Well, our new little chicks are almost three weeks old now.
So far there has been no cannibalization (picking on each other and eating feathers) in this crowd, as was rampant in the last bunch. They're just fat and happy little birds.
We learned quite a bit from our first experience of raising chickens last Summer. These are just a few items I wish I'd known (despite copious amounts of research) last year:
#1: You absolutely need plenty of space in the brooder. Crowded chicks aren't happy. Those little cardboard-rolls that you see in every "chick starter kit" are useless after the first week. Start out with a great big area (ours is a 4x4 wooden apple bin).
#2: Don't be paranoid about the brooding temperature. I drove myself batty last year trying to keep the brooder at exactly 95 degrees, then 90, then 87, then 85, then 82.5, and so on. This time around we have a brooder large enough that there are hot and cold zones. We keep the heat lamp at the same height (no raising and lowering which was a mess last year) and the chicks can sit where they want -- super warm under the lamp and cooler in the rest of the area.
#3: Chick waterers need to be up on a block. Last year, the constant struggle was to keep the shavings out of the waterer. No matter how often we filled it, they'd kick shavings into it to sponge up all of the water and were, therefore, forever thirsty. It seems like such a "duh" thing, but if you put the waterer up onto a brick or a piece of wood, it stays clean.
#4: Chick waterers last exactly 2 weeks. If you order the minimum 25 chicks from most hatcheries, those nice little chick waterers will keep your chicks hydrated for about 6 hours. Yes, you can keep several of them around, but why not just graduate them to the adult waterer from the get-go?
Sometime around the first week of November we can expect our first eggs. And this time, I hope there won't be any egg-eaters. But more on that later...