Thursday, March 10, 2011

Raising Chicks part 1

In the back is a Easter Egger  and up front is a Barred Rock
I know this is probably a bit late but I wanted to post on raising chicks for those first timers. It really is very very easy and a lot of fun too. Here is the basics of caring for young chicks and as always should you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me and I will do my best to answer your question.

Here is a list of things you will need before your chicks arrive..
  • chick waterer- 1quart( I had a 1 gal. so I used it but be careful one of mine almost drowned. You could place those sooth round stones along the base to keep that from happening)
  • chick starter- can get this at your local feed & seed or Tractor Supply- DO NOT buy medicated if your chicks have been vaccinated already. Chick starter comes in regular or medicated. If your chicks have not been vaccinated then it is probably a good idea to get this. However if you are ordering chicks from a hatchery I recommend getting them vaccinated, it is very cheap!
  • I also recommend purchasing some grow gel when you order your chicks or you can purchase it separately, this gets them off to a good start after their rough journey through the mail.
  • chick feeder or  you can buy a plastic or galvanized round bottom that screws onto a pint or quart sized canning jar
  • heating lamp with reflector and either a white or red 250watt light bulb. Red is best as it is easier on their eyes making it easier to sleep and helps prevent picking/pecking.
  • something to put them in (a brooder which can be bought or homemade), chicks like hens need so much space per bird, 2 sq ft per bird (chicks grow very fast and will need the room). You can make a little smaller but you will soon find the need for space and may need to move them into something else. Now a brooder can be as simple as a large cardboard box (I used 2 cut out one side of each box and duck taped them together), a small child swimming pool with something high going around the sides (chicks can jump pretty high!), even plastic storage bins. Anything is fine as long as it as high enough sides or something to put on top to keep them from getting out. I put a window screen on my box to keep them from getting out.
This picture shows the half of the brooder that was out of the heat lamp and had the food and water. The green stuff is the grow gel.
Rhode Island Red
Now the day your little ones arrive should should get them into their new home under the heat lamp. The heating lamp is very important. They will tell you that it should be 90-95 degrees for the first week and then subtract 5 degrees every week till you get to 70 degrees. Well  to make life simpler just follow this tip..start it out about 2 feet above the floor of the brooder. Make sure you have an area from them to come and go from the light/heat as they need to. How I did it I had two cardboard boxes one had the heat lamp the other did not and also had there food and water. They would go in and out when they needed. You must make it so they can get out of the heat. Now as to adjusting it just let your chicks tell you when they are too hot or cold. If you find they are always under the heat lamp then move it a little closer and again if you find them staying out or near the edge of the heat lamp then raise it a little. You should see them happily going to and from this lets you know they are good to go. I wish I had better pictures of the entire brooder to show.

 Once in there new home go ahead and if you have the grow gel give them this and no water or other food for the first hour. The grow gel provides important nutrients and hydration to day old chicks. It is bright green so to attract them to it. I remember mine ate it up like nobodies business!  This should only be given them on the first day. After one hour of the grow gel go ahead and give them water. After day one start them on chick starter for at least the first 8 weeks. Then switch to a grower/finisher till about 17 weeks and then a complete layer. Layer feed can come in crumbles/mash or pellets, organic, or homemade, the choice is up to you however I prefer the $13 bag of Demor laying crumbles/pellets.  Chicks should also be given some grit but not the kind for adult hens,go to your local pet store or even super market and get the kind for pet birds as it is much finer. Then switch to a crushed granite when they get bigger. The grit is swallowed and kept in there crop to help grind their food.

A good bedding for chicks is pine shavings as it is absorbent and and they can't eat it but you can use newspaper though I have read people advise not to as it can cause them to slip and mess up there legs but I know friends who have used it and no problems.

* One other thing that is really important to keep an eye on is what is known as pasting up. This is caused by poop which is a bit runny or loose at first and it forms a crust on their bottom preventing them to go to the bathroom. I had this happen to a couple of mine a number of times. What you will need to do if this happens is get a warm wash cloth and gently keeping rubbing their bottom till it is washed off. After a few days you shouldn't have a problem with this.

A few others things to consider...

On warm days you can let them out in a small confined area under supervision.
Rhode Island Red really feathering out now spending some warm afternoons outside.

A small roost bar in the brooder if possible as they will start to want to perch at night.

They are a little older here getting wing and tail feathers in , you can see the roost bar in the background now.
That's pretty much it for a while. If you are not introducing them to an established flock then at about 10 weeks you can move them into their new coop. If you still have cold nights then you should continue with a heat lamp at night by then they should have most of there feathers to help keep them warm. If you are introducing them to an established flock for the first time I have some tips that might help to introduce them into the flock with as little stress as possible..that will be in part 2.

 Enjoy them, they grow so fast and oh are they ever so cute to watch! Often when someone was missing from the family it was because they were with the chicks! lol They are so cuddly too. Oh I miss when mine were that small. Watching them grow, getting in their tiny little wing and tail feathers, then watching them just starting to scratch like the big girls and even start trying to take a dust bath (which can be really scary at first as you think something is wrong with them but they are just fine). They are a joy and boy do they make some noise! We kept ours in the hall bathroom as we had nowhere to keep them. There cheeps are very loud and that was only from 6!  


  1. This is a great post! I hav the gro-gel and the chick water and feeder so they don't drown in the bigger ones. I have not set up a brooder yet and was worried about the heat being correct. you have explained it well.

  2. Very cool, Meghan. And what cute babies.