It can be an incredibly rewarding experience to keep your own flock of chickens, since in addition to being useful they are also funny. If you would like to keep your own flock of chickens, then this practical guide on raising baby chicks will help to get you started in the right direction!
- Baby Chicks
- A box of some sort: a wooden box or a plastic tote will work well. However, cardboard is not a smart option since it will absorb moisture and end up stinking and falling apart.
- Heat Lamp and Infrared Bulb
- Feeder and food
- Chicken coop Bedding, the best option is pine shavings but you can also use newspaper
- Wire lid – this is optional but if you don’t want the chicks to fly the coop then it could come in handy
If you order your baby chicks by mail, then you will need electrolytes as well to help them with surviving the shock. You may not need to have them if you get them from a farmer or store, however it is good to have electrolytes handy in case you need them.
Where To Get Your Baby Chicks
There are a couple of different places where you can get baby chicks. Sometimes local farmers have them for sale or you can check out Craigslist, you can order them from hatcheries directly and they will be sent to you in the mail, or you can frequently purchase baby chicks at a farm supply store. Each source has its own pros and cons associated with, however so far my preferred method is ordering them from a farm supply store and then picking them up at the store. That enables me to choose the breed that I want and the critical timing of picking up and ensuring that the chicks receive their first electrolytes is handled by the store. However, I have ordered baby chicks through the mail, and it was lot of fun picking a cheeping box up at my post office as well.
Brooder Set Up And Care
For the first couple weeks of your baby chicks lives hey will live inside a brooder since they will need plenty of heat until their have either lose their chick down and have grown out their feathers (normally around 6 weeks old) or until the weather gets hot. In order to set a safe brooder up you will need the supplies that we listed above. Make sure that the brooder box is large enough for the chicks to be able to move around in. Unfortunately, if chicks are over-crowded they can end up trampling each other. I also recommend that in the beginning the brooder box be kept in the garage or your house so you can keep a close watch on them.
Put pine shavings in the brooder and clean it out one to two times per week to keep it smelling fresh. When you are ready to clean out the brooder box, just move the chicks over to another box (perhaps the one you got them in, scoop all of the wood shavings out, and then add in fresh ones.
Heat Lamp Basics
While your baby chicks are growing their feathers you need to keep your brooder very warm. During the first week, you need to keep the temperature at 90 to 95 degrees. Beginning in Weeks 2, decreased the heat by 5 degrees per week.
- Week 2: 85 degrees
- Week 3: 80 degrees
- Week 4: 75 degrees
- Week 5: 70 degrees
- Week 6: Beyond 70 degrees they should not need any additional heat. However, if the baby chicks look cold in week 6 the heat can be reduced to 65 degrees.
Don’t worry about the temperatures. Although you definitely want to ensure that the baby chicks stay warm enough during the first week, you will be able to tell by their actions if they are too cold or too hot. They are too cold if they are chirping a lot and huddled together. If they are avoiding the heat lamp and spread out, then they may be too hot. Whenever most of their time is spent away from the heat lamp, then it may be time to raise it or take it out completely.
An effective way of getting your brooder set up is to place the heat lamp to one side of the brooder (rather than in the middle) and the water and food on the other side. This way the chicks will be able to be as far away or as close to the lamp as necessary and they will be able to regulate their temperatures on their own!
Water And Food Basics
It is important to ensure that their is food and water accessible to the chicks at all times. During the first eight weeks you should feed your chicks an organic chick starter. It can be purchased at a local feed store or farm supply store you can even buy it on Amazon and get free delivery with Amazon Prime.
On the day that you bring your chicks home, dip each of their beaks into the water so that they know where it is located. You may need to fill their water dish up several times per day as they grow larger. They also frequently fill up the dish with their bedding through scratching around inside the brooder. Placing the waterer on a brick or elevating it in some way in order to keep it cleaner is a good idea. Just be sure that your chicks are able to reach it. It is very important to use a waterer that has been designed to be used with chicks specifically since they can end up drowning if the water is inside an inappropriate container.
It isn’t difficult at all to raise baby chicks! Just make sure during the first couple of days to watch them closely and have fun!
by Miriam Rolling – poultry farmer