How to raise baby chickens

It’s that time of year! Tractor supply and all the other agriculture stores have the baby chicks and ducklings out! They’re soooo cute and you want to take them all home. Here’s what to expect…

When you ask your man to bring home like 5 chickens, he will probably bring home 12. At least that’s what happened to me. There are several different breeds. We got Leghorns!

What you need:

A brooder– A heated enclosure used to raise baby poultry. Some people use plastic bins. If you do this. You must make sure to use a very long bin so that the chicks will be able to get away from the heat lamp to cool off if needed. Michael got our large galvanized steal oval tub from Tractor Supply for $100. (That’s not necessary).

Red light/heat lamp– Most experts will tell you to get a red light heat lamp. This is because chickens peck at things and if one of the other chicks has a wound, the chicks would literally peck it to death. The red light supposedly makes blood and wounds camouflaged so that the siblings cannot see it.

Thermometer- Maintain temps of 95-100 degrees under the light. (Don’t forget they need a cool area, too. Temps can be reduced as they gain their feathers (about 5 degrees lower per week).

Feeder- Check out chick feeders!

Water- Get proper chick feeder that the they cannot get soaked in. Chicks can easily get hypothermia. Temperature control is key!

Food- We use Purina Start and Grow feed. Later, they can advance to pellets.

Bedding- Any sort of shavings for pet cages. (I would buy those when you pick up your chicks).

Place mats- Place under feeder and water to prevent shavings from getting in them. You can just use cardboard. I learned this the hard way! Shavings were always getting in the water and clogging it up.

Here are some other things you need to know:

  • They are cute, but they stink. You must exchange the shavings when they get soiled or your house will smell like chicken poo. (The more chicks you have, the more you have to clean up after them).
  • As you can see from the photos, the water gets shavings in it very easily. I use a rubber glove to pick the shavings out every day until the water is almost empty and its time to refill it. Chicks cannot survive long without water!

If you don’t already have a chicken run and coop, you can get that all ready while the babies are growing!

The previous owners left these coops at the house when we bought it, thankfully! They can get expensive unless you’re handy with building things!
The chicken run was already surrounded by chicken wire in the woods next to our house. We just wanted to clean it up some more!

When the chicks are at least 6 weeks old, they can move to the outside coop. This is as long as the temperatures are done dropping. Virginia’s weather is bipolar so its 80 degrees one day and 50 the next.

When we move then outside, we will start them in the small white coop first. Then we will move them to the bigger red coop as they grow. We will let them wander in their run and sometimes in the backyard during the day. At night, we will close them in their coops to try to keep the predators out.

Coyotes, foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks, and other predators will kill chickens. It is important to figure out what will work best for your coop protection. If you cannot close your coop, you must have the area they are in covered with chicken wire or something similar. You also have to make sure predators cannot get underneath the coop!

The chickens will start laying eggs around 6-8 months old, depending on the breed. You must collect the eggs daily so they don’t start pecking at them and eating them!

For now, these chicks are cooped up in the house with us!

Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you learn a little more about chickens!

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