Raising Baby Chickens & Baby Chicken Care
Who can resist this cute little fuzzy baby chickens at the local farm supply store? They look so sweet and innocent and are just begging for you to take them home.
Even though having raising baby chickens seems easy enough (feed + water = happy chickens!), it's a little more complicated than it appears. Thankfully once you have a few tips and tricks under your belt it will be a breeze and your birds will stay happy and healthy and become the nice, producing flock you hope they will be.
I've raised chickens for many many years. When I was little we would have so much fun heading to the feed store and picking out our special birds that we would raise for the 4-H Achievement Days. Then we would spend weeks obsessing over our little birds and watching them as they slowly outgrew their fuzz and gain lovely feathers in all different colors. Of course, not every batch of birds turned out perfectly and there were many bumps along the way, but hopefully you will learn from our mistakes!
Let's start in the beginning with that trip to the feed store. Most feed stores carry the basic breeds that will grow to be healthy meat and laying birds. You can check out my favorite breeds here and learn why I like them. If you want to raise birds for laying eggs, make sure to get pullets (hens), if you don't care as much or are raising birds for butchering, you can stick with the cheaper straight run. I've personally had one too many roosters chase me across the yard so I stick with all pullets. *Remember, there is always a chance that you may have some roosters, even in a pullet bunch...sexing chickens isn't always accurate when they are so young.
- Tip! Ask your feed store what day they get chickens in from their source and come pick out your birds a few days later. That way you know the birds made it through the shock of being transported and have a higher chance of being healthy.
While you are at the feed store, make sure to pick up several items. You will need a feeder, a waterer, chick starter, wood shavings, and a heat lamp set up. You will also need some kind of rubber or plastic tub if you don't have one. A plastic tote works well for a small batch of birds, as does a rubber animal waterer. If there is someone around to help you, you can also ask them about baby chicken care, especially if you are getting a specialty breed.
- Tip! Get a red heat lamp instead of a white one. It will help them sleep better since you need to leave it on 24/7.
The feed store will put your little ladies in a box with a bit of wood shavings for you to take them home. Make sure to head straight home so your birds don't get too cold. Do not shake the box and try not to jar it much while in route.
Once you are home, place the wood shavings in the bottom of the tub you are using, place the heat lamp so it hangs several feet above the area and fill the food and water containers. For week old chicks the temp needs to be around 95 degrees in the bottom of the container, you can lower it slightly as they get older.
- Tip! If your chickens seem listless and are laying around and hardly moving, lift the heat lamp up, they are too warm! Your chicks should be fairly active, sleeping here and there is normal but they shouldn't be laying down all the time. If the birds are all crowded together they are cold, move the light further down.
As your birds grow, make sure to keep their cage clean by replacing wood shavings as needed. Make sure they have a constant stream of clean water (you will need to clean the shaving out of the water several times a day).
Your birds will need to be in this small area for several weeks until they start to get their pin feathers. They aren't ready to go without their heat lamp until they have all their feathers and it's warm outside at night. You will also want to feed them the chicken starter until they are at least 2 months old.
Once the birds have feathers that cover their bodies and they are starting to fly out of the starter pen that you had for them...it's time to move them into their new chicken coop. You can switch them over to regular chicken feed now and I would recommend getting a new, larger water and feeder if you bought small ones to start with.
Have fun watching your flock grow! If you have little ones, it's best to let them not handle the birds too much until they have pin feathers. Very young birds are at a higher risk of picking up issues from outside sources so it's best to err on the side of caution.
Get more info on Raising Backyard Chickens here on Little House Living, you can also check out this article on how we built a Frugal Chicken Coop (and used feed bags for insulation!). Plus grab some tip son how to Save on Chicken Feed.
For even more info on baby chicken care you might want to pick up Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. All of the Storey's book are great for reference when you have questions.
Are you raising baby chickens this year? Do you have any questions? What tips do you have to share on baby chicken care?
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