What Is Piling?

What Is Piling?

As we move through the process of raising baby chicks, we want to address some potential problems you may encounter. One of these is an issue known as piling.

 

Piling occurs when baby chicks clump together for safety. For example, if it’s cold or dark, then the chicks might lay on top of each other. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. It’s not much different than mammals gathering together in a close-knit group to stay calm and keep away the chill.

 

The Downside Of Piling

Unfortunately, when 10 to 15 chicks pile together, some may get crushed or suffocate. Particularly if they are in a brooder or another enclosed area (you can learn how many chicks should be in a brooder here). The reason for this? Even though baby chicks are incredibly independent, they are still fragile. Bantams in particular.

 

These chicks are so tiny that they get lost in the melee to gather together. If a bantam is weaker or not growing as well as the others, this also leads to a greater risk of being crushed. In addition, since bantams get colder faster, there’s a likelihood of them piling up more frequently.

 

How To Minimize Piling Risks

Regardless if they’re bantams or full-size, chicks have a harder time keeping warm. And if the smaller chicks are mixed with normal sized ones, there’s a potential for greater damage. In the end, the way to minimize piling risks is to separate the chicks by size and make sure there’s no more than 10-15 chicks in the brooder. 

 

Not too long ago, we received a batch of bantams and full-size chicks from a hatchery. The first thing we did is to separate them out, so the smaller chicks didn’t get crushed by a wall of bigger ones. Overall, we were able to maintain the safety of all of them.

 

Another way to minimize piling is to keep baby ducks and chicks in different brooders. Infant ducks tend to be bigger and heavier. Even though their interactions may be cute, a baby duck sitting on a day-old chick can cause fatal injuries.

 

A third way to prevent piling is to provide different heat sources, especially in enclosed spaces. With these units added throughout the brooder, the chicks can move to another source of warmth if the first one is too crowded. Be sure the brooder doesn’t get too hot, though!

Get Your Chicks To Thrive

As you would do with babies in your care, you want to ensure your chicks are well protected. This means shielding the smaller, fragile ones from being crushed when a group decides to pile together. By separating bigger chicks from smaller ones, as well as providing multiple heat sources, you can reduce this risk. In turn, you will end up with a healthy flock of chickens in a variety of sizes.

Why Chicks Cheep Loudly

Why Chicks Cheep Loudly

When you have day-old chicks up until they’re 16 weeks, you might notice that your baby chicks make loud noises. In case you didn’t already know, we call that “cheeping.” During this very important time of your chicks’ lives, if they are cheeping very loudly, you’re might not be sure exactly what the problem is or why they seem distressed. All you know is you’re not really sure what to do about it.

 

There’s a few reasons why your chicks might be making loud noises. In this article, we’ll decode these types of cheeps, and hopefully, the next time your flock sounds distressed, you’ll remember this article, and stop worrying!

 

Why do baby chicks cheep loudly:

  1. They’re hungry
  2. They’re thirsty
  3. They’re cold
  4. They’re lonely/scared
  5. They don’t feel good

 

Main Takeaways:

  • Chicks cheep loudly usually because they hungry, thirsty, cold, lost, or not feeling well.
  • To figure out why YOUR chick is unhappy, look at how it’s acting (are they huddling? Do they look sick?)
  • To figure out what to do, check their brooder temperature, their feed, their water, and do a head count.
  • If they’re not feeling well, try to determine the cause (a qualified veterinarian can guide you).

They’re Hungry

Number one is they’re hungry. If they’re cheeping loudly, ask yourself “Do they have chick starter?” “Can they get to it?” 

 

Sometimes even I mess up and I put their bowl somewhere that’s not easy for day-olds to get to. To fix this, I look at their brooder and just double check. And if I have done that, I fix it.

 

We talk about the best chick feeders here. What really matters is that your chicks can get into the feeder and get to the food. 

 

If you’re not feeding an 18% chick starter and they’re constantly cheeping loudly, I would then look also at your food. 

 

Is your flock’s feed giving them the right diet and the nutrients that they need in order to grow? Is it giving them enough protein? 

 

I’ve found the best is a really good commercial chick starter – you can be sure your chicks are getting all the nutrients they need.

 

They’re Thirsty

Reason number two that baby chicks cheep loudly is because they’re thirsty. Do they have access to water? Is there water? Can they get to the water? If they don’t have any, then you have to get the chicken some water. But this is another common reason why chicks cheep so loudly. 

 

They’re Cold

Reason number three is that they’re cold. It is important to keep their brooder at a specific temperature (more about that here), but if the brooder is not warm enough, they’ll start cheeping. 

 

Even if you think it’s warm enough, if your chicks think it’s not warm enough, they’ll let you know. Animals don’t really lie, and young chicks certainly don’t lie about something like this. 

 

They’re Lost Or Scared

The fourth reason why you’ll hear loud cheeping is because your chicks are lost or they’re lonely and they don’t know where the rest of their flock is. 

 

While you might wonder how this can happen, truthfully, even if the rest of the flock is 6 inches away, if your chick can’t see its friends, it’ll get lonely real quick. To avoid this, just keep everyone together.

 

Chickens are prey animals. They’ve evolved to depend on a large number of flock members to keep them safe. 

 

That’s why they say you shouldn’t really just have only one or two chickens; having more than that helps chickens be happier. It’s not just a companion issue; it’s an issue of making sure that they feel safe in their environment. 

 

When baby chicks cheep loudly, it’s probably that they don’t know where everybody else in their flock is and they’re lonely and they’re scared.

 

Sometimes my baby chicks will wander off from the rest of the chicks. They may wander from the larger penned-in area and into tall grass, and they’re lost. They can’t see everybody else and it’s scary enough to start cheeping. As soon as I pick them up and I put them with the other chicks, the cheeping stops. 

 

They Don’t Feel Good

If your chick isn’t developing correctly, or maybe they came out of the shell weaker than the other ones, they might not be feeling good, and then they have a harder time keeping their body temperature up. 

 

The key here is to watch for a few different behaviors. If you hear loud cheeping AND your chicks are closing their eyes, and hunching over, it shows that it’s more than just cold – they’re not feeling well.

 

In such cases, we put them and a friend in a brooder that is warmer than what the other chicks need. If the chick just needs an extra boost, then within 24 hours they’re fine and back with a regular flock. We usually follow up with apple cider vinegar.

 

What Do These Cheeps Sound Like?

If you’re wondering what the cheeps sound like, it’s a very shrill, high, loud cheep. It’s not the same as their happy little chirps: the “Oh, I’m a chicken and I’m walking around kind of chirps.” These are very loud and insistent chirps. 

 

Regardless of the problem, in my experience, there’s not really, one cheap for each problem: no lonely cheep, no cheep for “I’m cold”, or “I’m hungry,” or “I’m thirsty.” Chicks are not like dogs or cats, who have a full call range that will tell you kind of what they are experiencing. 

 

Hopefully this article explains why your baby chicks cheep loudly!

Best Bedding For Chick Brooders

Best Bedding For Chick Brooders

The controversy around bedding for chickens and baby chicks always makes me giggle. 

 

Mostly because, to me, there are clear winners in the quest to keep your baby chicks’ pens clean. 

 

In this video, I break down pros and cons of some of the most common types of bedding and provide my own recommendations for them. 

 

 

The six types of bedding discussed are as follows:

  1. Shavings (small flake, large flake, saw dust). I personally use large flake shavings.
  2. Newsprint
  3. Paper towels
  4. Sand
  5. Straw
  6. Hay

 

While it may appear to be a random listing of bedding, to me, there is a clear order, where my strongest recommendations are at the top, and as we go down the list, we get into types that are less ideal as bedding for baby chicks. 

 

Shavings (Small Flake, Large Flake, Sawdust)

We use shavings because they’re cheap and they are easy to find. They’re also easy to clean, and they keep everything clean. 

 

You have some options: 

  • Big flake (they literally just have big flakes in them.)
  • Small flake shavings
  • Sawdust

I prefer big flake shavings because it’s really hard for the chicks to actually swallow them. Because they’re curious by nature, you’ll see chicks try and eat the shavings. 

 

They’re not going to be successful in 99.9% of cases because obviously it’s just too big. 

 

However, with smaller flake shavings and particularly sawdust, there’s a chance that they could swallow the wood shavings.

 

It’s dangerous because they’re eating something that’s not food, and it’s taking up space in their digestive system where actual food could be. 

 

Small flakes and shavings also can cause choking, or it can cause obstructions in their digestive system

 

The type of wood in the shavings is also something to consider. Pine shavings are best, because cedar shavings give off fumes that can harm the chicks. So stick with pine and you can’t go wrong. 

 

Newsprint, Paper Towels, & Cloth Towels

Something else that’s pretty popular to use is newspaper and/or towels. These are both okay, and I’ll use them in a pinch. However, the newspaper is not very absorbent.

 

For example, if they spill their water, you’re going to have a mess. And the last thing that you want is for baby chicks to get wet – because once they get wet, they get cold. And then once they get cold, they stop eating.

 

Newsprint also has ink on it, which might harm your chicks. We don’t know exactly what’s in these newsprint inks!

 

I’ve used towels before and they’re okay. But they’re not very absorbent for smells. If your chicks poop on towels (and they will), it can smell a lot more than shavings because there’s nothing to mask the smell.

 

Sand

Sand is another bedding that’s become more popular in the past few years. Sand is not my favorite for a few different reasons. 

 

The particles are pretty small, so the chicks are going to try and eat it. Additionally, you don’t really know what’s on it. Chemicals? Loads of bacteria? You get the point.

 

It also doesn’t absorb very well. Your chickens will be pooping on the sand, which means it’ll smell in the rain.

 

A lot of people like sand because it’s easy to clean. While it is a little bit like kitty litter, it doesn’t absorb the smell very well, and it gets mushy and gross.

 

Personally, I don’t use it and to the people who follow me, I don’t really recommend it for baby chicks.

 

Hay and Straw

I’ve used hay and straw in the past. Hay is not quite as good as straw. Straw tends to be more absorbent, and it is easier to get. It’s little more sterile than hay. 

 

Hay could have bugs in it. It could have seeds from who knows what weeds, which can poison your chicks.

 

They’re pretty good substitutes for shavings when you can’t get shavings. They’re not super absorbent, and they don’t really mask the smell. 

 

With straw and especially hay, I’ve found you have to clean it two or three times a day to keep the scent down. As your chicks get older, and they start eating more, and their poop starts to get stinkier, a brooder with hay or straw can turn into a gross mess very quickly. So that’s another reason why I just prefer shavings. 

 

I hope this helps you decide which bedding for chickens is best for you!

How Many Chicks Should Be In A Brooder?

How Many Chicks Should Be In A Brooder?

So, how many chicks should go in a brooder? Let’s find out!

 

You have a new clutch of chicks, congratulations! Space is limited, so where will they all go? Logic (and loads of chicken-care sources) dictates a brooder, but you’re left with one massive question about it, one that I receive a whole lot:

 

“How many chicks should be in a brooder?”

 

In this article (and accompanying video), we talk about just this question – and you’ll get my (very) strong opinions about it!

 

As we discussed in another video, piling can be a big issue (piling is where baby chicks huddle together at night – and some chicks are crushed.)

 

The fewer chicks that are in a brooder, the less likely you are to encounter a situation where chicks are being suffocated or trampled.

 

So, how many chicks should be in a brooder?

 

I personally only put between 10 and 15 full sized chicks into a brooder. 

 

For bantams, I might up that number up to 17 just to help them stay warm. But no more than that. 

 

At farm stores, you sometimes see there might be 50 chicks in a big bin. Farm stores do that because the chicks aren’t going to be there for that long. 

 

But I personally only put between 10 and 15 chickens in one brooder. 

 

Why? Well, first because I don’t want any baby chickens to get crushed. Second, it’s really important to make sure that everybody has access to food and water. And when you have too many chicks in a brooder, you can’t guarantee that everybody’s getting the food that they need.

 

Well-being and Maintenance

 

It’s harder to keep track of everybody and everybody’s health condition when a lot of chicks are in one brooder. They’re all running everywhere, and you can’t look at everybody really closely. 

 

When you have smaller number in your brooder, it’s easier to keep track of everybody’s condition. Is everybody getting the food that they need? Is everybody developing correctly? Is everybody warm enough? Does somebody look too cold? 

 

If you use apple cider vinegar, which we talked about why in another video, it’s easier to make sure that everybody gets access to that. If you have one waterer and a large number of chicks in your brooder, maybe not everybody’s getting enough water or the apple cider vinegar in the water that they need.

 

Drawbacks

 

One drawback to the smaller clutch size is that if you have a lot of chicks, you might need multiple brooders.

 

Summary 

 

So that is my opinion about how many chicks should be in a brooder. You might see other opinions elsewhere that give you other ideas, but this is what I personally do and believe.

 

We have tested this over the years with different amounts of chicks in a brooder and the numbers mentioned here are what I have found to be ideal. This way, you can be sure that everybody stays warm, everybody gets food, everybody gets water, and everybody has space and room to move. 

 

If you have too many chicks or chickens in one area, it can turn into a really stressful environment where the chicks feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and then they might shut down. 

 

Main Takeaways:

  • I only put 10 – 12 regular size chicks or 15-17 bantams in a brooder at a time.
  • If I have more, then I split the flock into two separate brooders
  • Piling is when chicks huddle together and accidentally squish or suffocate a flock mate.
  • It’s easily avoided by making sure chicks have enough room in their brooders.
  • Another reason to keep a low head count in brooders is so you can make sure everyone is eating/drinking

 

More reading:

Best incubators for hatching eggs

Feeding baby chicks

 

How many chicks should be in a brooder? Just stick with 10-15 baby chicks.

Easy Clues Your Baby Chick Might Be Sick

Easy Clues Your Baby Chick Might Be Sick

Main Takeaways:

  • Huddling (looking hunched) with eyes closed is a sign your chick is cold and/or sick (if they’re just cold, they’ll usually cheep loudly, too)
  • If they have some feathers, you’ll notice the feathers will be “puffed out” too. If they just have down, you won’t notice any feather fluffing.
  • If your chick is cheeping loudly, and you know their brooder is the right temperature (because you have a thermometer in the brooder and no other chick is acting cold), AND the chick is hunched over with eyes closed, then they might be sick.
  • If your chick isn’t growing while the rest are, it might be a sign they have some physical issue (especially if you know they’re eating/drinking/pooping)
  • If they stop eating or drinking, your chick might be sick.
  • If your chick has poop mashed to it’s vet, it probably has pasty butt.
  • None of this will tell you WHY your chick is sick – you must get a vet’s opinion (I’m not a vet).