Wanting to Raise Chicks?
Is there anything cuter than baby chicks? That tiny fluff ball that fits in your hand, peeping little peeps. Although baby chicks have some basic needs and are a bit fragile (as most babies are), with some effort, you can successfully raise your chicks into full-grown birds–whether you want them for pets, eggs, meat or a combination. The reasons we chose to raise chicks into full grown hens:
#1 Teach my kiddos the life cycle of a chicken
#2 My girls to learn responsibility...feeding, keeping warm, checking on them everyday
#3 The chicks would grow into full grown hens and be comfortable around all of us
Taking Care of New Chicks 101
Bringing Home the Babies...
Are you ready for babies? Before anything else, calculate how big your hen house (OR coop) and chicken run needs to be in order to accommodate the number of chickens you will buy, adopt, hatch etc.
SUPER HELPFUL TIP: Buy or build that coop (yes, before you bring your chicks home)
Finally, decide on the breeds of chickens you’d like to raise and figure out where to find them (local feed store, mail order, etc). You can get baby chicks at your local feed store or through your local poultry association, but you might want to order them online through a chick hatchery or supplier. If you go the online route, you can choose from a more comprehensive array of poultry breeds. Also, you can specify your order by sex, in case you only want to purchase hens or roosters. We chose to buy from a hatchery that complied with federal and local laws, in addition vaccinated my chicks before arrival.
Here are a list of hatcheries that comply with NPIP certified flocks:
Murray McMurray Hatchery - we personally used them for our orpington chickens
We ended up deciding on two breeds of chickens: silkies and orpingtons. Opringtons are great egg layers and sociable chickens. Silkies are amazing show chickens and my kids can use them within their 4h shows, as well as they make the best feathery teddy bears to snuggle with due to their sweet demeanors.
The other stuff you need to know (details, details and details)...
The Brooder (aka Baby Chick Nursery)
For the first 6-8 weeks of your baby chicks lives, they need to live with you. Yep, that’s right. They’re temporary indoor pets (yes, the garage will work as well if it’s warm enough). The reason? Until your baby chicks fully feather out, they can’t regulate their body temperature. \
Where to Keep your Baby Chicks
A perfect way to house baby chicks in those initial weeks is in a big box (a free appliance box from a home improvement store works great), an extra-large plastic bin (with a screen over the top–especially if you have other indoor pets roaming around that might like nibble on the new little babies), large-sized dog crate, or old farm water trough.
Line the bottom of your box with pine or wood shavings or other materials. Change the shavings occasionally to keep the area clean (and the smell down).
Stay away from using bedding such as newspaper, cardboard, plastic, kitty litter, leaves, straw, hay, cedar shavings or dirt. Some of these substances cause lung irritation, others could potentially swell inside their fragile little stomach causing issues, some may contain harsh chemicals or mold that aren’t good for them at such a young age.
Enter a Heading
A Heat Lamp for Warmth.
Here’s how to know if you have the lamp at the proper height: if the chicks are still too cold, they’re huddled together. A good starting temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit and decrease by 5 degrees every week. A helpful piece of tid bit...if they’re too hot, they’re as far away from the lamp as they can get!
***IF YOU USE A HEAT LAMP SECURE IT VERY, VERY WELL. It only takes seconds for a lamp to fall and start a fire. ***
Food and Water
Before placing your fluffy new additions into their brooder, always dip their beaks into their water source individually to ensure they know where to find their water source. Your new babies need clean water and food at all times. Be careful, especially with the water…don’t give them water in something too deep…you don’t want them to drown. We found using some of my kids old marbles inside their water dish worked wonders!
Handling your chicks will help them grow up to be tame and lovable pets. Handle them often, but don’t forget to wash your hands BEFORE (to protect them from your germs) and AFTER (to protect you from their germs). Our chick family are used to being handled early and they have grown into tame, wonderful animals! We call our chickens our "feather teddy bears"!
Next thing you know, you will have pullets and be moving them to your chicken house! The grow up so fast! *will write a blog post on transitioning into the "big house"*
-Wild and Free Farm, The Photo Gal Photography