Setting Up a Chick Nursery...
To start with, our chicks stay in a small tub with a heat lamp in the house for the first two or three weeks. The length of time is dependent on how fast the chicks start to feather. This is usually a pretty quick process. In warmer climates, you can keep the chicks outside with a warming lamp at night. I often do this when I raise chicks in the fall. There are a lot of advantages to fall chicks. First, they don't have to be in the house. If you keep chicks in the house, you will notice a thin layer of dust settles on everything and you are constantly dusting trying to keep up with it. Second, they are ready to lay when spring comes. If you have an egg business, this is a great advantage. All winter the girls grow and they start laying in February or March. Spring chicks start laying in the middle of summer. There are a few disadvantages, mainly for cold climates. Fall chicks sometimes struggle to stay warm in the winter. They simply do not have the body weight to stay warm. You have to make sure they are given lots of grain and that they have a warm place to sleep at night.
Once the chicks have begun to feather, you can move them to a garage or a barn that is a little bit cooler. They still need a heat lamp, or two, or three. I have three lamps set up in our nursery. I keep two on all the time until they are fully feathered out; the third light is for cold nights when the temperature drops. We also keep an electric heater in the garage running at night. The temperature in the garage is about 50ºF, and in the nursery, under the heat lamps, it is about 65-70ºF. Make sure you watch your chicks. If they huddle together, they are too cold. If they are crowded up against the walls of the nursery to avoid the lights, they are too hot. You can raise and lower the height of the lamps to adjust the temperature, or you can turn one off or on to help adjust the temperature.
Line the bottom with newspaper and fill with a thick layer of animal bedding, you can use straw or shredded paper. I like wood chips, mostly because we have them in abundance with the hubby's workshop. If you use your own wood chips, make sure they are from untreated wood, treated wood has chemicals that will quickly kill your tender chicks.
Enjoy your chickens. They are only soft and fluffy for a short time before they turn into those laying beauties clucking around the yard. The more you handle them when they are younger, the more gentle they will be when they are grown. Easy to handle chickens make life a little easier and you will love having them follow you around the yard clucking at your heels.