I’ve spent a good part of my life thinking about chicks — by which, for the moment at least, I mean “baby chickens.” It’s just about the new year, which means that hatchery catalogs will start arriving in the mailbox any day now.
One thing I’ve been doing over the last few years is popularizing the insulated electric lamp brooder developed by the Ohio Experiment Station in the Forties. I have their paper on it here, and I devote two chapters to it in my book, Success With Baby Chicks. It’s done us proud over the years and I routinely get fan mail about the design. Check it out. Your chicks will be warmer and you’ll use less electricity, and the whole shebang only takes a couple of hours to knock together.
Another trick I’m fond of is using the little quart-jar waterers, but with narrow-mouth glass canning jars instead of the horrible plastic jars the feed store wants to sell you. Glass jars glint like water, and you can watch the baby chicks wander over and peck at the glass a couple of times before finding the actual water. Also, the plastic jars are hard to clean, and they’re not clear enough to see when they’ve gone empty. Just buy the bases and leave the plastic jars alone.
I don’t like bigger waterers (gallon waterers, say), because they have too much water area and day old chicks get soaked, then chilled. The quart-jar waterers are tiny enough that this pretty much doesn’t happen.
If you’re wondering about what kind of breed to buy, try one of the brown-egg commercial hybrids if you haven’t already. Not only do they lay a lot more eggs, but they do this largely by laying in the off-season. If you’ve found yourself having to buy eggs at the store in the fall and winter, a handful of commercial layers should fix this. My personal favorite is the Red Sex-Link from Privett Hatchery in Portales, NM. They are just about as docile as Barred Rocks but lay a lot better.