How to raise baby chicks
Raising baby chicks is fun and very easy with just a few basic guidelines.
Raising baby chicks
Raising baby chicks is a fun job that is easy enough for children to participate in. The chicks will grow amazingly fast from fluffy little peep to a feathered, rambunctious teenager in just a few weeks. The main requirements are a draft-free brooder, heat source, food and water.
Housing the chicks
The first decision to make is where to house the chicks. It needs to be free of any drafts and provide protection from predators. Chicks cannot tolerate drafts and will die if exposed to them when they are in the first week or two of life.
You can purchase a commercial brooder made for the purpose. These tend to be pricey and can easily be designed at home. Some people use a round or oval rubber or metal tub, like those used for a horse trough. The lack of corners is a very good thing as the chicks can never pile into a corner and get suffocated. But any solid sided container will do. It should have a screen-type lid if the container is located in a barn or shed where predators (cats, snakes, etc) can get in. If the building is secure then a lid isn't necessary till they begin to flit around in about a month.
Bed the bottom of your brooder with wood shavings that are sold for animals (not all woods are safe for animals). You can also use straw. Avoid sawdust as the chicks may eat this and clog their insides. For the first two days cover their bedding with paper, while they learn where their food is and learn not to eat the bedding. Be sure to remove the paper then so their legs develop normally.
Keeping the peeps warm
The second consideration is the heat source. The best thing to do is purchase a heat lamp and use a red bulb in it. The red bulb tends to prevent picking (chicks picking at one another creating sores) over the white bulb. The temperature under the lamp should technically be at 95 degrees in the beginning, but it isn't really necessary to measure it—the peeps will tell you if they are too warm or cold. If they are cold they will huddle and you need to increase the temperature or move the lamp closer. If they avoid going under the lamp, it is too hot. A nice even spacing of chicks means you have it just right. It should be cooled approximately 5 degrees each week till you match ambient temperatures.
How to feed and water them
Special food designed for chicks must be used. They cannot eat the larger pieces in adult chicken scratch or pellets. Chick feed (sometimes divided into “Starter” and “Grower”) is a smashed, powdery food that may or may not contain medication for coccidiosis. If your chicks were vaccinated against this disease then do not use the medicated feed. If not then you really should.
Feed as much as they will eat. It is necessary to feed them in containers made for feeding chicks. This will help prevent them from flipping the container or pooping in the food. For very little peeps you can start them with an egg carton, with the six attached cups filled with feed. Once they get bigger they will walk through it and knock it over.
The last consideration is water. They must always have access to clean water provided in a container designed for chicks. Some people put clear marbles in the water trough. This is thought to attract the newly hatched chicks to the water by their glittering and also prevent them from accidentally getting too far into the water. They will manage to constantly get poop and bedding into the water so it just needs to be cleaned daily.
And that is all there is to it. Your baby peeps will appreciate some “extras” as they grow, like a handful of grass once a day. If you can put a bar in they will begin to roost at night around 3-4 weeks. If you handle them daily they will get used to you and look forward to the attention. Always wash your hands after handling them.