Care of Baby Chicks
Temperature: 90 degrees the first
week and then 5 degrees less each week, until 60 or
70 degrees and then they should not need supplemental
heat anymore. One 125 watt half-power heat lamp in a
utility reflector is sufficient. I you use a typical
250 W heat lamp, you will need a ceramic socket. Ventilation
is important also.
Floor space: provide ½-1 square foot per bird
for first four weeks. Two square foot per bird after
fours week. Birds often pick at each other if they do
not have sufficient space, fresh air, food or water,
or are too hot. Fresh grass clippings and/or clumps
of sod with grass may keep them busy and help eliminate
Sometimes in the first few weeks chicks tend to paste
up on their rear ends (ie, dried poop on their butts).
This needs to be removed. Use warm water and cloth orplace
their butt under a faucet with gentle warm water. Moisten
and dissolve the clump. This is less of a concern after
Litter/Bedding: do NOT use newspaper (alone) or anything
slick to raise chicks on because this may cause damage
to their legs. Shavings work well, particularly pine
and fir. Straw will work but can be slick for young
chicks and usually harder to clean. Be sure to clean
often and do not let chicks be on wet litter, it must
be kept dry.
Feed: use chick starter crumble (preferably with antibiotics)
for at lest 3 months from hatch. At month 3 or 4, layer
hen pellets can be gradually introduced into their food.
You may blend chick and layer food or buy a "developer"
feed for the 10-20 week old period. Also, provide some
grit, preferably in a separate container (though, in
most instances, chickens that are free-ranged at least
part of the day do not need supplemental grit). By 4
to 5 months, your girls should be on layer food. It
is recommended to provide oyster shells or some other
form of calcium (for example, your recycled crushed
up egg shells) to assist with egg shell development.
Water: always provide ample, fresh water to your birds.
Use appropriate waterers so that birds do not drown.
Do not use bowls or dishes. Raise waterers as he birds
grow. The lip of the waterer should be even with the
bird’s back. That way the waterers will stay cleaner
and it is easier for the birds to drink.
Feeders: like the waterers, raise the feeders as birds
grow. Hanging feeders and waterers reduce spoilage from
chickens stepping in the device.
Additional Info: be prepared before purchasing poultry.
More chicks are lost due to improper preparation such
as heat, litter, waterers, feeders and feed than from
disease. The area used for rearing should be free of
rodents, cats, dogs, etc. It is not suggested to raise
chicks together that are more than two or three weeks
apart in age. The older ones may pick the younger ones,
potentially to death. Use your good judgment if you
are try this. It is often not be a problem, though providing
sufficient space and heat minimizes problems.
Buy a book on home chicken raising, attend one of our
workshops (or someone else's), talk to friends (or strangers)
who have chickens, post questions on the backyard chicken
list serve (info below under community resources) and/or
search the web for information.
Good luck, have fun and take pictures (I think posting
pet chicken photos in the reason facebook was created)!
Cheers, your friends at Livingscape