When baby chicks first hatch, they don’t need any food or water for about 48 hours. They consume the yolk, and it provides them great nutrition while they’re hatching, and drying out. Once they’re dry you’ll want to provide them a safe place to sleep and with food, and water. Check out the rest of the post to see exactly what I use, and all the finer details of How to Raise Baby Chicks.
How to Raise Baby Chicks | What You’ll Need
When you’re learning about How to Raise Baby Chicks, there are a few things you’ll need. Here’s the supply list.
Brooder: You’ll need a brooder. Somewhere for these babies to live while they are little.
You can buy a ready-made brooder (like this one that comes with a heat lamp and bulb). You would still need a surface to place it on since it doesn’t come with flooring.
Instead of the option above… I like to go to Lowes, and pick up one of their plastic totes (they are priced really fairly there).
Many plastic totes aren’t big enough in my opinion, so I grab a large 40 gallon tote.
You need enough space in there for chicks, feeder, waterer, and room for them to get away from the heat when they get hot. If there’s not room away from the heat they may overheat and die.
Heat: A huge part of How to Raise Baby Chicks is keeping them warm. Learn more about how long baby chicks need a heat lamp.
In order to raise baby chicks, you’ll need a heat source. You can choose to use a heat lamp (this is what most people use), or buy one of these baby chick heaters. The second option is a little safer, but the first is cheaper.
Heat lamps have been known to start fires. They can be dangerous if used improperly. The clamps that the big one comes with is not reliable. I suggest not using the clamps at all. I’ve seen many people hang them with a secure line instead.
We actually use a reptile lamp with a reptile bulb. We would love to have one of those little heaters (like the one pictured below), but just can’t buy one at the moment. I keep a very close eye on the heat lamp when it’s on. I don’t leave the house when it’s on, EVER.
Bedding: We use pine chips, but there are many options to choose from. We’ve tried several, and we still prefer pine chips.
Feeder and Waterers: You can also pick up some small feeders and waterers at Tractor Supply or buy them on Amazon. You’ll want the small ones. The waterer especially needs to be small enough so that the baby chicks can’t fall in. With unstable legs, it’s easy for them to accidentally fall head first.
What to Expect
Every day, you’ll want to clean up the wood chips, to keep them clean, dry and smelling good. You can pick the bits of poop out, mix the chips up and add a little more to help keep it fresh.
The water and feed may need to be refilled every day to every other day.
They’re going to get too big for this plastic tote, in about 4-6 weeks depending on what kind of birds you bought. Meat birds grow a little more quickly. Eventually, you’ll need to have a coop for them.
These babies will still be pretty small, and you don’t want to put them in with the big birds until they are about the same size. You can build a coop or buy one. However, I don’t suggest buying a coop unless you’re going to get a top of the line one. Those usually costs thousands of dollars. 🙁
Baby chicks can start free-ranging at 6 weeks old. If you live in a place with a lot of predators you might think about keeping them in the chicken run, tractor or fenced until they are a little bigger.
Make sure you have them fenced in for at least a week in the new coop so they know where to sleep at night.
What do Baby Chickens Eat?
For the first couple days after hatching, baby chicks are sustained by eating the yolk of the egg and don’t need any extra nutrition.
After that, they will need Starter/Grower. Different companies call it different things. Purina calls it Start and Grow.
I suggest buying Purina Start and Grow Medicated. Baby chicks are susceptible to coccidiosis, an intestinal tract infection, which is what the medicine is for in the feed…
However, ducks can overdose it on the medicated food and aren’t susceptible to coccidiosis, so if you are raising them with the baby chicks make sure to use unmedicated food for all of them.
Chick feed is not the same thing that adult chickens eat. Laying hens especially require calcium to make eggs. So their food has a lot of calcium in it. If you gave that to baby chicks, it could overload their kidneys, and cause irreparable damage.
Baby chicks can eat Start & Grow until they are about 18 weeks old, or until they start laying eggs.
Something else chicks need is Chick Grit. Since chickens don’t chew their food, they need something to help grind it up.
Treats: Make sure MOST of their diet is Starter/Grower. Treats are just that, not enough for a meal. Don’t be like grandma and give the kids so many cookies it spoils their dinner!
- Mashed up boiled eggs
- Scrambled eggs
- Small pieces of SOFT fruit, like strawberries
- Worms or mealworms
Learn more about what to feed chickens, check out What do Chickens Eat?
Thank you for joining me, and learning How to Raise Baby Chicks. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me using the contact page. I’m happy to answer your questions!
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