Started with a two hour drive to Green River, UT to pick up the chicks from Hatt’s Ranch game bird hatchery. Seemed like a large operation as one of their employees told me this week they hatched 40,000 chicks. There were 29 boxes in all totaling somewhere around 4,000 chicks. We didn’t chat much at the hatchery, just got loaded and headed for home to get the birds settled.
When we got home I unboxed the birds and removed them all by hand and placed them in the brooder circles. Russ took the bulk of the chicks (21 boxes) to his house for brooding in the big brooder barn. I took home 8 boxes and ended up with two boxes of chukar chicks, one of mutant pheasants, and the rest ringnecks.
We have a custom chick starter chopped for us locally, about a 32% protein medicated feed. I like to use a few of the pads out of the shipping boxes to double the feed availability during the first week or so. The chicks seem to eat this food before they figure out the trough feeders have feed in them too.
The temp around the inside of the brooder hood is around 100 degrees, and initially they held pretty tight under the hood for warmth. Within minutes they were circulating and finding the feeders and shipping pads with food on them. I was amazed that there was not one dead bird out of the 8 boxes I opened (about 1000 chicks).
I use the nipple waterers from the folks at Nature’s Way. It is fascinating how the day-old chicks seem to know exactly what to do to get the water. One of the nipples had a bit of a leak, but I left it alone as a lot of the birds were drinking from it.
The temperature is absolutely crucial during the first few weeks of life. I keep a couple thermometers laying around and take frequent readings to make sure things stay consistent. If the chicks get too cold they start to bunch up and pile on each other suffocating those on the bottom. If they are too hot they will hold their wings and appear to be panting. If they are cheaping and moving around then all is well.
I brought my propane radiant heater in to help keep the temps up during the night as it is supposed to be a bit cold for a few days. Last year I used a camp chef propane cooking stove as that’s all I had available. I also have a spare bottle of propane standing by in case I run out.
After I got the birds settled in and felt like all was well for a minute, I headed over to Russ’s pheasant farm to see how his chicks were doing. He has four big circles (10-12 feet across) with natural gas powered brooder hoods. He has taught me that sitting and watching the birds is the best way to keep track of their health and wellness. I’ll check the birds every couple hours for the first 24 hours or so. Things can go downhill fast.