You put your name in the book in February and have been counting down the days until the chicks arrive. When you finally get that phone call that your babies are here, it suddenly hits you that you’ve never raised chickens before and you have no idea what you’re doing. Take a deep breath, because caring for chicks is actually quite simple and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
The first eight to ten weeks of a chicken’s life (the brooding period) is crucial in creating a happy and healthy flock. Provide your chicks with shelter, heat, food and water and they will be off to a great start and laying eggs before you know it! So, here’s a checklist of everything your chicks will need and the best ways that you can provide it for them.
1.) Shelter & Bedding: Chicks need to be in some kind of brooder. This doesn’t need to be as substantial as the one you see in our store, however, in fact the brooder can be something as simple as a cardboard box. As long as it has solid walls that are at least 18” in height to protect them from any drafts, and provides enough space for the chicks to move freely, then it’s perfect. It’s best to use shredded newspaper for the first couple of days as bedding, then you can switch to using pine shavings. Never use cedar shavings, as they can be toxic to chickens. Provide about an inch or two of bedding in the brooder.
2.) Heat: Warmth is essential to chicks in their first few weeks of life. Keep the temperature in your brooder between 90°F and 95°F for the first week, then reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week until it is about 70°F. At this point, your chicks will no longer need a heat source. The best way to provide your chicks with heat is with a brooder clamp and heat lamp. We recommend using the 250 watt red lamps because they cause less picking. Set up your heat lamp so it is about 18” from the floor of your brooder and then adjust it as needed. Your chicks will let you know if they need more or less heat. If they are all huddled together directly under the lamp, then you need to move it a little closer, and if they are spread out as far away from it as possible then move it away a bit.
3.) Water: NEVER LET YOUR CHICKS RUN OUT OF WATER! Most chick loss is due to lack of water, therefore it is essential that water be available to your chicks at all times. Chick waterers are available in many different sizes in both plastic and galvanized. We generally recommend starting off with a quart or gallon sized waterer (depending on how many chicks you have), due to the fact that they are in a fairly small space to start out with, and then upgrading to a 2 – 5 gallon waterer once they have been moved outside.
4.) Food: All of our egg laying chicks are vaccinated for Marek’s disease and come from certified Pullorum free hatcheries. However, it is still important to feed your chicks Nutrena Country Feeds® medicated chick starter grower crumbles for the first 8 weeks. The medication in this feed will protect your chickens from Coccidiosis, which is a disease they can contract by eating a soil born parasite. Once your chicks have reached 8 weeks of age they can be switched to Nutrena Country Feeds® starter grower non-medicated crumbles until they are 16 weeks. At this point they can be put on egg layer pellets. Your chicks will go through about 10lbs. of feed per chick until they around 10 weeks old. At this point they will be consuming about 1.5lbs. of feed per bird each week. So, a flock of 6 birds will go through approximately 40lbs. of feed each month. Chick feeders are available in a variety of sizes in both plastic and galvanized.
Remember, we’re here to help. If you have any questions we’re more than happy to answer them and help set you up with everything you need to have the happiest and healthiest chickens on the block.