat by five degrees every week thereafter.

A good way to tell if the brooder is warm enough without a thermometer is to watch the chicks. If they are huddled under the heat lamp, they are too cold. If they are all pressing around the outside of the enclosure, it is too hot.

Drafts can also be detected by noticing if all the chicks tend to avoid certain spots in the pen. Ideally the chicks should be well spread out, some under the light and some running around exploring.

If your heat source is a heat lamp, make sure you only use a red bulb. And it is the only light they require for the first few weeks. The white bulbs are too bright and will stress out the young birds, resulting in many losses.

If you are housing more then 60 birds, you will need more then one heat lamp so that the chicks will not try to climb on top of each other to reach warmth. This results in the smothering of birds trapped at the bottom of the pile.

If you are raising meat chickens, always remove the food at night. These birds have been bred to eat and gain weight, so they will quite literally eat themselves to death. Laying birds do not have this problem; so if that is the only kind of bird you have, you can leave a full dish of food with them at all times.

Always supply clean water. In the first week, lukewarm water will help them get over the stress of being shipped. Also for the first three days, I would recommend adding an electrolyte powder to the water, this also helps with easing stress.

Happy chick season everyone.

Contact Jaime Hanna with your questions at crittertalk101@hotmail.com.