Raising Baby Chicks

Raising Baby Chicks the basics

Here we go again!  In very early 2012 we got 6 rhode island red girls as 2 day old chicks, and a few months later I added 3 barred rock girls to our flock.  Shortly there after we made a semi-cross country trek with our family and couldn’t take the girls with us, so we sold them and their coop.

But alas!

We have moved, and this time to a farm!

Our first animal purchase?  Why 15 baby chicks, of course!  They are a mix of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Welssumers, and Easter Eggers.  (literally they are mutts.  But 2 are definitely barred rocks, and many are Easter Eggers, as you can tell by their puffy cheeks.)

Yes, there is a ton of info on raising chicks out there- and YES you should read it all because most of it is useful and you can pick and pull what works for your set up.  I use Backyardchickens.com for most of my reading.

Here is my bit of info on raising chicks from my point of view:

  1. a good laying breed will give an average of 5 eggs a week.  For a typical family, 4 chickens provide plenty of eggs.
  2. there is this thing called chicken math- learn about it because I promise, once you have (pet, backyard) chickens you will be infected with chicken math!
  3. baby chicks are cute, they’re dirty, the spread dust everywhere, they will drown in their water, they will poop in their food, they will suffocate each other (or themselves) accidentally, they grow FAST, and they are pretty loud …
  4. baby chicks eat chick feed known as crumbles; you want to feed them from a feeder that is covered (a typical chick feeder at farmer supply stores) because they will roost on it, knock it over, poop in it, and throw the feed out ‘erywhere! (did I mention they are dirty little things?)
  5. you don’t have to use a teeny tiny chick waterer (they out grow them SO fast, like, as in 2 weeks!) put marbles or rocks (we used rocks form the driveway) in a full size poultry waterer to prevent them from falling in or drowning if they do fall in (something to catch their footing and hop out).
  6. despite being fairly hardy, baby chicks are prone to illness if their conditions are not kept clean- they need dry, warmth, food, and water.  check their bottoms for pasty butt (where poop covers their bottoms and they get clogged), keep a red light on them at one end of the brooder for warmth, and check feed/water at least twice a day.  You never know what those little crazies have done!
  7. chicks need PINE bedding– cedar bedding will cause respiratory illness in poultry.  PINE.  PINE.  PINE.  Say it with me now .. PINE bedding.
  8. be sure to keep their brooder dry: moisture plus baby chicky dust equals SICK chicks
  9. you don’t have to have a thermometer in the brooder to keep the temp.  You can tell if the chicks are too warm by how spread out or how much panting they are doing; too cold by how piled up they are.  When they act too hot, raise your brooder light up.  Each week you want to cool them off by 5 degrees until their temp reaches that of the outside (or there abouts- once they are fully feathered they can keep warm), so raise it up a few inches each week.  For us, raising fall time chicks, they will need to get acclimated to pretty cool temps here in Kansas.  I got a thermometer and taped it in the brooder because it was $1.79 at the tractor supply store … so it is up to you.
  10. each chick needs about 1 sq foot of space until they are about 6 weeks, then they need more (but they should be going out to a coop by then, so be sure they have enough room in there or you will have bickering, unhappy chickens)  I guessed on our brooder size; I made it BIG since we got 15 chickens.  You can use just about anything for a brooder0 totes, boxes, make one by taping boxes (like I did), or buy a kit.
  11. at about 2 weeks you can introduce chick grit to get them ready for nibbling on sand, dirt, and rocks outside. Our chicks enjoy scratching around for the grit.
  12. most of the time you will know if you have a rooster when they are 5-8 weeks.  Look for a very red, larger comb and depending on the breed you can look at their markings (some males have lighter, more defined, or no markings, etc-just depends on breed).
  13. Chicks like going outside; provided you have something like milk crates, you can take your chicks out for fresh air for a while. Again, if they get too cool they will all huddle up and sleep.  Ours hopped around eating bugs and scratching.
  14. Enjoy-  Like babies, they aren’t little for long!

Next time I will post about our coop!

Raising Baby Chicks the basics 2

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