Tips on Raising Chicks for the Beginner


Keeping chickens is a fairly easy job to do, especially when the birds are in the adult stage. However, raising chicks might be a bit critical. Mortality rates for baby chicks might be relatively high as they are prone to health problems and predators. These tips on raising baby chicks will help you become a pro at chicken farming.

Growing a thriving flock out of them chiefly hinges on proper management. Remember, successful chick management means thriving chickens and boosted production.

There are at least three basic essentials on raising chicks. First, a good and healthy environment. This means having a draft-free pen or brooder containing a red brooder lamp. The lamp temperature should be at 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the first five days. It should be lowered weekly by five until the chicks are six weeks old or until it is 55 degrees.

The second essential in raising chicks is feeding them properly. They should be provided with clean water, fed with starter feed and provided with medication whenever it is needed. The chick starter may then be switched to grower mash when chicks reach six weeks old. Lastly, the chicks must be kept healthy by keeping them clean, feeding them and allocating time to play outside.

Raising baby chicks is the best and the most popular option for both novices and experts. This is due to the fact that their price and labor demands are almost the same. However, although it is not as demanding as hatching eggs, raising baby chicks may be relatively so compared to keeping adult chickens. Still, the tasks can be made hassle-free and possibly enjoyable, given that one has sufficient knowledge about how to raise baby chicks.

Devices Good Brooding Pen

A brooding box or brooder is the chicks’ first home during the first few days of their life. This does not have to be elaborate, as long as it can house the chicks properly. In fact, a simple cardboard box may suffice as long as it is tall enough that the chicks cannot jump out. Also, it has to house food and water dishes aside from the chicks themselves.

Brooding boxes can be purchased in poultry stores in various shapes, sizes, and costs. Beginner chicken-keepers may start with the cheaper ones and upgrade later if needed.

Mainly, a good brooding box should be draft proof as cold drafts may easily kill the baby chicks. Setting the temperature with a heating lamp should also be necessary.

Size of Brooder

The size of the brooder should also depend on the number of chicks that are to be housed. However, at least a 2.5 square feet space for every chick should be an objective. If possible, a space bigger than this will be better. Chicken-keepers should as much as possible avoid overcrowding as it can cause problems as the chicks are growing up. Also, chicks tend to grow really quickly; hence, taking up space really quickly as well.

Temperature of the Brooder

Baby chicks do not have true feathers yet, and they cannot properly regulate their temperature by themselves yet. Therefore, the brooder should function as a warm and cozy home for them until they are grown enough to be in an adult coop. To do this, placing a brooder lamp should be necessary at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A thermometer probe should be placed underneath the lamp on the bedding.

Outdoor temperature is a factor that will determine how long the brooder temperature will stabilize. Thus, this should require constant monitoring and adjusting the lamp height as necessary. 

The 95-degree temperature should only last until the end of the chicks the first week. Then, every week, it should be reduced by about 5 degrees every week accordingly. The practice should last around 6 to 7 weeks or until the ambient temperature is approximately similar to the brooder. Usually, reducing the temperature by 5 degrees stops at 55 degrees.

Problems that come with improper temperature regulation:

It is important to set up the brooder in the required temperature even before the chicks are brought there. Waiting until they arrive from the post to turn on the lamp will only get the chicks chilled. Although the box they came in has no lamp, the chicks are warmed by body heat within the tiny space. Once they are placed in the more spacious brooder, there will be no more of the combined body heat. Hence, they are very likely to get chilled quickly.

Should the chicks get chilled in the process of initially placing them in the brooder, they are likely to get stressed. When this happens, they will possibly start pasting up around the anal vent.

How to tell if the temperature is right or not within the brooder:

Aside from the thermometer, the chicks’ behavior can best tell whether or not the temperature is correct. If they are huddled together in a bunch under the light, this means that they are too cold. Otherwise, if they are panting and are spread to the edges far from the light, meaning they are too hot. Lastly, if they are dotted all around, meaning the temperature is just right.

One can remedy the incorrect temperature by adjusting the distance of the brooder lamp or bulb. Otherwise, the wattage of the bulb may be changed.

What is the correct lamp or light to be used:

Generally, most chicken-keepers use an actual heat lamp. However, a 100-watt light bulb with a reflector may just be enough.

Chicken-keepers should make sure to use the correct bulb as other bulbs may kill the birds. Teflon-coated bulbs, for instance, are not ideal because the material is poisonous to chickens.

Bedding

A good layer of bedding should be placed at the bottom of the brooder. Pine shavings or other similar materials are ideal for a clean litter. This should be changed out regularly, every couple of days, never leaving it damp. A dirty and damp environment can encourage diseases such as coccidiosis. It is important to keep the brooder clean as baby chicks are highly susceptible to multiple diseases.

Moreover, it is imperative to never line the bottom of the box with newspaper or other similar materials. This is because a newspaper is slippery underfoot, which can affect the chicks with foot and leg problems growing up.

Additionally, very small chicks may also require paper towels over their bedding or wood shavings. The purpose of this is to prevent them from pecking and eating the shavings as they make out what food is. Then, as the chicks are around a month old, a low roost about 4 inches of the floor may be added. This will encourage them to start roosting. However, this should never be placed directly under the lamp as it is too warm there.

Supply Consistent Food and Water in Proper Dishes

Newly transported baby chicks are most likely hungry and thirsty. This is usually why they give out loud peeping noise as they arrive in a box. Immediately supplying them with food and water should work to calm while providing them critical nutrition.

Food and water dishes should be placed around the edges of the brooding lamp’s heat. They should not be too far away from the middle, but also not right under it. They should also be filled even before the chicks arrive to save the trouble of cramming. It is a good idea to fill them about two days prior to the chicks’ arrival.

Aside from filling the dishes with water and chicken starter, respectively, they should be filled with clean marbles or pebbles. This is especially necessary for the water dish to prevent the chicks from drowning or getting soaked. Chicks are especially clumsy, and sometimes, their clumsiness can lead to fatal results.

Also, chicks naturally scratch at their food. Thus, it requires choosing the correct feeder, preferably one that keeps the food from spillage as the chicks are likely to poop right into their feeders, so it requires regular dish cleaning and refilling.

Chick Food

As mentioned, baby chicks are usually fed with chick starter feed or crumbles. This type of food is particularly tailored to accommodate their dietary needs. It comes in the medicated or non-medicated form. Medicated feed typically contains a small amount of Amprolium drugs to prevent coccidiosis.

Medicated feed is not a constant option for all chicks. Unless the chicks are un-vaccinated, then medicated feed should not be used.

Chick crumbles is a complete chick food. This means that it does not require other food. However, in about a week or two, adding treats to the chicks’ diet may be practiced. It is important to remember to offer chick grit in order to help break down new food. Otherwise, coarse sand works may be used if chick grit is not available. 

Chick grit should also be necessary as the chicks begin eating short grass or dandelions. This helps them digest the food as well as makes certain that they do not get an impacted crop.

After eight weeks of chick crumbles or starters, the chicks’ feed may then be switched to grower until their fourteenth week. Then, up until their eighteenth week should they be fed with finisher feed. Beyond that, they may then be fed with layer feed.

Age of ChickFeed
0 to 8 weeks old18 to 20 percent starter feed crumbles
8 to 14 weeks old16 to 1 percent starter or grower
15 to 18 weeks old16 percent finisher
Beyond 18 weeks16 percent layer feed

Chick Water

As the brooder is arranged, chicks will have to be trained where to access their food and water dishes. One should have to dip the chicks’ beaks into the water at the beginning. This will help them find and know where the water is.

As mentioned, a couple of clean marbles or pebbles should be placed in the water dish. This is to prevent the chicks from falling in and drowning. Then, the marbles or pebbles may be removed after about a week as the chicks grow big enough not to drown in.

An electrolyte or vitamin supplement should be added in the water for the first few days for a good start.

Also, as mentioned, the chicks tend to kick bedding or poop into the water dish. Hence, the water should be changed a number of times every day.

Allocate a Time for the Chicks to Play Outside

In raising chicks, you need to remember that two to three weeks old chicks, as adult chickens, are highly curious. They will like it if they are put outside for short periods of time, given that the temperature is sufficiently high. Ideally, temperatures over 65 degrees Fahrenheit is warm enough. The chicks can use their time under the sun playing and foraging. However, as mentioned, it is important to incorporate grit to the chick feed to help them digest the new food.

Furthermore, chicks at this age are rather fast, and their size is enough to squeeze into small spaces. Because of this, they are highly vulnerable to predators like house dogs or cats or other wild animals and pests. Therefore, it is important to secure an enclosure or improvise a mini-chicken run or a dog crate for them.

Lastly, put the chicks in a shady area to offer some protection from the sun. It also helps to keep their food and water cool to balance out the temperature.

Related Questions

What does pasting up mean?

Pasting up is a condition that gets the baby chicks’ feces stuck on their downy feathers around their anal vent. This condition is alarming as it tends to prevent the chicks from defecating. If ignored, this can even cause the chicks to die. Pasting up occurs during the first week or so of the chicks. This is caused by the stress of transportation or over-handling. Also, introducing them to a non-pre-heated brooder can cause them to get chilled. Getting chilled, in general, stresses the birds and thus causing pasting up.

To treat pasting up, warm and wet washcloth should be used to wipe the chicks clean. Otherwise, if it does not work, opting to cut away the downy feathers with scissors may be necessary. If the feces is dried, however, it can be ripped off like a band-aid. The down comes off with this as well, which is good for preventing pasting up to happen again. It is important to often examine the chicks, upside down if needed, to check for pasting around their anal vent. This is a practice a chicken-keeper must always keep in mind in raising chicks.

When is the right time to remove the chicks from the brooder and place them in a proper chicken coop?

In raising chicks, it is best to remember that the first two weeks in the life of a chick is most critical and they must remain in a brooder. This is the time when they are most susceptible health and growth problems. By the second to third week, chicks can then be taken outside to play. They will love the warmth of the sun as they tend to be still a bit chilly. Ideally, the temperature should at least be 65 degrees Fahrenheit for it to be warm enough for them.

Chicks are ready for the main coops at 4-5 weeks. If the brooder is already in the coop in the first place, it can be removed with the heat lamp. It is important to remember to keep the chicks closed in the coop for a day or two when moving. This is for the purpose of teaching them that the coop is their home. After this period can they then be allowed to free-range.

What safety considerations do human handlers have to take in raising chicks?

Poultry at any age can possibly have Salmonella germs on their bodies – such as feathers, feet, and beaks. Also, they may release the germs in their droppings. Looking good, healthy, and clean does not always guarantee that they are free of the germs. As they are introduced on the farm, Salmonella germs can get on almost anything the birds come in contact with. It can also be found on the hands, shoes, and clothing of the people who stay anywhere near the birds.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps in the abdomen to humans within 78 hours of contact. The infection starts when humans who have been in contact with the birds’ feces put their hands in or around their mouth. Therefore, the best safety measure to take is immediate hand washing after touching the birds or anything in their space. Young children should especially be watched as they are more likely to put their hands or anything in their mouths.

Eni Gordove

is a freelance writer that covers several niches like digital marketing, book publishing and marketing, travel, home improvements, and backyard gardening and farming. Also, she's a strong advocate of eco-farming and home gardening.

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