Chicken Care Tips

Caring for Baby Chicks

Baby chicks require a lot of time because they need constant care and monitoring. They should be checked at least five times a day. The good thing about them being small is that they can be kept almost anywhere (as long as they are safe from unhealthy temperature conditions) and are easy to handle. (In three to four weeks time, they will have grown and will be taking enough space and making enough noise, that you will know that its time to transfer them to the outside coop.)

During this time they should be dept in a brooder that is protected from drafts, but also has adequate ventilation. The ideal chicks’ house or brooder could be a cardboard box with holes for ventilation, or a plastic storage bin could be a good alternative.

  • Baby chicks need a pretty high temperature. The first week after hatching requires an air temperature of 95 degrees, the second week 90 degrees, and so on until they are ready for the outside temperature. A 250 watt infrared heat lamp placed in the middle of their living area is enough to provide the needed heat. An ordinary incandescent light bulb, the very bright variety, is not recommended as it will make sleeping difficult for the chicks. The caregiver should check on their behavior under the lamp. If they crowd each other directly under the heat source, this means they are cold. The lamp must be mounted lower or another one must be added. If they are around the edges of the brooder and they avoid each other, the heat source is too hot. Raise the heat lamp to lower the temperature a bit.
  • Baby chicks leave lots of droppings. The floor of their brooder or housing must be lined with an absorbent material. Spreading pine shavings about one inch thick is ideal. Forget about old newspaper, as it is really not absorbent enough and, in addition, it is slippery. The slippery surface can lead to “splayed leg’” a permanent deformity. If pine shavings are not available, paper towels can be a good substitute. However, they must be changed often.
  • A special chick waterer should be provided to the chicks, and they come in different sizes and shapes. Never use a dish or any other item from your household cupboard hat you think might do the trick. They can poop in it, spill it, kick bedding materials in it (and possibly even drown in it), necessitating constant changing of the water.
  • For the feeder, again, never use a dish or bowl lying around the house. The chicks will be jumping into it and kick the feed all over. Buy a genuine baby chick feeder. Just like the waterer, they come in different shapes and sizes.
  • Chickens, by nature, roost on poles or wooden branches. You can start teaching your baby chicks how to roost by providing wooden dowels that are approximately a half inch in diameter. They should be placed about 5 inches off the ground.
  • Hatcheries and feed stores have formulated special feed that includes everything baby chicks need. It is called “starter feed’”. It comes in either ‘”crumbles’” or “mash”. Continue giving the ‘”starter feed’” according to the instructions on the packaging. From there, the chicks should switch to a feed called “grower”.
  • Chickens don’t have teeth. They eat tiny pebbles and store them in their ‘”crop”. When food enters the crop, the pebbles grind it up to make digestion easier. For this reason, sand, parakeet gravel or canary gravel needs to be provided to the baby chicks. These are available in the local pet stores and can be sprinkled in their feed.