Chick Care Tips
The 5 essential things that baby chicks need:
- Good Housing/ Protection
- Clean water
TAKING CARE OF BABY CHICKS
Please keep your chicks inside for at least the first month. I cannot stress this enough. Your baby chicks should be kept inside for at least the first month. The reason for this is because they cannot protect themselves and they need to be kept warm.
A chirping baby chick will attract all types of animals, especially mongoose. Another reason why you want to keep them inside is because it can get cold at night. You may think your chicks look fine during the day but at night temperatures drop, chicks can suffocate because they will pile up on each other to keep warm.
The First 2 weeks of a baby chick's life is the most important.
The care you give them during these first 2 weeks will make a whole lot of difference in the long run. This is a make it or break it time. The better care you give them during the first 2 weeks the healthier they will be in the long run.
Chickens are very social creatures, they really enjoy companionship. But especially when they are babies. Never get just 1 baby chick.
Before you bring your chicks home it’s a good idea to know where you are going to keeping them for the first month. You can set this area up ahead of time.
You want this space to be protected and warm and also have good ventilation. Chicks will be housed in a brooder. A brooder can be made from anything from a cardboard box, a large rubbermaid storage container or a wooden box. I would not recommend cages because they can be a little drafty.
On the floor of this box you want to lay down newspaper, a singe layer of paper towel and then add some pine shavings. Don’t just put newspaper because it is too slippery, chicks can end up with splayed legs, always add something on top like pine shavings. Pine shavings will absorb their poop and also helps to keep their feet warm. Don’t use just any type of shavings, usually the pine shavings sold in pet stores are the best because they are dust-free.
Warmth is very important for baby chicks. Especially during the first 2 weeks of their life. When a chick hatches out of an egg in the incubator the temperature inside the incubator is 98.5 degrees. So they do need warmth. A brooder lamp works best, but any type of utility lamp will do. You want to use a 60 or 40 watt incandescent light bulb. Be sure that this is a regular light bulb that gives off heat.
Depending on how many chicks you have, you want the lamp to be about 2-3 feet from the floor of the brooder. Be sure that you lamp is secure. You should keep the lamp on one side of the box so that if it’s too warm they can move away from it. If chicks are huddled together under the lamp that means they are cold and you should lower the height of the lamp. Alternatively if chicks are avoiding the space under the lamp than it is too hot and you may want to raise the lamp higher. What you want to see is chicks walking around eating and drinking comfortably.
If you do not feel comfortable with using a lamp, there are other options available. Some people who live off the grid may use hot water bottles. Just make sure it is warm enough. Some people do not feel comfortable with leaving the lamp on when they are not home or overnight. If so, you can find a very warm spot for them and cover them up during those times that would be fine. You want to check up on the chicks at night when the temperature usually dips, especially the first couple of nights. They may look fine during the day, but at night they may get cold and they may stack on top of each other to stay warm, you can lose a lot of chicks this way. If the light is off and it is dark, you do not have to leave out the feed and water in their brooder. The first time you turn off the lights for your chicks you will hear them start to chirp loudly. They are just scared and need to get adjusted but they will quiet down eventually. If you are turning the lights off at night just be sure they will be warm.
As for feed, you can start your baby chicks on a medicated or non-medicated starter. We recommend providing your chicks this feed for the first month. The chick starter will provide your chicks with the balanced diet and nutrition they will need. Do not feed your chicks any adult feed such as layer or scratch feeds. After their first month on starter you can provide them with a non-medicated feed such as Trip-L-Duty or continue on with a non-medicated starter.
During the first week you can place the chick feed in a chick feeder or a shallow dish that is easy for your chicks to access. As your chicks get older and start to scratch at the around (about 1 week), at this point you will definitely want to invest in a chick feeder. These feeders are designed to help prevent chicks from scratching their feed all over the place. Baby chicks can make a mess so be sure to keep an eye out for droppings in their feed and water, and clean as needed. Don’t forget to store your feed is a dry place and store it well.
Fresh water is extremely important for baby chicks. They need water to maintain their digestion, metabolism, and respiratory system. Water also helps to regulate their body temperature. If a chick loses 10% of their water content, they could suffer through dehydration and other physical problems. Chicks are very smart and will usually pick up how to drink their water quite quickly. A chick will need to drink more water the older they get, so always be sure they are supplied with fresh, clean water at all times.
The best type of water dispenser for baby chicks is a simple 1 quart jar or 1/2 gallon plastic water jar that attaches onto a plastic water base. These types of baby chick waterers are excellent for baby chicks. A good tip is to raise this waterer 1/4-1/2” off the ground. Be sure you use something that is sturdy. This really helps to keep their water clean and prevents them from stepping in it. Even as your chicks get older it is a good idea to keep their feed and water chest high.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your chicks.
- Change litter and paper out, especially if wet. Use a safe non-toxic cleaner and disinfectant to clean your chick area.
- Do not get chicks wet! There will be times when a chick will jump into their water dispenser and make a mess, just dry them off and place them under a heat lamp. Do not give your chicks a bath and always keep them protected from cold weather.
- Baby chicks love to be loved, so cuddle them and pet them but try not to handle them too much during the first 2 weeks.
- Chicks stress easily, so always be sure that they have enough water and feed, a good heat source, and enough space and ventilation.
- Do not house baby chicks with large or adult birds. The older birds will definitely pick at your baby chicks. Chickens are territorial, so your older flock will not take kindly to newbies.