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Baby Chicks Jumping Out Of The Brooder

There’s nothing like coming home from an appointment, walking by the brooder to check up on things and realizing that you’re one chick short.

Worst backyard farmer EVER!

I have only experienced this a few times, but each time it’s a real scare. Where did my missing chick go and how long has it been out?

Fortunately for me, this has never been a situation involving a predator, largely because I keep my brooder in the garage, but it can be stressful for both me and the baby chick.

So for those of you who are new to raising chickens, baby chicks can and will jump out of the brooder – easily clearing obstacles higher than two feet. And they will do it sooner than you might think.

When Can Chicks Jump Out Of The Brooder?

The ability to leave the safety of their brooder will vary according the type of brooder you are using. For us, we use the Perfect Brooder, and the walls on this brooder are exactly two feet high.

In this situation, the baby chicks have enough flight feathers and enough energy to perch on the brooder wall a little after three weeks of age.

We rarely move the chicks before six weeks, which means they will have three full weeks of trying to escape. And they will try!

Further complicating things is the fact that chickens learn by watching other chickens. So if one baby chick figures out how to get out, the rest are sure to follow.

Why Do Baby Chicks Jump Out Of The Brooder?

In a natural setting, where a mother hen has hatched a clutch of eggs, the new chicks will most likely be exposed to a fair amount of stimulation.

Mama bird will have them out, almost immediately, showing them bugs, tender grass shoots, water, food and a whole host of amazing things. Every moment that they are not ‘under wing’ in order to stay warm, they will be hovering around mama, watching her and learning by her example.

Clearly this does not apply for chicks being raised in a brooder without the benefit of a mother hen. For them, life can get pretty boring, fairly quickly.

Throw in the boundless energy they seem to posses and a pair of wings, then the desire to escape and see more makes a whole lot of sense.

A baby chick’s desire to learn and experience will drive them to leave the brooder with its very limited amount of stimulation.

How To Stop Baby Chicks From Jumping Out Of The Brooder

Baby chicks do not understand that the brooder is meant to keep them safe and warm. Only you, as their caretaker, understand that they need to stay inside.

What’s worse is the fact that any chick that has managed to escape – all through their own efforts – is very unlikely to find their way back in. Once outside the walls of the brooder, the baby chick is essentially denied the benefits of warmth, food, water, protection, ect, and can very easily perish.

For this reason, it is absolutely essential that you take steps to make sure they can’t get out.

Covering the brooder is the obvious answer, but the type of covering isn’t so straight forward. The following is a list of covers that I do NOT recommend.

  • Solid lids – Solid lids are definitely a ‘NO’ for covering the brooder as there needs to be a certain amount of airflow inside of the brooder. Chicken feces is very high in nitrogen so Ammonia can be a very real issue for chickens living together in close quarters. Ammonia rises naturally so having a solid lid would prevent this dangerous gas from escaping – possibly burning the eyes and lungs of your baby chicks.
  • Chicken wire – Chicken wire might seem like the right choice (it literally has chicken in the name) but unfortunately this is not the case. Chicken wire is hard, its’ wiring thin. If a chick slams into this, in an attempt to get out, they could easily sustain injury.
  • Bed sheets – There are many homesteaders that will use an old bed sheet over the brooder, especially during the colder months. This can be a very effective way to help maintain heat. However, the utmost caution should be employed when do this as sheets covered with saw dust (from the bedding) are quite flammable.

We have found that the very best ‘cover’ for our brooder is a thick plastic mesh. There are many different kinds available, but what we look for is something that is heavy enough to stay on the brooder and visible enough for the chicks to avoid.

This won’t stop them from jumping up and bouncing into to it. But it will minimize the amount of physical damage they could incur while still keeping them inside the brooder.

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