April 12, 2012

Raising Baby Chicks

Introducing . . . Our fifteen new black australorp chicks!  We have been wanting to get a few more hens for the homestead!  After the death of a few of our ladies due to predators, our egg production has gone down a bit.  Since we have lots of customers wanting eggs, we decided it was time to invest in a few more.  Last week, a friend of ours called wanting to know if we would be interested in fifteen baby chicks.  He had purchased twenty-five, but really only wanted ten.  Although we have previously purchased pullets (young chickens at least 20-weeks old), we decided we could take on the adventure of raising up the chicks.  After raising meat chickens from chicks last year, we had all the equipment and decided it was an adventure worth taking! :)  Of course, there have been some differences . . . Let's start with the fact that these little birdies won't grow quite as fast as the meat birds.  Also, all of our chicks are hens this time. . . don't ask me how one would discover this- apparently you can squeeze the poop out of them (literally), and these modest little babies reveal everything!  So far everything seems to be going great with our little girls!  They eat much less than our last batch of chicks, and that means they defecate less.  The best part?  They smell less! Yea!

So that being said,  I thought I would give you a little info on what is needed to raise chickens from baby chicks:

A Brooder

The baby chicks will need to be kept inside in a heated brooder for the first 5-8 weeks.  You can use a variety of things to make a brooder!  Depending on how many chicks you have, you could simply use a hamster or rabbit cage.  However, if you have many chicks you might want to come up with something bigger.  Skyler used plywood, and some spare material we had around the house to make ours.  Get creative!  There are many things that could work!

Once you have your brooder, you will need to layer the bottom of it with pine shaving or something similar.  When the chicks move in, you will want to make sure you keep this living area clean for the birds.  We usually cover any poop with a new layer of shavings each time we check on them (at least twice a day), but eventually you will probably want to clean out the brooder, and give the birds all new shavings.  Just use common sense, and make sure the brooder is clean enough to keep away diseases.  These little chicks will be more prone to diseases than older chickens.  NOTE:  We didn't keep our meat chickens in the brooder long enough to have to completely change their litter, so we will just have to see how it goes with these chicks. 

Be sure your brooder has enough room for feed, water, and a little space to run around (It is pretty fun to watch them run, especially as they begin getting feathers on their wings!).  Once the chicks are about a month old it would be a good idea to give them a little roost.  A stick or board about 4 inches off the ground would work great!  They will love it!


These little ladies like and need to be warm!  For the first week you will need to keep the temperature inside the brooder between 90-100 degrees!  Every week after that you can decrease the temperature by about 5 degrees.  You will want to invest in a heat lamp especially if it is springtime, and there are cool days/nights.  If it is summer time a light may work fine.  Here is a hint:  if the chicks are all cuddled together under your heat lamp, they are probably too cold.  If they are spread out, and seem to be staying as far away as possible from the light, they may be too warm.  To solve any of these issue simply change the distance of the light, or adjust the wattage as needed.


Be sure to keep CLEAN, FRESH, water available to your chicks all day!  A medium plastic waterer like this one in the picture to the left would work great!  We usually change their water once a day since they drink so much. Each time we check on them we usually need to clean out the shavings from their water.  With all that moving around they tend to flip some of it in there!


These type of feeders here to the left work great!  They are made out of galvanized steel, and the top slides off so you can refill it with food.  You will want to check on their food once or twice a day - not so much because they eat a lot, but because they will poop right in their food as they climb all over this thing to feed.  It's not too bad, but just make sure to scrap off any shavings or poops they may have dropped into their food.  Then you can fill it with more!

As for the kind of food to get . . . Baby chicks eat food called "crumbles".  This food will provide all of their dietary needs, and you can get it medicated or unmedicated depending on your preference.  Even though their diets will primarily consist of this food for the first several weeks, it is always fun to watch a bug fly in the brooder as they all go after the treat!  Sometimes Skyler will find a bug and toss it in!  Bugs are what they really like!  Plus, this is what they get the most off when they start free ranging around our homestead!

Playtime and Bonding

I am not sure that we have really developed this with our little chicks yet, but I bet if you have kiddos around they would love to love on these little babies!  After the first couple weeks it would probably be ok to let the kids take a few chicks outside to play.  Just be careful of predators - older chickens, family dogs, etc.  Also make sure you keep an eye on them as I imagine it would be easy for them to get lost in small spaces.  Chickens are a fun loving animal, and even though they may not want to be cuddled they can get attached to you.  When people come over they always laugh at how our chickens will come when we call them!  (They really just come because we usually have food for them, but that can be our little secret! ;)

So there you have it!  All you need to raise up baby chicks!  Now, if only raising little Kyria were going to be  that simple!

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