On the verge of February, the most bitter month of the year, it is hard to stay positive and remain motivated to plan for spring.  January has been a beast with polar vortex, several feet of snow, states of emergencies, and for me cabin fever!  We were grateful to welcome two adorable doelings (who we are going to have to have a name game for as Matt cannot decide :).  They keep us busy, and thoroughly entertained.  
One great part of February is that our replacement chicks are ordered in for the year.  I have spoken with several hatcheries in New York state especially that say they are book through until April orders.  The backyard chicken movement is definatley taking the country by storm.  I thought I would share some must haves that I use when raising or brooding new chicks.  Our laying hens are brought in to a sanitized rubbermaid tub with fresh shavings.  Our meat birds come in large numbers and regular rotations and this year will be brought in to brooder houses built specifically to safely house that many babies.  Each year I generally only order 20-30 laying hen replacement chicks. And these fluff butts are raised in the basement.  I suspend a heat lamp with chain over the brooder (rubbermaid tote) so it is just above level with the top of the tote.  

Cleanliness is of utmost importance when you bring in baby chicks.  Both of their environment, and of your self before and after handling the chicks or their brooder.  Fresh clean water and a regular supply of chick starter are necessary to ensure proper growth.  Below are common types of waterers and feeders.

Keeping their water clean can be a challenge when the vessel is placed in the shavings, I find tying it to a dowel and resting the dowel over top of the brooder helps keep it out of shavings.  Another option is to put the water jug on a block to lift it above shavings level.  Often I find as the chicks grow though, they knock the waterer off the block and foil any plans of clean water.  When brooding more than ten or so chicks I prefer to use the long chick feeders such as these.

I feel these longer feeders allow more chicks to belly up to the feeder at the same time so no one gets pushed out.  I also like to keep some Save-A-Chick Electrolytes and Vitamin supplement on hand in case any of them are not looking up to par.  Baby chicks are so fragile and no doubt after raising chicks a few times you are likely to suffer a loss or two, but sometimes separating the weakling and giving vitamins can make a world of difference!  Layer chicks are raised in the brooder atleast six weeks but in colder months they stay in until feathered out and old enough to survive the climate.  It is amazing to watch them grow and change from fluffy little chicks....

To beautiful hens (hopefully :)

And if all goes well six months or so later you will enjoy the ultimate homesteaders delight...

Farm Fresh Eggs!

I hope you all have wonderful success with your new chicklets this year.  For us they are the first little glimmer of new life and spring being on its way!