One of the surest signs of spring is that distinctive chirping sound you hear at the back of your ranch store. Follow it and you’ll find…babies! Most likely surrounded by a group of adoring children, you’ll discover cages of baby bunnies, ducklings, and our favorite—chicks.
If you’re ready to take the chick plunge, follow these easy steps to make raising chicks your new favorite springtime activity.
Before you bring those cute little chickies home, you need to gather some supplies.
A brooder is a chick’s transitional home—a warm, safe, contained space where they can be closely watched and cared for before they’re big enough to enter the regular coop. You can buy or make your own brooder. It should be at least 12 inches tall, draft free, and provide at least 2 square feet of space per chick. Make sure you wash, disinfect, and dry your brooder before the chicks arrive.
The chicks need a soft, comfy place to live. Their little feet can sometimes have a hard time gripping for the first week or life, so you may initially want to lay down newspaper or paper towel for the first few days. After that, switch to a 4-6 inch deep layer of shavings. As their name implies, hardwood shavings are too tough for the chicks. We recommend pinewood shavings or a hay/straw mix like our Koop Clean Chicken Coop Bedding.
One of the most important things chicks need is a constant source of clean, fresh water. We recommend our OverEZ high-capacity waterer. The completely enclosed waterer keeps water clean and fresh, and the nipple drinking system keeps the brooder dry.
Chicks need to be kept warm as they grow and develop their feathers. You’ll need a light to hang over the brooder to provide the warmth they need. As the chicks grow and need less heat, you can adjust the height of the lamp.
Chicks have different nutritional needs than adult chickens, so make sure to have the feed made specifically for them. Look for chick grower rations with protein, vitamins, and minerals. Generally, crumbles are easier for the chicks to eat. We like our Chick Starter for chicks up to 3 weeks old, and our Poultry Developer for birds up to 16-18 weeks old.
As chicks grow, they needs lots of extra attention. Good thing they’re so cute!
Chicks will regulate their own heat to a point. They will stand under the light if they’re cold and move away if they’re warm. They’ll also huddle together to provide warmth for the group. Their huddles can also cause accidental smothering or suffocation, so check in on them regularly to make sure everybody’s safe.
As they grow, their need for heat will diminish, so you can raise the height of the light. Here’s some general temperature requirements:
Day 0-7 (95°F)
Day 7-14 (90°F)
Day 14-21 (85°F)
Day 21-28 (80°F)
Day 28-35 (75°F)
Day 35 (70°F)
Each time you raise the light’s height, observe the birds closely to make sure they are comfortable and safe.
Water is essential to healthy chicks. When you first introduce the chicks to the brooder, be sure to give them fresh water before you give them access to feed. Check their water levels every day to make sure they are consuming enough. You may want to consider adding a water protector to their water supply to keep it fresh and free of residue and contaminants. We love Carefree Enzymes Water Protector for Chickens.
Just like human teenagers, adolescent chickens are feisty and can behave badly. Keep a close eye on their interactions to protect against bullying and injuries. Make sure the birds have enough space to reduce mischief. If they’re too close together, toe picking or feather plucking might break out, and those are hard habits to break.
For the first few days, give your chicks easy access to their feed by sprinkling it directly on the brooder floor. After that, you can place a chick feeder into the brooder. Just like the water, check the feed levels to make sure they’re eating enough. To help their digestion, be sure to also offer grit in a separate feeder—they’ll need special chick grit until they’re around 8 weeks old.
With a little preparation, close observation, and lot of love, your chicks will grow from little fluffs to adult layers in no time at all. Once they reach 16-18 weeks, they’ll be ready to move to the grown-up table…the chicken coop!
Bring on the chicks…you’re ready!