Chickens

Baby Chicks

March 21, 2015 (Last Updated: June 24, 2017)

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There is nothing more fun than baby animals on the farm.  Baby chicks are our newest addition!  They are so cute and fun to hold and watch.  We’ve obtained baby chicks over the years several different ways.  We buy baby chicks from our local feed store, we’ve bought from an on-line hatchery and had the chicks arrive in the mail, our hens hatch their own chicks from eggs they lay, and one of our local schools hatches a batch of our eggs so students can study the hatching of chicks. We get the chicks from the school after they are about three weeks old.

Baby Chicks on Feeder

Baby Chicks on Feeder

Today, we bought baby chicks from our local store.  Rod just can’t seem to resist baby chicks when he walks into the feed store! He acts likes he’s all rough and tough and then here he comes with baby chicks!  He’s really a softy at heart!

Baby Chick in Hand

Baby Chick in Hand

The easiest way to care for chicks is to have the mamma hen hatch and raise them.  The mamma is really protective, will teach the chicks how to get food, and will keep them warm.  On a couple of occasions we have had a broody hen (a hen who tries to sit on her eggs to hatch them) decide to become the mama hen of store bought chicks, and we have successfully introduced her to a new batch of chicks.  We have had success with her taking to the chicks like they are her own.  We have only been able to succeed with this method twice.  It doesn’t always work, but it’s wonderful if she thinks they are hers!

In order for this to work, first you need a broody hen.  Then buy your chicks.  It works best to go into the coop at night time and remove the broody hen from her nest and just add her to your “nursery”, or brooder of baby chicks.  By morning, you will know if she thinks they are her new babies.  If she wants nothing to do with them, she will be squawking, and outside the brooder boundaries if possible.

Since this method isn’t always possible, you need another method for the chicks to flourish, especially if this is your first go-round with chicks.  First, you need space. It does not need to be very large, but large enough for the chicks to move around and get away from the heat when needed. It should be sheltered away from drafts. This is just a temporary place until they are strong enough to move to your coop.  We start ours inside a shed which is just outside the regular coop where we store our food.  We put up a plywood barrier that keeps the chicks contained.  We usually put a thin layer of wood shavings on the floor.  Straw is also a good choice.  Do not use cedar chips, they can be toxic.  The  size of the brooder really depends on how many chicks you have.  The most important factor is having enough space so the chicks can get away from the heat of the heat lamp. If they are too warm, they need to be able to move away from the heat.  Chicks that are too warm can die.

You will need a heat lamp.  We’ve had so many problems determining exactly how low to place our heat lamp.  If it’s too high and the chicks aren’t warm enough they will huddle together and smother or crush each other.  There’s nothing worse than coming out in the morning to check on the chicks and find several that didn’t make it through the night.  It always makes me sad.  You do want the temperature below the lamp to be from 90-95 degrees for the first week.  You will want the bulb hanging about 12-18 inches above the chicks.  We raise our light a couple of inches each week as the chicks grow.

All chicks need water!  Make certain they always have fresh water available.  We usually supplement their water with an electrolyte supplement.  This helps the chicks recover from transportation to their new home.  When you move the chicks into their new home, watch carefully to see if they go straight for the water.  Chicks that don’t seem to find it on their own or that aren’t running around need a little help.  Gently move them to the water and dip their beaks into the water.  You will see them throw their heads back and open and close their beaks.  They are drinking!  Do this again, two to three times.  Anytime a chick just seems wobbly I repeat dipping their beaks.  The first few days are the most fragile days for the chicks. We keep the electrolyte supplement going just for the first few gallons of water.  After that, they should be strong enough without the addition.

The waterer needs to hold enough water for the chicks for at least one day.  You don’t want to run out.  Be really careful that a chick can’t fall into the water.   They are top heavy and will drown. A bowl is not a good idea. Chicks tend to hop and climb on everything.  They will be in the water.

I have gone back and forth with what type of feed to give my chicks.  You need something designed for chicks.  I have tried to go non-medicated, but I have lost too many chicks.  I now start them out on a medicated feed and when I run out, I switch to non-medicated.  You don’t want to feed your chicks layena too early.  Wait a few months until they look like an adult hen.  Most hens won’t lay until 4-5 months of age.  They really don’t need layena before that time.  If your chicks run with the hens, there’s really no way to separate their food and they will be okay. A chick feeder trough is helpful for containing feed and keeping the chicks off the top.  If they are able to sit on the top, you will have poop in your feed.

We live in the country and have lots of space for chickens.  However, chickens are often possible in most neighborhoods.  You might not want to have a rooster.  The roosters really are the noisy ones.  The hens make a gentle clucking noise and shouldn’t bother your neighbors.

Do you raise your own chickens?  If you are thinking about raising your own, let me know!

Baby Chicks

Baby Chicks

Source: Murray McMurray Hatchery

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathy Rupff - Living A Creative Life
    May 12, 2015 at 5:30 am

    Hi Kathy, My husband (a high school science teacher) and I fawn over (and take pictures of) the baby chicks at our local feed store each spring. So nice to meet a family who actually purchases them and raises them! How awesome! Thanks so much for sharing this post! We love bunnies, too! I look forward to looking at more of your website. (Saw your comment on Brown-Eyed Baker – another AWEsome blog!)

    • Reply
      Kathy
      May 12, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks, Kathy! Raising baby chicks are so much fun. I enjoy them once they are full grown too! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      May 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. I do love our baby chicks, but I love watching them once they are big too! They are too much fun! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply
    Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
    March 25, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Lovely post – wish I could get some chicks. A neighbor up the road must have some chickens since I can hear a rooster crowing early in the morning when I walk my dog. Maybe one day I’ll get some! Thanks, Kathy.

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 26, 2015 at 4:38 am

      Most roosters don’t just crow in the morning….they crow all day long!

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    March 23, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I just love all your farm posts! Your baby chicks are so adorable! I would love to have my own chickens, but I don’t think they would be safe from my four dogs. I’ll just have to enjoy reading about yours!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Rachelle!

  • Reply
    Rachel (Simple Seasonal)
    March 23, 2015 at 6:31 am

    These baby chicks are so cute! My four-year-old loved locking at the pictures!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      They are super cute! Glad you enjoyed looking at them with your kiddo!

  • Reply
    Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking
    March 23, 2015 at 4:11 am

    They are ADORABLE!!! Do you just cuddle with them all the time?! Probably not. oh well. That’s how it went in my head!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 23, 2015 at 4:13 am

      They aren’t really willing to cuddle! My daughter does love to hold them in her hand and pet them…I guess that’s close enough to cuddling!

  • Reply
    Erin @ Miss Scrambled Egg
    March 23, 2015 at 3:42 am

    I’ve never raised chickens, but it seems like a really rewarding task. I’d love to have a coop and fresh eggs someday. 🙂

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 23, 2015 at 3:59 am

      They really are rewarding and fresh eggs are the best!

  • Reply
    Jen @ Baked by an Introvert
    March 22, 2015 at 8:22 am

    These baby chicks are too adorable for me to stand it! I love this post. You have me wanting to raise my own chicks! Maybe one day when we have more space I’ll get to.

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 22, 2015 at 9:22 am

      They are fun and really don’t take too much work!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    March 22, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Love this post! I’ve always wanted to raise chicks, but I don’t know if I will ever take the leap. We actually have friends down in Raleigh, NC who raise chicks in their backyard in the middle of a “normal” neighborhood. I always stop by the feed store in the spring to see the chicks, too! So much fun!!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 22, 2015 at 9:24 am

      More and more people are raising chickens. You don’t have to live in a country setting in order to have chickens anymore!

  • Reply
    Suzi
    March 21, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    So cute! What a perfect post for the start of spring!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 22, 2015 at 4:53 am

      Thanks, Suzi!

  • Reply
    Ami@NaiveCookCooks
    March 21, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Awww so so adorable!!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 22, 2015 at 4:53 am

      They are pretty darn cute!

  • Reply
    Lori from LL Farm
    March 21, 2015 at 8:27 am

    How neat that you provide eggs for a local school to hatch…what a learning experience for some that may never experience it other wise. Our baby chicks (and turkeys) will be here April 2!! Have a great weekend.
    Lori

    • Reply
      Kathy
      March 21, 2015 at 9:03 am

      The kids and the teachers love it. I love it because I get a few more chicks. I just never know if they are going to be hens or roosters!

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