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My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:11 pm
by Eirwen
First of all- I have been trawling this forum for a while now and think it's brilliant! :-)17
I will be a first time chicken keeper in 3 weeks time when my 3 week old chicks arrive! 2 cream leg bars, 2 amber stars, and 1 speckledy, black rock, white sussex and silver sussex. 8 in all. They will eventually live in a green frog medium loft (suitable for up to 11 large fowl apparently) with a 100m length of 4ft high electric fence as a run, situated in one of our fields.

I will have many questions to post on here, but my most pressing one is-
How to keep the chicks until they are ready to go out?

What kind of brood box would you use? How big? What would you use as substrate? :-)19
Also, is there particular chick crumb you would recommend?
Any additives, medication, or anything extra really, you think I should be aware of?

I've done a bit of research already obviously, but I would really appreciate the benefit of peoples' experiences!

Thanks in advance,


Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:20 pm
by Marigold
Hi Eirwin, and welcome to the Forum.
I'm sorry to maybe be putting a bit of a damper on some aspects of your plans, but the following occurred to me as potential problems.

This is the worst possible time of year to be getting chicks, because you will need to keep them inside for the next 2-3 months because of the cold and wet winter conditions. Chicks hatched from February-March onwards get the benefit of Spring sunshine, light is very important, and the rising temperatures mean they can be let out to eat the tender nutritious Spring grass when they are only a few weeks old, and this is enormously beneficial to their growth and development. If you get them now, you will have to provide light, heat and sufficient space for 8 growers, and will therefore need a pen large enough for them, at least 8 square metres or more until they are 10-12 weeks old, also light and heat. They just won't do so well as chicks raised at the natural time of year.
The two Cream Legbars are an autosexing breed so you can be sure of getting females at 3 weeks, but it would not be possible to sex the others with 100% accuracy at that age, so you may well end up with several unwanted cockerels. This could be avoided by getting point of lay pullets (around 16-18 weeks old, which would come into lay at about 22-26 weeks.) All the breeds you've chosen are very suitable as good egg layers, and will make an attractive flock. All should be easily available from dealers as POLs, and at 16 weeks from a commercial source they will also have had all their vaccinations. I'm not sure about the Black Rock, though -true Black Rocks are hard to find, since they all originate from one hatchery in Scotland, which has a few outlets throughout the UK. 'Black Rock' is a registered trade name, so unless your breeder is one of the accredited agents for genuine Rocks, its illegal for him to be selling his birds as such. If they are indeed genuine, they will be very hardy birds but much more independent and feisty than the other hybrids you mention. There are many birds sold under names such as Black Star or Bovans Nera, which are similar to Rocks and very good layers, without quite so much attitude!
It sounds as if you have really good facilities to offer your birds, but I have a Green Frog Medium coop and it would certainly be far too small for 8 large fowl. Green Frog recommend a maximum of 5-6. My coop houses 4 at present, very comfortably, and if could go up to 6 if I chose smallish hybrids such as Columbian Blacktails or Cream Legbars, but certainly no more than that.

I think that, before giving any advice about brood boxes etc, I'd better shut up and see what other people say about raising chicks in November. But my advice would be to wait until Feb-March if you want chicks, (having planned what to do with the inevitable cockerels) or else to get POL hybrids whenever you like, (bearing in mind that they are unlikely to lay until the days lengthen even if they are sold now as point of lay. Pullets not in lay by the end of October generally wait until late Jan- early Feb. before producing eggs - but you would still have a head start compared with getting chicks!)

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:45 pm
by chrismahon
Welcome to the forum Eirwen. Bit of a puzzler really because having chicks at this time of year is a major effort. We hatched last year and, even with cheap electricity, spent a fortune keeping them warm enough to survive. They needed heat until April as cold nights were still problem. Before then we heated the sheds to 20 degrees and more and sheds are not well insulated. As Marigold says a genuine Black Rock will not be sold to you until point of lay. There is an official distributor network. As Marigold says your coop is only suitable for 6 birds -forget what the manufacturer claims, they don't pick up the pieces!

The brood box changes to suit their size and we went up in 5 stages. They start on kitchen paper and move up to soft shavings -their feet are delicate and anything hard will cut them to pieces. Dobson and Horrell chick crumb is excellent. No medication is necessary unless they are in contact with unsterilised ground. Then they need chick crumb with ACS.

To be frank Eirwen I would recommend you cancel your order and wait until Spring.

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:33 pm
by Marigold
[quote="chrismahon"]Welcome to the forum Eirwen. As Marigold says your coop is only suitable for 6 birds -forget what the manufacturer claims, they don't pick up the pieces!

To be fair to Green Frog, they explicitly recommend 5-6 birds in their medium coop, or four max. If housing large breeds. They're one of the few manufacturers whose recommendations re space can actually be relied on. I'm not sure where you got the information about the coop housing up to 11 large fowl, but it is clearly wrong I'm afraid. Their coops are excellent, though, a very good buy.

By the way,here is the link about genuine Black Rocks

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:09 pm
by Eirwen
Hi, if you read back i said I was getting the green frog medium LOFT which is considerably larger than the COOP. I can read on the website that yes the COOP houses house around 4 large fowl, but the LOFT houses up to 11 large fowl. So I would reckon the LOFT would be large enough for 8 medium/large fowl.

As for the Black Rock thing, yes I'm aware that it is a trade name for the line they breed in the hatchery in Scotland, but unfortunately I found so many companies advertising their birds as Black Rock I didn't think it worth mentioning in my current post as I wanted to focus on my immediate issue.
In regards to possibility of cockerels, I hope not as the breeder assured me they could be sexed as day olds, the auto sexing cream leg bars as well as the hybrids. I have read reviews on different sites on the breeder supplying the chicks, and haven't heard of anyone getting a cockerel by mistake. I will let everyone know if I do.

I am also aware that it is indeed winter, which is set to be extra cold this year apparently. Although the breeder assured me they would be fine to go out in the new year, I am prepared to keep them indoors for however long they need. We have several options available, being on a 6 acre plot with a few outbuildings, sheds, and even a few old caravans, all with a power supply. I was thinking our conservatory would do for the first few weeks, it has the benefit of radiators, a power supply, natural light, and close enough so I can keep watch over them.What I was hoping for was that I could have the benefit of people sharing their experiences on what equipment/feed they used and so on (thanks Chris).

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:22 pm
by Eirwen
Oh Chris, you said:
"They needed heat until April as cold nights were still problem."
I was wondering how old your chooks were in April? Did you continue to heat their coop into their adulthood?
I was wondering about that as well, the fact that it might be freezing weather up until May apparently, and whether or not to heat their coop even after they've feathered out?
I know most people say that they can cope well with cold weather, along as you make sure they have fresh water that isn't frozen and clear away some snow around their coop... but it would be good to hear peoples' opinions on that. I may post another thread about this topic in a few days.

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:35 pm
by Eirwen
I assume you have the medium chicken HOUSE Marigold? They do not currently sell one they call COOP, my apologies.

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:39 pm
by Eirwen
Poultry Club of Great Britain Guidelines indicate that this house would be suitable for 11 large fowl or 22 bantams. However, we prefer Soil Association Guidelines which require a little more space per bird, and suggest that it is ideal for up to 10 larger birds or 15 bantams.DIMENSIONS
Overall Dimensions: 146 (w) x 118 (h) x 217 (d) cm (including ramp, roof overhang and nest boxes)
House Dimensions: 124 (w) x 118 (h) x 120 (d) cm (excluding ramp, including nest boxes)
Internal Dimensions: 91 (w) x 77(h) x 115 (d) cm (excluding nest boxes)
Ground Clearance: 38cm
Perches: 3 perches, each 69cm usable length
Nest Boxes: 4 nestboxes, each 34 (w) x 23-28 (h) x 25-36 (d) cm (internal measurement)

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:32 pm
by Marigold
Eirwen wrote:I assume you have the medium chicken HOUSE Marigold? They do not currently sell one they call COOP, my apologies.
Yes, you're right, Eirwin, apologies, and if Green Frog say it can house that many I'm sure it will be fine. One less problem!

And if you are happy to raise them in the conservatory, and provide heat, and maybe light as well in the shortest days, they will be OK, -but I still think they would do better with the benefit of Springtime sunshine, because of the Vitamin D it provides, as well as the stimulation of sunlight on the pituitary gland. Maybe a little Cod Liver Oil on their growers pellets when they get to that stage? This growing time is the basis of healthy development throughout their whole life, and I feel there's not much point in trying to fight Nature by not waiting until conditions improve for them. Much less hard work for you as well!

The Black Rock name isn't really a big issue, I just wanted to be sure you knew what you were getting.

Chicks hatched in February-March could be expected to feather up enough to go outside for a few hours in a sheltered run on fine warm days at around 5-6 weeks old, but if the weather suddenly changed would be in danger of getting chilled by cold winds or rain. It wouldn't be worth risking this, having put so much effort and care into raising them. Its really good not to hatch until April, to make it more likely that they would get warmer temperatures, especially at night. Putting them out would probably be out of the question in December or January, when yours would have reached this age. Adult chickens are very hardy birds, once fully grown, well- feathered and acclimatised to local conditions, in fact they deal better with cold conditions than with summer heat, but this isn't so for chicks, not yet fully feathered and used to warmer conditions. Adult birds never need heating, so long as they have dry, windproof shelter and liquid water, as you say.

I expect you're the same sort of person as me, when I get an idea I want it all to happen yesterday, but with living creatures it may be a good idea to consider when is the natural time for giving them the best possible start.

Re: My first chicks (3weeks old) Brood box?

Posted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:05 am
by Eirwen
Thanks for the advice about the cod liver oil, will get some in! I have a Bearded Dragon and so have a few uv lamps spare, do you think the chicks would benefit from a little exposure to a uv lamp for a couple of hours a day? They are for reptiles that need sunlight to absorb vitamin d, but not sure if it would be ok to use with chicks? Or I could just stick our halogen heater in there to keep it warm whilst I open the conservatory door for a while to let the uv get through.. not that there will be much about at the mo lol.

I agree that we could have made it easier on our selves by waiting till spring to get our chicks! It's just that a) you're right, I want my hens yesterday, and b) whilst doing my research I came across a lot of people selling hens and chicks of all ages still, so I thought if so many are selling/buying them now then it must be ok for me to do it? and c) we had tonnes of snow last year, starting from mid march (the big one) even until june! So if I waited until we had reliably warm weather I would have to wait until july lol!

Anyway, the fact is that I ordered and paid for the chicks over a week ago, they have hatched today and they will be arriving mid december whether I change my mind or not. Shame I didn't think to post earlier, as your advice may have helped me to resist the urge to get them now and wait for the february half term... Ah well, I will strive to make the best of the situation and hopefully I will have happy hens laying in the spring for me.

I may have to re think a few things, but I would still really appreciate any advice on chick rearing equipment and set ups! Thank you for pointing out the more difficult challenges ahead of me, I will take it on board and give serious thought to keeping them warm and safe over the next couple of months.