Chicks need a few things when they come home:
The right temperature - I've mentioned in a previous post that you do not require a thermometer for you chick brooder. The chicks will tell you by their behaviour whether they are cold or warm. They require 95 degrees F out of the incubator, and you can decrease the temp by 5 degrees every week. This means by 6 weeks, they should be able to be off heat. We went with the Brinsea this year, and I love the fact that I can easily adjust the height for front back and sides on the fly. To adjust the temp, you simply adjust the legs.
This one made my Christmas Wish list this year, because the traditional heat lamps we had used the year before had gotten knocked down in the brooder and caused a fire one morning. Very terrifying. So we do not leave one unattended any more! If you do decide to use a heat lamp, make sure you do not use too hot of bulb, a 200W would be enough, and make sure you secure the heat lamp - check it twice. The day we had the fire (no significant damage), I had moved the lamp the night before and did not hook it back up to the drop proof chain. To lower the temp, you raise the heat lamp.
I mentioned you could tell by the chicks behaviour whether it was appropriate along with the pics below; I give creds to www.poultryproducer.com
If they are too hot, they try to get far away from heat source, they will pant, they will chirp.
If they are too cold, they will also be crying, and trying to pile on each other directly under the heat source.
If they are just right, you will see some sleeping stretched under lamp, some eating, some drinking, some playing, and you will hear happy chirping. If they are chirping a lot, almost like an infant - they usually require something. Obvious panting is a sign of overheating, raise the lamp in this case. And make sure there is sufficient air flow in your brooder. We use approx 8-10" of plywood base with chicken wire above that up to 2' for air flow.
Chicks are pretty easy going, and as long as you give them consistent warm heat source, they will be just fine. Our next blog will talk about food and water...