Raising Baby Chickens – A Beginners Guide to Baby Chicken Care

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!

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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. 

Raising Baby Chickens

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).

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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.

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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?

merissabio

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22 Comments

  1. Thanks! I am filing this under “it might happen one day” 🙂 I have a big grasshopper problem so I have toyed with the idea of chickens but I think they are just too much work for me!

  2. We have small baby chicks and own a small farm. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of people that buy chicks, ducks, and rabbits for their kids for Easter and are trying to find homes for them a week later because they had no clue how hard they would be to take care of. You are right, food and water do equal happy chicks if their other needs are met as well. I love your blog!

  3. Bringing home baby chicks tomorrow am. Do you change the bedding daily?? I’m so excited. Been asking for layers for a couple of years now. I’ll be reading all I can to be successful.

  4. Great information here! I’m pinning this for if we ever get around to having chickens 🙂

  5. I love having baby chicks. I have had chickens of many kinds for, gosh, probably 30 years, now. Hmmm I do want to speak a word of caution about the heat lamp. A 250 watt heat lamp is standard for this purpose and works perfectly, but PLEASE DO NOT prop or jury rig the light. Make sure it hangs securely and cannot be knocked down by children or pets. Add a small piece of rabbit or chicken wire big enough to cover your tote to keep the little peeps from jumping out. DO NOT use cardboard or anything flammable near that heat lamp. My family knows from experience that that light can catch paper or cardboard on fire in a matter of seconds. We had a power outage while brooding baby turkeys. They were well feathered, so my husband just put a piece of cardboard over them to keep them from getting a chill. He forgot to unplug the light. When the power came on at 3:00 AM, we were awakened by a raging fire. Luckily the whole setup was in a shed far enough from the house that we were safe. We did however lose a storage shed, woodshed, and a pickup to that fire. Lesson learned. I don’t want to scare anyone away from this wonderful experience. I just want to make sure that folks use their heads and take precautions to stay safe so they don’t have to learn the way we did. Happy hen raising!

  6. I remember we tried to raise baby chicks…it was hilarious! Thank you for sharing this with us at the #WWDParty.

  7. This is great, Merissa, I’m pinning to my “chicken” board! We’re hoping to raise chickens next year (for the eggs). I grew up on a family farm in VT and remember the incubators and heat lamps we had in the basement. Still doing a lot of research before beginning again here in S. Texas!

  8. Thank you for linking up to Small Victories Sunday. This is great information and I wish we could have chickens. Our area has it where you can have chickens in the backyard, but our HOA would not allow. It would be great for the kids though and to get fresh eggs would be a huge bonus!
    I have pinned your post to the Small Victories Sunday board! Have a great week.

  9. We just started raising backyard chickens this year and have really enjoyed it so far! These are great tips. I was just working on similar posts to this last night, but a lot more general for noobs like we were. 🙂

  10. Thanks so much for sharing at the Say G’day Saturday Linky Party. Hope you can join in again this weekend!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  11. Soooooooooooooooooooooo want some chicks! Was praying for them for Easter but hubby’s not sure this is the right time. Here’s hoping for soon!!!! Will be using this as a resource!

  12. It is fun to read this post. Thanks for sharing your expertise with the readers of four seasons blog hop. Have a nice day. Cheers

  13. Hi Merissa! I featured your link as one of my favorites from the Pintastic Pinteresting Party. I have backyard chickens, and it has been a great experience. My kids love them, and will carry them around. We have one that does tricks even with my kids. Through trial and error, we have learned what works best for us and our chicks and chickens, you have shared some great information! You can see your feature at http://www.thecouponchronicles.com!

  14. Hi Merissa!
    I was wondering if there is something else you can feed chickens besides the standard corn feed. I know I can give them some veggies but not sure if just veggies would be enough for them. I know they like worms also so I planned on letting them hunt the yard for them too.
    Thanks for any suggestions!

    1. Are they free range most of the day? Through the summer with a combo of veggies and free ranging they should have plenty to eat, and you will know if they don’t seem like they are getting enough. We actually have a GREAT recipe for homemade chicken feed we’ve been testing and plan on posting soon. 🙂

  15. Thanks for the great info. I’m reading everything I can as we are considering chickens this year. Any thought on getting grown layers as opposed to chicks?

    1. If you are getting grown layers you will just want to make sure they aren’t too old (I wouldn’t buy anything older than a year or two) and make sure they are clean and healthy.

  16. Hi I was curious if it matters if you raise different breeds together? Anyone with any answer to that would be great!

    1. It does not as long as you aren’t raising turkeys with them. The only issue you may have (which isn’t always an issue if the birds are started together) is if you raise meat and egg laying birds. The meat birds grow faster and can sometimes pick on the egg layers.

  17. Hi, I’m a first timer with chicks. Mine are about 4 weeks old, and I just noticed one has pretty irritated skin, she’s picking under her wing a bit much, and is loosing some feathers as a result. I’m guessing it’s mites? Won’t it spread to all the others? Would it be okay if I put a few drops of Colloidal Silver under her wing? Any info would be great. Thanks so much!

  18. Hello! We are first time chick owners and couldn’t be more excited. So far the chicks are doing great I just have a few questions. We have a dog that is so excited and sweet but I’m afraid to introduce them. Any advice on how to do that? Also Since we got them in the fall and here in Ohio our fall and winters are not very forgiving, how do I introduce them to the cold windy outside without shocking them? Thanks!

    1. We introduced our puppy to our chickens right away and we did not keep them outside together during the day. Our dog has a herding instinct so she sometimes tries to herd the chickens but it only took her a few months to know that she is not to hurt the chickens. To teach her this we just very firmly let her know it was not ok to chase the chickens when she would start doing it. How old are your chicks? You may need to keep a heat lamp in the chicken coop with them for the winter if they are still fairly young. Let them have access to the outdoors on nicer days when you are able but have a warm place for them to sleep. As long as the chickens are fully grown, they will adapt to the outside weather during the day.