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Chooks

I'm a complete novice but I am learning a bit along the way.  There's lots of good information on the web but this backyard poultry site is the best resource for all things chicken.  Click here to read all the chick hatching posts.

Fertile Eggs & Incubating
I found my eggs online just by googling and reading this backyard poultry forum.  Mine arrived by express post and were very well packed.  They need to sit for a day on their pointy ends before they go into the incubator.  It's recommended to have your incubator set up a few days before the eggs arrive to get the temperature right.  Put some ordinary eggs from the fridge in as this will also help you stabilise the temperature which should be at 37.7º.  More than a degree out either side may result in deformed or dead chicks.  Before putting them in the incubator mark a 'x' on one side and an 'o' on the other so you know where you're up to with your turning.   The eggs need to be turned at least twice a day (I managed three turns).  Candling and removing eggs the dud eggs is recommended - apparently they can explode from a build up of gases making a big mess.  Chickens take 21 days to hatch.  On the last couple of days stop turning the eggs, fill your incubator tanks with water to increase humidity and don't open the lid unless absolutely necessary.  Quite a few hours before the first chick hatched we noticed a couple of the eggs rocking about and a tiny crack or hole appeared in the egg.  We could also hear faint cheeping.

When the chicks hatch, leave them in the incubator until they are dry and fluffy.  They're perfectly fine there for 24 hours.  One chick will stress if left alone so it's best to wait until you have more than one hatched before removing them to the brooding box.

It is recommended not to help a chick hatch and to let nature take its course.  We did however have one chick that was struggling and taking a long time and I helped it hatch.  I think the humidity was not high enough in the incubator at this point and the shell was sticky.  I took advice from here.

Housing Chicks
In all my research,  people discouraged having the chicks in your main living area after a couple of weeks.  We started with the chicks in the main living area and I had plans to relocate them to the laundry or find somewhere else if they started to smell but they didn't until about week 4.  I guess the smell all depends on how many you have and I wonder if bigger breeds might start to smell earlier?   I was also warned against having them inside because they do create a dust.  But this didn't bother me a bit of a wipe every so often was nothing too bothersome.

Our first brooder box for week old chicks.
Their second home in the kids' old swimming pool
Brooder Box - I used an ordinary big plastic storage box to begin with but by the third week they were looking for more space.  We used the kids' old swimming pool with some chicken wire around it so they couldn't jump out. 
Your chicks will need something to provide traction underfoot and to soak up the mess!  Wood shavings or straw is recommended.  Our wood shavings were from our local poultry supplier. 
Water - be careful chicks can drown easily.  Put an upturned cup in their water bowl or some marbles.
Feed - chick crumble.  I started to feed my chicks chopped up grass when they were about 10 days old.  They went crazy for it.
Heat supply.  I used red party globes from our local lighting shop but I expect these will become tricky to find.  Apparently the red stops the chicks getting cranky and pecking each other and they can more easily sleep at night time.  At first I used one of those outdoor red lamps which I found at Bunnings.  But these lamps blow really easily.  We had more success with red party globes from our local lighting shop.  We used two 40w globes hanging from some modified desk lamps.  As the weather got warmer they only needed one globe.  I tried to alternate the lamps and give them a bit of a rest and I think helped them last. An infra red heat lamp is the best option but too expensive for my needs.

Here's a great link on brooding chicks.
    By 3 weeks I started taking the chicks outside for a little play if the weather was warm.  You have to watch them carefully so a cat or something doesn't gobble them up.  I only let them play for half an hour at the start as I was still concerned about them catching a chill.  Also, keep in mind that it was summer and I didn't let them out on windy or cool days.  We still had our baby playpen and this made a good safe place for them to be on the grass.
    Three week old chicks having a play on the grass in their playpen.
    Building A Chicken Coop
    Click here to see pics and read about our chicken coop building project.
    Our chicken coop

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