Keeping chicks 101

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Chicks are way too cute! They are usually how people get into raising chickens. There you are wandering through your favorite outdoor store. Bam! You’re confronted with little balls of fluffy cuteness!

fluffy chicks
How could you say no?

So you get a few, because you don’t want just one to grow up alone after all. Now what? It’s not hard and you can even buy a kit with everything you need.

Housing chicks

A brooder box can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. A cardboard box lined with paper towels will do, or you can buy a brooder. I took an old air hockey table the monsters no longer played with, flipped it upside down and covered the legs with hardware cloth. Any type of basic container will work. It just needs to be tall enough (about 12″) that the chicks can’t jump out.  Each chick will need about half a square foot of space. It looks big while they are still a day old but, unless you want to keep moving them, they will need this much space by the time they move out. I would recommend a lid if you have any other creature (cat, dog, your own monsters, etc.) that may find your chicks more interesting than you do. I put a crib sheet over mine.

Heat

Chicks don’t have proper feathers and can not keep themselves warm.Keep them at around 90 degrees the first week. A heat lamp and thermometer can accomplish this if you don’t want to shell out for a heating plate

chicks with hen
chicks with their mother hen

When hatched by a hen they often run around and only come to her when cold. I usually hang the lamp on one side and put their food and water on the other. Some people will raise and lower the heat lamp to control the temp. Our brooder box is long so they can get further away from the lamp on their own.

Feeding

Any store selling chicks should also have starter feed. There are also feeder and waterers specifically for chicks. I don’t like the trough type because when the chicks get bigger they will try to roost on it. They will either tip it over or poop all over the food. Food is wasted either way. I like the small trays that you can screw a mason jar on to like this one. This is the waterer. A regular bowl with water will need pebbles put in the bottom as chicks can easily accidentally drown themselves at first.  (No one ever said they’re bright) Hopefully, if you hatched your own (you can find my post about that here ) you left them in the incubator until they were entirely dry and could walk properly. 

Daily

Check the food and water twice a day. Chicks will often kick their shavings into their food and water containers. After they are about 3 weeks old place the water on a plate inside the pen. This helps keep the water clean. A little. Make sure they are not too hot or cold by observing their behavior. Cold chicks will  huddle together under the lamp. Hot chicks will scatter out around the brooder and be panting.

Chick outside!
fluffy chick outside

Weekly

Clean out the brooder box often. This is easy with a vinyl or plastic floor. I simply lay a cheap table cloth on the bottom and then put around 2-4 inches of shavings on top of that. Then every week I just pick up the table cloth and dump the shavings in the compost pile! Depending on how clean the table cloth is I may put it back or replace it.

Move out Day!

As cute as they have been it is time to go! Usually around 6 weeks, when the chicks are fully feathered, they are finally ready to move out. Finding a draft free place with roosts will be important as they still need protection from the weather and any predators. If you have other chickens introducing the babies needs to go slowly.

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