Thank you for purchasing your new flock of poultry from Dunlap Hatchery! Being a family-owned business, we pride ourselves on friendly service and getting your birds safely to their new home. In this guide we will provide some information on the most crucial essentials, plus tips for keeping your birds happy and healthy.
Before Buying: We highly recommend you are equipped with these basic baby chick necessities: 1 feeder plus 1 waterer for every 25 chicks (both specifically designed for baby chicks), 1 heat shield and a 250-watt bulb for every 25 chicks, a ½ square foot area per chick sheltered from the elements with at least 18-inch-high surrounding walls. Recommended examples include cardboard brooding boxes or draft shields. We also advise keeping a thermometer on hand for temperature monitoring and using pine shavings for bedding (cedar and cypress shavings are highly toxic to poultry). All equipment is available for purchase locally or on our website listed above. All feeds are also available for in store pick up.
Feed: For all day-old poultry you will need a starter feed. All our starter feeds are medicated with amprolium, which is safe for all flocks. Different birds need different levels of protein in their diet to survive. We recommend a starter with at least 21% protein for baby chickens. Gamebirds such as turkeys, guineas, pheasants, chukar, and quail need a feed with a protein level of at least 28% for best results. Waterfowl such as ducks and geese can eat either starter until of age. If you have a mix and match flock of chickens and gamebirds, we recommend the higher protein feed as it will sustain all your young birds needs in one. Between 6-8 weeks of age all birds need to switch to a grower or conditioner feed. This helps adolescent birds grow into laying or butchering size. Exception: Cornish Cross broilers should be put on grower at 4 weeks of age as they grow at an expedited pace. Cornish should also be restricted to 12 hours of feed intake after 10 days of age as they will eat continuously, gorging themselves causing heart attacks. If left unchecked this can lead to entire flock fatality. For laying purposes, birds need to be put on a layer feed between 20-24 weeks of age through the rest of their lifespan. Scratch grain is a great source of nutrients for retired or elderly birds. Feeds often come in different styles, and birds can be picky just like humans. To avoid the possibility of your birds refusing to eat, we recommend staying with one style or mixing different styles together from a young age. Change in feed types could result in a decline in production. All feeds are available for in store purchase or from other retailers. It is important to have enough feed space so that all can eat at the same time.
Arrival Destination: Ideally, the pen set-up should be completed before the arrival of birds to their new home. All enclosures for day old birds should be inside as they can get chilled easily from drafts and never recover. Birds should not be fully outdoors until completely feathered out. Birds can start to go outside at 4 weeks of age on warm, sunny days of around 70 degrees. Ducks and geese are more resilient and can be let out sooner. However, ducks and geese should not be exposed to any type of pond area until fully feathered out (usually at 2-3 months). A heat lamp is a must have. In the first week, most birds need a direct lamp temperature between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Your heat lamp should be central to your enclosure, with water sources closest to the heat. For smaller birds such as pheasants, chukar, quail, and some bantams a temperature between 95-100 degrees may be necessary. Varying on the type and quantity of the birds you have, a lamp height between 24-36 inches in most cases gets your area to the correct temperature. If you are unsure you have reached the correct temperature, bird behavior is a great visual queue. Birds that are “just right” are spread apart evenly and tend to be fairly active. Birds that are too cold huddle together. If too hot, birds will escape the heat by going to outer edges of the enclosure. A clear bulb is all you need with most flocks. However, for gamebirds or aggressive flocks we recommend a red bulb as birds can become very cannibalistic around blood. The red light is the solution. The temperature of your enclosure should be reduced by 5 degrees every week until a heat lamp is no longer needed. The base level of your feeders and waterers should be ground level that all birds can get to. Heights can be adjusted as they grow. Upon arrival, day old chicks should be provided with warm water as the body temperature of your birds could be low. It is also important to note that birds should not be given any additives or medication on day one. At this time, birds are often dehydrated and can succumb to overdose. Birds may not eat or drink until their bodies have warmed up. We recommend feeders and waterers be upscaled around 6-8 weeks of age. Pine shavings are our personal go-to bedding; however, straw or hay are also good alternatives. Exception: It is essential that turkeys, other small gamebirds, and bantams use very refined pine shavings as they have a weaker leg structure at a younger age. If left unchecked they can contract sprawled legs and become unable to move. It is important that your bedding stays dry from water residue as this can cause illness in any age of bird. We recommend roosts of any kind not be installed until at least 8 weeks of age.
Raising Mixed Flocks: Contrary to popular belief most poultry can be raised together. For chicken-only flocks we strongly advise against any birds brooding together past a 2-week age gap. For intermixed flocks of chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, and/or turkeys we advise no older than a 1-week gap. All these birds are fine together once reaching adulthood otherwise. Under no circumstances should pheasant, chukar, and/or quail be kept in the same enclosure as they are highly cannibalistic. Same aged groups are also highly recommended.
Health and Medication: Often newly arrived birds can be susceptible to rear end, otherwise known as “pasting up”. This is where dried manure gets stuck to the back ends of your birds. It is crucial that these are removed daily with a warm cloth, if necessary, to prevent the hinderance of bowel movements. If birds are lethargic after a few days of arrival, we recommend daily doses of vitamins/electrolytes until results are seen. Most strong medications now must be prescribed over the counter by a veterinarian. Ducks and geese can in fact take medication as well if it is amprolium. Bacitracin is deadly for ducks/geese but is fine for all other poultry available.