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Chicks and Chickens are a kick to add to your farmstead!!
RAISING CHICKS and CHICKENS: things you need to do before getting baby chicks
SPECIAL NEEDS OF BABY CHICKS
THE BROODING AREA
TEMPERATURE OF BROODER
LOCATE LOCAL BABY CHICKS
STARTER and GROWER FEEDS
THE NEXT STEP
It has been said about Chickens that you either love them or hate them……and, I happen to love them!!
First of all, please consider the following 6 basic things ~ Tips for Raising Baby Chicks ~ before deciding to keep chickens.
- Legality of owning poultry in your area
- Desire to educate yourself on keeping poultry – the basics on necessary food and shelter requirements
- Determine if you have the proper amount of space and shelter needed for raising chickens
- Time commitment for proper poultry care
- Necessary money to get started
- Potential market for poultry products
PLUS: IMPORTANT QUICK TIP
#1 GETTING STARTED……
Once you have determined that you are able to keep poultry in your area, you considered the above points and have decided to keep a flock of birds, you should begin by planning the hows and whys. I have learned several tips over the years that I want to share on raising baby chicks and chickens.
First of all, you must decide on the number and type of birds you would like to have. This is something that can change with time; so consider starting small and grow as you are able. Here is a great website for Dunlap Hatchery. You can research many of the top breeds of chickens and determine the best variety for your needs.
Little chicks take up a very small space but they have particular needs with regard to food and shelter. If you begin with small day old chicks, then you will have several weeks to establish your hen house and poultry yard. A great resource for getting started is Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally
There are several ways of starting a small farm flock. One way is to order day old chickens from one of many hatcheries around the country. The little chicks are flown to your local Post Office within three days of hatching.
I like to use a hatchery in Idaho as it is closer to us than the ones in the mid west. So, do a little research on hatcheries close to you if you decide to order baby chicks through the mail. Each hatcheries’ website will have their special instructions on caring for baby chicks.
Some feed stores actually have chicks for sale right there in the store.
Mail Order Chicks have been available for decades…….this is a very safe and efficient way to order day old chicks.
IMPORTANT QUICK TIP:
Chick comfort can be told by the way they sound. Loud cheeping means they are in distress. They are either cold, hunger or both. Chances are they will be both: cold and hunger. Make sure to follow the next step with the canned milk and sugar mixture.
If your baby chicks arrive chilled or in distress, mix up warm canned milk and a little sugar. Dip each of their little beaks into the milk & sugar mixture to make sure they get a drink. This not only gives them a boost of energy and food, you are teaching them to drink at the same time.
The recipe is 1/4 cup of canned milk and 1 teaspoon white cane sugar. Mix and place in a shallow dish or bowl. The bowl needs to be shallow enough to allow you to easily dip the baby chicks beaks into the mixture.
Simple dip their beaks but not their nostrils.
#2 SPECIAL NEEDS OF BABY CHICKS:
Baby chicks will need a heat lamp, chick starter and small feeders (available from your local feed dealer or hardware store) and little chick-size waters which are inexpensive founts that screw onto Ball or Mason jars. The chick feeders will be available in the same location as the waterers, either at the store or from online sources.
#3 THE BROODING AREA:
Next, make sure to have a safe place to keep your chicks out of drafts and away from dampness especially dampness from the ground or floor. We have used dog carriers, cardboard boxes and water troughs as brooders to raise chicks in.
You can improvise with what is at hand to make your new little flock quite comfortable or purchased a kit like the Chicken Ware Chick N Starter Kit .
But remember if you are on a tighter budget, you can make a very adequate brooder yourself. The main items to include in your setup are: cardboard walls, chick size waterers, chick feeders, heat lamp, wood shavings, and newspapers.
I cannot emphasis enough that the brooder area needs to be safe from rodents, draft free and safe from the family cat!!! Baby chicks need to be kept at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week with the temperature being lowered in intervals of 5 degrees Fahrenheit for each subsequent week. The temperature should be 100 degrees directly under the heat light or light bulb at the back height of the baby chicks.
#4 TEMPERATURE OF BROODER:
So, to recap: the first week the brooding area needs to be approximately 95 to 100 degrees, the second week it will need to be 90 to 95 degrees, then continue reducing the temperature in 5 degree Fahrenheit increments………..until the chicks are fully feathered. This fully feathered stage is quite hilarious……the young cockerels begin trying to crow and the adolescent become quite adventuresome.
Please note: if the baby chicks are cold, they will pile on top of each other and suffocate the other chicks while trying to stay warm. Make sure to have plenty of space, plenty of food and water and “no corners” in your brooding area. Corners are perfect places for pile ups! So keep your brooder “corner-free”.
Wood shavings make excellent bedding to place in the bottom of your brooding area. It is advised to cover these wood shavings with newspapers for the first several days to encourage the chicks to learn to eat their chick feed instead of peaking through the wood shavings. Make sure to change the newspapers daily.
#5 LOCATE LOCAL BABY CHICKS:
Another way to find a laying flock is to look on Craig’s List or at your local farm and ranch store. Sometimes there are folks that are reducing their numbers and are willing to sell their extras. Just check on the age, breed and if there are any bad habits or disease issues.
When our children were young, we ordered baby chicks through the mail. It was such an exciting day! The chicks arrived in a peeping frenzy but soon settled down once they have warmth from the heat lamp, chick start and water. Chicks are a great way to teach responsibility to children especially little ones. Children love helping the little chicks learn to drink by dipping their beaks into water.
Related Post: Raising Baby Chicks from my friend at Hillsborough-Homesteading
Chickens are great foragers plus, they will eat the majority of surplus greens, vegetables, and squash from your garden. Plus, they will eat any and all leftovers from your refrigerator. The only thing that I find that chickens will not eat are citrus rinds but other than that, they seem to enjoy just about everything. They especially enjoy watermelon, zucchini and pumpkins!
#6 POULTRY FEED:
At this point, you will want to consider your options on types of feed: Organic vs Non-Organic. Both have pros and cons. There are many, many companies that make poultry so do a bit of research on the internet and at your local farm and ranch store, feed store or hardware store to see your options.
Feeds: Chick Starter, Lay Feed and Chicken Scratch are all available in organic and non-organic forms.
- Chick Starter is fed free-choice for the first 6 weeks
- Chick Grower is fed from 6 weeks until the young pullets begin laying
- Lay Mash or Lay Pellets are fed once the young pullets begin to lay
Organic Feed is free of additives, herbicides and pesticides and is Non-GMO. But, it is typically more expensive.
On the other hand, non-organic feed is more readily available and is less expensive.
So, you must evaluate your preferences and priorities and go forth.
NOTE: Chick Starter and Grower Feeds come medicated or non-medicated. The medicated is not approved for meat chicks but it is for egg layers. You will need to decide if you want to use the medicated feed or just keep the coccidiostat medication on hand if you have a problem
There is a lot of information available on chicken feed with some of it being quite scientific so take in as much information as you want but do not be overwhelmed by it all…………..having chickens is simply Great Fun!!!! Take the first steps to becoming a Poultry Keeper…….
#7 POTENTIAL PROBLEMS
There are couple of areas that can cause potential problems for baby chicks. Coccidioisis is one of them. The disease is caused by a parasite. This parasite causes diarrhea in baby chicks which can be life threatening.
Having a coccidiostat like Corid on hand is helpful to be on the safe side.
Also, consider feeding an electrolyte mineral supplement for the first 6 weeks. This is simply added to the baby chicks water in their waterer.
# 8 THE NEXT STEP
When you reach the point of having your baby chicks all set up in their brooder, then hop over to TOP TIPS for RAISING CHICKENS.
This post will cover your laying hens and poultry flocks housing needs as well as floor space, waterers & feeders, shelter and protection.
For a wonderful overview on keeping chickens and everything else “Country”, take a look at: The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself
This is an all-time favorite book. The pages in my copy have “feathered” edges due to so much use!!!
Just remember that chickens do require time and effort; but are a definite worthwhile addition to your farmstead. Gathering eggs from the nest boxes at the end of the day is like finding gold…….
I cannot wait until you gather your own eggs, you will then know what I mean!