How to raise baby chicks. Do you want to raise chicks at home, but not sure how to get started? We have raised backyard chickens for years and I am happy to share what I’ve learned about how to raise baby chicks. Raising chickens is a fun and rewarding process that I believe most people will enjoy. After all, who can resist such cuteness? Just a few chickens can provide a surplus of low cost fresh eggs that you can sell or give away. Raising chickens takes very little room and can provide all natural eggs and meat for the health conscious and/or budget conscious gourmet. Let us show you what we have learned here at Frugal Mom about how to raise baby chicks for fun and food.
When it comes to getting started on raising chickens at home, you have options. You can purchase fertilized chicken eggs and hatch them yourself, you can purchase chicks, or you can start with chickens that are fully feathered. Today I’m going to share with you how to raise baby chicks. We will share with you what we have used to raise baby chicks. In this batch, we currently have 8 chicks that we got when they were just a day old. Our little flock of chicks consists of 2 Barred Rocks, 4 Buff Orphingtons, and 2 Americaunas.
How to Raise Baby Chicks
Before you start, consider if chickens are a right fit for your own home. So what are the benefits to owning chickens? They make great (and funny) pets, and are wonderful at keeping the bug population down in your yard! Many breeds are really sociable and love people. And who can resist the amazing flavor of fresh eggs (which make eggcellent gifts)! The biggest downside that I’ve found is chickens can be a bit messy if free ranged and it does take a bit of work to keep the coop nice and clean.
What chicken breeds are best? That is a great question, and everyone has differing opinions on which breeds are best. My favorite breed is probably the Barred Rocks. They are really sweet and friendly, and are great egg layers. But maybe you’d like to raise chickens for meat (Jersey Giants are a great choice), or just for pets (Silkies are great pets and it’s like having a flock of kittens). To learn more about the different breeds, we love to visit our friends at Backyard Chickens.
Supplies for Raising Chicks
Ready to get started learning how to raise baby chicks? Here is everything you need to start raising your own baby chicks at home. This is exactly what we have successfully used to raise baby chicks in our own home.
- Your very own chickens! We got ours from a local hatchery that I found through Craigslist. This is a great option if you simply want to have backyard chickens. However if you want to show your chickens, we recommend getting them from a breeder instead of a hatchery. Ideal Poultry ships day old chicks and they are a reputable and trustworthy company. So if you don’t have a hatchery in your area, consider having them shipped!
- A heat lamp so the baby chicks can stay warm until they move outside to the coop. The heat lamp contains 2 parts – the bulb (you can choose between the 75 watt or 150 watt bulb. We went with the 150 watt bulb), and the Clamp Lamp. If you are raising your chicks in the house or in a temperate environment, you can probably just buy the lower wattage 75 watt bulb.
- Pine shavings for bedding.
- A nice perch for them to learn to perch and to play on
- A pen like Farm Innovators Baby Chick Starter Home Kit. This kit is low cost and is easy to store and clean. You can see the picture of ours below. I really like this as an option because it is the perfect size for every stage of the growing chick’s life, and the price is right! You’ll see in the picture below that it comes with an arm for holding the heat lamp. In our experience, even when on the tallest setting, the arm was too low. So we clamped the bulb to the back of a chair and moved it the the right spot. And yes, we are raising the chicks in the house! We probably could have done fine with the 75 watt bulb.
- Chick starter feed F.M. Brown’s Encore Natural Chick Starter Daily Diet for Pets, 7-Pound
- Food container Plastic Flip Top Poultry Feeder
- Water container Little Giant 1-Gallon Plastic Poultry Fount Complete Waterer with 750 Red Base
- Thermometer Timex 6.5-Inch Tube Thermometer (TX1001)
- Chicken wire or dog wire to cover the top of the pen so they don’t jump out!
Bringing Chicks Home
When you are raising baby chicks, they should be kept in a draft free enclosure that is layered with bedding. We like to use pine bedding. For the 1st 3 days, put a layer of paper towels over the pine bedding so the chicks don’t try to eat their bedding. You can also sprinkle some of their food on the paper towels to help them find it easily and encourage them to scratch for food . After 3 days, remove the paper towels – they can live directly on the pine bedding. When you bring the chicks home for the first time, make sure they have immediate access to food and water. Bring the chicks directly to the water first and show them where it is located. In a short time they will all be crowded around their water.
Keeping Your Chicks at the Proper Temperature Baby chicks need to be kept warm. The first week of their lives they require a temperature of 95°F, the second week they need to be at 90°F, the third week at 85°F. Continue dropping the temperature down by 5°F per week until they’re ready to transition to “outside”. They are usually ready between 5-6 weeks of age (that’s when they get all there adult feathers). Basically, every week you’ll move the lamp further away until they can stand room temperature on there own without the lamp. We put the thermometer where the baby chicks congregate so we always know the exact temperature at a glance. If you are wondering if they are at the right temperature, the chicks will let you know! If they move away from the light most of the time, they may be too warm so move the lamp back. If they huddle up together in a group directly under the heat lamp, they are probably too cold. In that case, simply move the lamp closer. They have a flock mentality so they will always sleep together, so if they group up its nothing to worry about.
Keeping your chicks healthy, be sure to clean the cage at least once or twice a week (or more often as needed). Check their chick food and water daily, and keep it cleared of droppings and bedding. The chicks like to scratch around and can easily get dirty bedding in their food and water. You also want to make sure they don’t “paste up,” which is when their droppings stick to them and blocks them up. This can cause fatal constipation, so just clear up any stuck droppings with a damp cloth or paper towel
Play time is important! After the chicks are 3-4 weeks old and it’s warm and sunny outside (70-75 degrees at least), let them have a little “outside time!” Put them out in the yard, you may want a temporary boundary or just keep a close eye on them. They will LOVE to scratch around in the grass and play, but don’t leave them unattended they are at a prime age for predators, plus if its to windy they will get cold (they will let you know by their loud high-pitched chirping). Raising baby chicks at home, whether in an urban or rural setting is not only fun, but it also provides a all natural source of fresh eggs, and even meat. You too can raise baby chicks at home for fun and food!