Learning how to raise baby chicks seems like it shouldn’t be too hard. But in that first few days, they can be a little tricky.
There are a few things that are a lifesaver and will determine how many chicks make it.
But if you don’t, baby chicks can go down fast. Once you get the hang of it though you will be a pro. It just takes some consistent monitoring so you can fix the issue as soon as you notice.
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Whether you have a small coop to fill, or you just love the fun of having those cute little balls of fuzz every spring. Baby chicks are some of the most fun you will have raising small farm animals.
No backyard farm or homestead is complete without baby chicks, even if they soon turn into full-grown chickens. They are one of the least expensive animals to buy, and easy to take care of especially when they are fully grown.
Where You Get Your Baby Chicks From
One thing that will have a huge variable on how “solid” your chicks will be is where you get them from. If you ordered your chicks online from a hatchery they will be a little more vulnerable because they are very young.
When you buy from a local farm store the chicks have already gone through shipment and are a few days old. Also the workers have been able to get rid of the ones that didn’t make it.
While I think you get better quality chicks from a hatchery you do pay a bit more. If this is your first time raising baby chicks I would go with buying them from a farm supply store then order from a hatchery once you feel confident. If you are wondering where you should buy baby chicks this will help you.
What You Need For Your Baby Chicks
There are two different sizes of flakes and different brands call them different names. You want the shavings that are really small. Almost as thin as a strand of cooked spaghetti. especially if you have bantam chicks, make sure to get the smallest shavings possible.
It was kind of an “ops” moment when I got my first batch of bantam chicks. They were trying to climb over the large flakes that were all the way up to their chest. 🙄 sorry fellas.
The shavings I fill my coop with are more like flakes almost an inch square for some of them.
The chick starter feed is always a higher protein it tends to be between 18-21%. If you are raising broilers you want it much higher in protein.
Always get a crumble because the baby chicks can’t swallow the pellets. But I do recommend going to the pellets when the chicks are bigger just because there is much less waste and the birds will find the pellets and eat them off the ground. But crumbles get smashed into the ground.
Waterers For Chicks
I like the ones you can screw a mason jar in and flip (quickly) over. It keeps the birds out of the container because there is not much room in them. Another tip would be to put the waterer up on something to put the rim at chest height for the chicks. This will save them from getting too wet and cold. But also keep the bedding dry.
Very similar to the waterer. These are better with smaller birds because they don’t get stuck in them like they sometimes can in the trough-style feeder.
Thermometer – I like this one because of the suction cup you can place it closer to the same level as the chicks to ensure accurate temperature reading.
Heat lamp and bulb
You must have a 250-watt bulb unless you are in a warmer climate (like 75 degrees or more) the 175-watt bulb will not warm the area up enough.
Heat, Heat, Heat!!!
That is the number one factor that will leave you successful or not so successful in your journey with baby chicks. It is helpful if you know how to read the chicks (yes I mean chick body language) to see if they are too cold or too hot.
If they are huddled under the lamp then it’s not warm enough. So bring the lamp closer to the chicks. Stay close for the next 10-15 minutes to watch them and make sure the light is not too close. It will heat up fast and you don’t want to cook them on accident.
Once they start moving around the brooder and are more spread out you know you have it right.
But if they are hiding behind the feeder and pushing as far away from the heat source as possible then it is to close and you need to back it up a bit. Even if they are not trying to get away from the heat lamp but they are panting then it is still a bit to close.
Best Temperature For Baby Chicks
Try the best you can to keep the temperatures as steady as possible. Fluctuation can also cause health issues in baby chickens.
- Week 1: 85 to 90 degrees
- Week 2: 80 to 85 degrees
- Week 3: 75 to 80 degrees
- Week 4: 70 to 75 degrees
By this time the chicks should be fully feathered they should able to be outside during the summer months if they are in the 80-90 degree range.
Just be careful not to leave the baby chicks outside simply because of all the potential predators out there. So much can happen to them if they are not protected.
They are also easily damaged so if they get scared and run into something they can hurt themselves. I had a baby duck run into our house foundation and break its neck
Your First Day With Baby Chicks
On the day of arrival (if you order from a hatchery) you should add electrolytes to the water which are not very expensive. If you don’t have electrolytes on hand a few teaspoons of sugar added to slightly warm water will do just as well.
They have been through a lot and giving them that extra boost will help increase the survival rate by quite a bit.
No matter how good you get, you will lose at least one or two birds if ordered from a hatchery.
When chicks are hatched they have ingested enough of the yolk to be fine for the first 24 – 48hrs. But being shipped in the mail for the first 48 hours of your life would be hard on you too…
Most hatcheries will send a few extra birds to help make up for the losses.
If you are losing a quarter or more of how many you ordered then something is still not quite right and you might need to do some investigating.
The first thing to check is to make sure the heat level is high enough. Then the next thing is to check into the drafts. Just because you have a heat lamp over them does not mean it is eating the whole area enough to keep them warm. If the container you have the baby chicks in is too large then the heat wont build up and just dissipate. Its like using a heater in a tent. It doesn’t work too well.
Feeding Your Baby Chicks
If you are raising broilers (meat birds) then they need to eat completely different and you should head over to this post to read the best feeding routine for them.
Feeding is pretty simple. Keep their feeder full with chick starter and the waterer full of clean water while they are growing and you will be fine.
Side Note: Something to check into before you buy chicks if you live in town is to make sure you are able to keep chickens. You might be surprised how many major cities allow people to raise chicken. Most do not, however, allow for a rooster.
Should You Keep Your Baby Chickes Separate Or Keep Together
If you order bantams, turkeys, ducks or anything other they chicken at the same time they are going to ship them all together in the same compartment most likely.
Shipping is fine but living together will cause issues.
Bantams, of course, are very easy to trample.
Turkeys… well God
Duckings LOVE the water and will make a disaster out of any amount of water you give them. If they are in with the other poultry they will get wet and cause them to be cold most likely killing your other birds because they could not get warm.
Adding The New Chickens To Your Existing Flock
One last thing that needs to be touched on is introducing new birds to your flock. How well this goes depends drastically on the breed you already have. I have never been a fan of RoadIalnd Reds and I have several examples to prove my point.
Watch the behavior of the original flock and if you can either put the birds in the coop at night and everyone wakes up together things seem to go a lot better with far less to no fighting. But also make sure that the new birds are being allowed to eat. We had a situation where the old hens were not letting the new birds get to the food and lost a few before we realized what was going on.
Then we have had Columbian wyandottes that take on new birds like they were their own babies.
You should be well on your way to being a poultry master by now. Have fun with your new feathered babies. If there is something I did not cover that you would like to see added to the post, let me know in the comments.