How to care for your new chicks

eggs-in-basketChickens are a great pet and a great source of your own free range eggs. Each chicken has its own personality. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Once you have decided to purchase chicks you should know they are very fragile. They need preparation just like any living animal.

temperature-checkBefore the anticipated arrival date or pick up day, their new home needs to be ready. A brooder is a device for housing baby animals. A box with a heating source, which maintains a steady temperature. For chicks they need heat to mimic the underside of a hen. The temperature should be at 90° F (32° C) with cool areas no less than 70° F. The brooder should be free of drafts and dampness. (Check temperature with a thermometer).

Bedding for the brooder could be shredded paper, newspaper, wood shavings or straw (at least 2 inches deep). The chicks will need to have a clean environment. Keep the bedding dry and change as necessary.

heat-lampheat-lamp-chicksHeat lamps are the best and safest source of heat for raising chicks (your local feed store or hardware store should carry these). 1 lamp per 100 chicks. They should be hung or mounted, to avoid contact with the animal, 24 inches off the ground in the center of the brooder. Pay attention to their action. If they are huddling, they are cold. If they are in a corner, there may be a draft. If they are away from the heat, too hot. Happy chicks will be spread out drinking and eating. Decrease temperature 5° per week until the whole brooding area is 70° and birds are fully feathered.

mason-jar-feederWater founts and chick feeders are sold in local farm stores. It is crucial to have waterers which the chicks are able to drink out of and not fall in. 1 gallon waterer for 50 chicks. Feeders are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Open feeders need to be watched and kept clean. (Pictured to the right is a feeder that a mason jar can attach to and keeps the feed clean).

We suggest starting your chicks off with eating medicated feed for the first 6-8 weeks. Medicated feed will protect the chicks from lethal diseases.

Try to provide ½ square foot of space per chick.


Health concerns
Please do not leave children unattended with young poultry. Live poultry can be a source of potentially harmful microorganisms. Precautions should be taken when handling and caring for them, to prevent fecal/oral transmission among people. Supervision of children is needed to make sure they do not put their fingers or hands in their mouths. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling poultry.

Additional information can be found here USDA.