I’m quite excited as I have my first electric hen after many years of hatching eggs. The mind boggles as to what this is but it turns out to be a heated square that can be rasied for chicks to get underneath. It was second hand from a fellow smallholder and is a new thing for me. We have always used the traditional round hardboard pen with a dull emitter light (that’s a heat lamp that is not providing light). To be fair that method has always been extremely successful for many years, but I can see that this way might be more natural for the chicks or ducklings. I also worry about getting the height of the bulb correct especially for the first few days, not too high (they huddle together if that happens) or too low (they obviously try to get away from it if overheating).
Inspired by my new purchase I looked around the see what else was on the market and I noticed that Brinsea Products Ltd have announced an updated range of their popular EcoGlow chick brooders. The new range consists of three sizes – the EcoGlow Safety 600, Safety 1200 and Safety 2000 warming roughly 20, 35 and 50 chicks respectively. Brinsea have chosen to use the term ‘safety’ to reflect their use of low voltage supply (mains adaptors are supplied) and that the heating surface of the brooders can’t get hot enough to damage the newly hatched chicks and so the chicks can snuggle under the brooder, just like a mother hen. This results in very efficient warming which less heat wasted warming the air around the brooder. Brinsea’s EcoGlow Safety brooders use a metal warming plate which evens out hot and cold spots that occur with plastic plates and improves heat radiation – which means a cosier environment for your chicks at lower running costs.
We take safety of our products very seriously, says Ian Pearce, Brinsea’s Managing Director. ‘Many people don’t realise that EU safety regulations mean that brooders used on the floor can’t be plugged directly into the mains, our EcoGlows comes with low voltage power supplies to ensure compliance.
This sounds a much easier and secure way of brooding on your day old chicks whilst encouraging some natural behaviour. Rightly or wrongly I always encourage my chicks to eat by talking to them them and tapping the feed with a finger or a pen. I always start off with a flat dish or even flat cardboard so they can easily see the food. I use chick crumbs, which I know contain all the nutrients a chick needs to develop. They are also the right size for little beaks. If you find yourself with an unexpected chick to feed (maybe a broody hen has abandoned it) and no chick crumbs, then you can use mashed boiled egg yolks and crush wheat down to a size they can peck whilst sourcing chick crumbs. Don’t use it as a long term solution.
Chicks need water as soon as they are out of the incubator/ hatcher but what to put in it? I use a shallow dish such as a pot plant holder to begin with and into that I put clean pebbles. This way the chick cannot drown or get stuck into the container. You also don’t want a newly hatched chick to get wet. (Don’t forget that ducklings hatched artificial are NOT waterproof). There are also chick drinkers on the market but I don’t find these as good in the first couple of days as the water is more obvious in a small shallow dish. You need to check it many times a day but then I think that the time spent on the chicks in the first 48 hours is well worth it. I hardly ever lose chicks at this stage, in fact I am struggling to think of any that I have lost at this time. I have lost them through a bad hatch although even with that I have been able to ‘nurse’ many of them to go on and develop well. Observation and action if needed costs very little and is a huge value at this stage. I then go on to a chick drinker, just be sure that the chicks can find it and use it. Keep it very slightly raised above the litter so they can reach easily but litter cannot so easily go into the water.
Again observation and action is needed. Fortunately chicks and ducklings are hatched with a huge desire to stay alive and will co-operate with your efforts to keep them alive. They need the right heat, balanced food they can peck up and fresh water in order to survive. Of course they also need protection from predators. It is a sobering thought that their life quite literally is in your hands.