The conditions under a mother hen are always perfect for her chicks. But when humans take over the hen's duties, manipulating all the variables is not always easy. First their first weeks of life, chicks must be kept in a temperature-controlled environment. Maintaining the proper temperature in the brooder box is vital for the chicks' health and vitality. The first seven days of their lives are particularly critical. Chicks that have not been maintained at the proper temperature often get off to a slower start and may not develop properly.
Watch the chicks in the brooder box. If the temperature is correct, the chicks will be evenly dispersed throughout the brooder. Cold chicks, on the other hand, will pile on top of each other while huddling as close as possible to the heat source.
Listen to the chicks. Contented chicks will make a soothing chirping sound. If they get cold, chicks emit a loud, high-pitched cheeping sound.
Examine the chicks as you clean up the brooder box. If the chicks have become chilled, their legs will be cold to the touch. They may also appear puffy and swollen.
For the first seven days of the chicks' lives, the brooder should be maintained at 95 degrees. Decrease the temperature inside the brooder by 5 degrees per week, until the chicks are fully feathered or 8 weeks old.
Aracauna Chicks image by Lee O'Dell from Fotolia.com