We presented some common chicken breed choices in a previous post, and how to go about purchasing chickens. But what if raising baby chicks from birth sounds more enticing? Not only are they adorable, but cultivating baby chicks can be a fantastic opportunity for children to learn about responsibility and care for small animals.
However, some preparation is needed. Raising chicks is relatively simple, but you still need to have the right materials. (If this is your first time considering a chicken coop and raising chickens long-term, please see our many options here, because you will need a place for them when they are old enough to thrive in their own home– and if you want incredible eggs!)
First and foremost, you need a place fitable to baby chickens. This is called a brooder. A brooder can be as simple as a large cardboard box or as big as a kiddie pool, as long as there is viable space relative to the amount of chicks you decide to raise (three or five is a good number to begin with). You should have at least 2 square feet of space per chick. The more room, the better. Line the brooder with fresh pine shavings lined neatly over a clean towel. Do not use newspapers or plastics; these are too slippery for your chicks and can promote leg and feet deformities as they slip all about in their growing. At this stage, you must be diligent in cleaning out the brooder and replacing the pine shavings at least once every three days. Do not put it off, for chicks are prone to many diseases in dirty, damp environments.
Secondly, you need to add warmth. A heat lamp from a pet store is just fine, or you can use a 100 watt lamp. For the first week of your chicks’ lives, the highest temperature in the brood should be about 95 degrees fahrenheit. Until your chicks have ample feathers– around 6 to 8 week of age– reduce the heat level, measured at the hottest place in the brood, to 5 degrees lesser each week. This might take some tweeking. Sometimes it’s too hot, and sometimes it’s too cold. Be sure to provide an even distribution of heat, and a darker place, in case some of your birds need a cool down. You will be able to tell if they are too hot or two cold by their activity in the coop and their huddling together or hiding from the light.
Finally, be diligent in your feeding and watering. Chicks have special food which can be purchased at most pet stores or farms. Give us a call and we can tell you more about medicated and non-medicated chick feed. Consider investing in a solid water and feed dish, ones that are not too great it depth. If you’re not careful, it can be easy for chicks to fall into their dishes, slip, or drown.
We’re lucky to be nestled in Lancaster County, where farms are everywhere. If you decide to begin raising chickens and want to start out with chicks, be sure to inquire at local farm and feed stores in March and April. That is the time most chicks are plentiful. If you have any questions or need some pointers to some good sellers, give us a call. We’re here to help guide you in the right direction and start off your backyard chicken days right!