So you are ready to start raising chicks? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve created a simple guide to raising chicks to get you started.
Our family loves raising chicks. I mean who can resist the small puffs of cuteness? I remember when we got out first 6 chicks; I felt completely unprepared. I had researched sure, but everything was either super complicated or lacking information. So I decided that I would share what we’ve learned first hand and make it a simple guide to raising chicks.
First Things First – Raising Chicks
Chicks don’t stay little for long. So the first thing to know when raising chicks is that you’ll need their outdoor coop and run ready ASAP.
- Legalities before you start. You’ve checked your city ordinances and you can legally have chickens. Or you’ve decided to be a rebel and raise them anyway (aka stealth chickens).
- You have a place on your property that will allow at least 4 square feet of coop space and 10 square feet of run/yard space per chicken.
Raising Chicks – Equipment & Supplies Needed
- A Brooder
Depending on how many chicks you’ll be starting with, there are many things you can use as a brooder. We use a large rubber maid tub. I like it because it is easy to clean; chicks can be very messy. But I have also seen people use plastic baby pools with a solid “fence” around it. You don’t need something fancy; just enough space, something that can be cleaned easily, and something that will keep the chicks in and unwanted visitors out. Keep in mind that this will need to be big enough to accommodate the chicks until they are about 6 – 8 weeks old; so give them room to grow.
- A Place for the Brooder
Make sure the brooder is in an area with plenty of ventilation and light.
- Bedding for the Brooder
We use a simple pine shaving for our brooder. I line the bottom with paper towels first because I don’t want it to be slippery and these will help absorb more mess.
- Feed and Water Dispenser
Chicks, just like chickens, like to get in and scratch around in their food. It will waste a TON of feed! I recommend getting a feeder with small openings to prevent that (we use this style). The same goes for water, we use one that dispenses from mason jar into galvanized steel (see here).
- Heat Source
Your chicks need to keep a constant body temperature to stay healthy. I’ll be honest, I’ve never felt comfortable using a heat lamp because accidents can be deadly. My next set of chicks will be using an EcoGlow, because I just feel like it is a safer option for the birds and for us. It is only good for up to 20 chicks so this may not be an option if you want more than that. You might consider a heat lamp on a tripod from Premiere with a 250-watt infrared heat lamp.
- A note on temps for chicks
You’ll want to start your 1 – 7 day old chicks out at 95°F (35°C). Each week you can reduce that about 5°F (3°C) until they are comfortable at the temperature of their surrounding environment.
Raising Chicks – Feed
- Make sure to choose a feed made especially for chicks (not for layers or meat birds).
- We purchase a non-medicated, non-gmo, organic feed through a local coop. These babies will be producing a food for us in the future so I want to raise them as naturally as possible.
- Strive to buy the best feed your budget will allow.
- Allow the chicks to free feed – and check often if they need a refill. I have found that it really stresses them to have their food supply go down too much. So fill ‘er up!
- Make sure you offer plenty of fresh water and again, plenty of it.
- Both food and water should be available continually, 24/7.
Raising Chicks – Where to Buy
- I prefer a local breeder that you know personally or others recommend. This is especially good if you are interested in a particular breed. Breeders know their stock.
- You can also order your chicks for hatcheries online. This can get very pricey as most have a minimum order requirement. If you go this route, consider doing a group buy with several others.
- Craigslist – I done it, but I can’t say I recommend it.
- Feed stores – usually purchased from large hatcheries too; be sure to ask where they got them. They may or may not know anything about the breed/s.
Raising Chicks – Illnesses
I want to start off by saying, I am not a vet. I can only share my experience, you should do your own research and consult a licensed veterinarian. I will say three things are super important, no matter the disease: quarantine new comers, keep your brooders clean clean clean and wash your hands before and after you handle chicks, their food, water and bedding.
This is the number one cause of chick death. It is caused by a parasite in the intestinal tract and it is highly-contagious. Look out for weak chicks with bloody or reddish stools. I haven’t had this in any of mine but as a preventative I use apple cider vinegar in their water (my big girls too). There are some other great preventatives and treatments listed in the Fresh Eggs Daily book; I highly recommend it. If you think one of your chicks has this, isolate that chick immediately!
- Pasty Butt
This happens with the vent is stopped up with poop. You’ll notice sticky droppings on their backside around the vent. Keep your chicks in a stress free environment and keep their brooder clean. It can be fatal and needs to be treated immediately.
Marke’s is a highly contagious viral disease that is passed from bird to bird. Knowing your breeder and their stock is a good start in preventing you bringing this home. Keep your brooder clean and build your chick’s immune systems up with apple cider vinegar. The vaccination is not 100% effective so start with keeping your new chicks quarantined. Check out this information on Backyard Chickens for full details.
You can check out this site for more information about chicken diseases.
Raising chicks has been a wonderful experience for our family. There is nothing like watching them go from tiny fluff balls to the first egg. There is also a sense of pride in raising your meat birds from start to finish; you can say with confidence that you’re feeding your family the best quality meat. Chicks can also be a great beginner business for a responsible older child/teen.
Have fun raising your chicks!
This article was shared on Simple Saturdays