So You’re About To Have Baby Chicks But You’re Not Sure What Feed They Should Eat No Problem
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know, from what they should eat immediately after hatching, to exactly what kind of food is best for them, to when they can have treats – and what kind of treats will help their development.
Immediately post hatch, feed nothing!
Technically, baby chicks don’t need anything to eat or drink for about 48 hours after they’ve hatched. That’s because they are sustained by the yolk of the egg, which they absorb into their body just before they break through the shell.
It’s how chicks can be sent by post from hatcheries with nothing to eat or drink in their container.
So don’t worry that your chick’s still in the incubator without food or drink while she dries out and fluffs up. She’ll be fine for now.
I generally leave my chicks to dry out in the incubator for between 6 and 12 hours after they’ve hatched. Once they’re dry, fluffed up and reasonably active, into the brooder they go.
It’s at that point you’ll need to introduce food and drink. For more about drink, see this link.
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Introducing Treats & Outdoor Forays
Create some fun bonding time with your chicks by introducing special treats or outdoor excursions. Both of these things can be introduced when your chicks are only a day old! Mother hen would be taking her brood out to explore the world as soon as everyone is hatched, so you can too. However, as the acting substitute for mother hen, you have to consider a few things before introducing your chicks to something new.
Healthy treats for chickens like insects can be introduced to your chicks after they have learned where to find food, water, and heat. Your chicks should be freely eating and drinking before you add something new to their diet. When you first introduce a new food to your chicks, sprinkle it on the floor of the brooder and pretend to peck at it with your finger. Your chicks will soon become curious and check out the new food. Pretty soon, snack time will be a feeding frenzy when you give them their favorite snacks! Plus, once your flock grows up, they will follow you anywhere for their snacks…like safely back into the coop after free ranging.
Some healthy snacks to give your chicks include oats, a pinch of Grubblies, and clean dirt/weed clumps. Simply crush the dried grubs or oats between your fingers so its easier for them to peck. When introducing a healthy snack, be sure to also give your little ones access to chick grit to aid digestion.
Easy Ordering From Hatcheries
Spring is still the busy season for hatcheries that ship to backyard chicken keepers across the country. Skip the spring rush and avoid breeds being sold out by ordering in the winter. There could be a reduced number of breed choices, but the breeds they do offer will be tried and true heritage breeds.
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They Transform Right Before Your Eyes
In 7 days, our girls have gone from tiny little fuzzy fluffballs to almost full-winged with the beginning of crests and tail feathers and theyve grown a whole lot bigger. You can literally see them changing day to day. One day they had no wing feathers, and the next day they had visibly sprouted. A couple of our little ones now have full wing feathers and two that are just sprouting their first layer. So fascinating how different the individuals in a group can be all the same breed, the same hatchery, the same food and conditions, and all so different. Just like children!
The takeaway: Be sure to take pictures every day or two youll be amazed at how fast they change and develop and youll be happy you have baby pics of your wee babes! They wont be wee for long.
A Heat Lamp And A Thermometer
Chicks cant regulate their body temperature yet, so they need external heat.
Make sure to get a red lamp!
The traditional white lamps are keeping them up and restless, which results in stress and undesirable behavior. They will start pecking each other and it will impact their growth. A red lamp will keep them docile and calm. Make sure to avoid bulbs with Teflon-coating, as this will poison the chicks. Place the thermometer under the lamp.
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Heating Plate / Heat Lamp
Baby chicks need heat to survive. Choose between a heat plate or lamp to keep the chicks warm until the baby chicks feathers come in. Until baby chicks have their feathers they can not properly regulate their temperature. First time chick parents may find a thermometer helpful. Place the thermometer in the brooder near the heat source to ensure the temperature is in the right range. See our the Baby Chick Temperature Chart below for more details.
When To Move Your Chicks From The Brooder To The Coop
When should you do this?
The short answer is: it depends.
The main reason you have your chicks in a brooder is to keep them warm while they grow and develop their feathers.
Once they have their full set of feathers, they have the ability to keep them warm and can be moved into a coop.
In general, if most chicks are fully feathered at about 6 weeks old, and hence, this is a good time to start assessing whether your chicks are ready for the coop.
If you already have chickens and a coop and are wanting to know how to integrate new with old, click here to find out how to introduce new chickens to the flock!
If you live in cooler weather youll know that you likely need a heat source in the coop as well. In these situations, its better to wait for more than 6 weeks to allow the chicks to completely develop their feathers.
- Dont judge based on age, judge based on development
- Dont forget to ensure that your coop is predator-proof before moving them in
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Setting Up The Brooder
First of all, you will need to set up your brooder. You cant just place your chicks in the coop with the adults, they need a clean and safe environment to grow up. Prepare the brooder before the chicks arrive, so the brooder has the perfect warm and cozy climate for the incoming chicks.
To set up a good brooder, you will need:
- a container
- a heat lamp and a thermometer
- waterers and feeders
Lets see what these are all about.
The Temperature In The Brooder
Chicks will use the heat lamp to regulate their temperature. When they are cold, they will move towards the heat lamp. On the contrary, if you see them huddling on the sides, its too warm. Raising baby chicks includes continuously observing your chicks. Whatever the thermometer is saying, their behavior will guide you. In general, there must be plenty of hot and cold places for the chicks to hang out.
When the chicks arrive, the temperature in the brooder under the lamp should be 90/95 degrees Fahrenheit. Then each week, lower the temperature by 5 degrees until they have feathers. Thats about 5 to 8 weeks in.
When they feather out, you can remove the heat lamp and they are ready to stretch their legs outside.
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Transitioning To An Adult Diet
Pullets need slightly less protein than the chicks but dont need extra calcium until they start laying eggs. Commercial foods for pullets are available, which you should gradually mix with the chick food over the course of a week. Supplement with the same foods you gave the chicks. They too need grit until they have access to the outdoors.
How To Raise Chicks
So, now you have all of your equipment and supplies assembled test it! Make sure everything works before the chicks arrive. When the hatchery notifies you of shipment, turn on the heating element so that it has time to warm up the space for them.To reach optimum temperature you will need a thermometer if you are using heat lamps. The temperature at floor height needs to be 90-95F for the chicks. If you are using a heat plate, simply plug it in.
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How To Care For Baby Chickens Guide For Beginners
If you are looking forward to raising chickens you must also know how to take care of baby chickens. These little birds are not as delicate as most people think. Even beginners will find it easy to handle them as they grow.
With good care, they can grow healthy and strong among other flocks of chickens. All you need is the right tips to guide you and everything else will fall in place.
How To Care For Baby Chicks
As with all baby animals, chicks are very fragile. It is normal to lose a few chicks out of your day-olds. The vast majority of chick death happens within the first three to five days. Give your chicks especially close care and attention during that time.
Dehydration is a common cause of early chick death. The chicks may need help finding food and water. Dip their beaks in their water if they are not finding it. Sugar can be added to their water as a quick boost for chicks who are especially weak or woozy, but should not be used as a long-term supplement.
Another concern is something called pasty butt, which is a lot more dangerous than it sounds. Basically, sticky feces coat the backside of the chick, drying onto their feathers, and clog up their vent, which is where chickens urinate, defecate, and lay eggs. A clogged vent can kill a chicknot to put too fine a point on it, they burst.
Luckily, this is totally preventable. Pick up each of your chicks every day and check their bottoms. Wipe away any stuck feces with a warm, damp rag. Dont tug. When you are finished, dry your chick close to a heat lamp or with a blow-dryer. Getting chilled can kill a chick too.
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To keep your chicks healthy, you need to keep the brooder at the correct temperature. If the chicks are huddling directly under the heat lamp, they are too cold, and even if it doesnt kill them, the stress can weaken their immune systems.
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How Do You Know If A Chicken Egg Is Fertilized
The easiest way to check if an egg is fertilized or not is to hold it up to a light. If the egg appears opaque, its likely fertilized. You wont be able to see through it as well as the other eggs. However, not every fertilized egg will become a chick.
If you accidentally crack a fertilized egg, you can tell if its fertilized if it has a small white spot at the top of the yolk. That spot is usually about 4mm wide, and its known as the germinal disc.
How To Raise Baby Chicks Adding New Chicks To The Brooder
After the equipment is set up and the new chicks arrive, the steps are fairly simple.
- Keep food and water available to your chicks at all times.
- Add new fresh food and water daily or as needed. Clean off or remove any droppings or bedding that may be in or on the feeder or waterer.
- Change paper towels or pine shaving bedding daily, or as needed, for cleanliness
- Monitor temperature near the heat plate or heat lamp. See chick temperature chart below.
- Watch the chicks behavior occasionally so that any chick that seems ill or acting abnormally can be quickly identified and addressed.
Chicks often sleep laying flat on the ground. If there is a roost bar the chicks will use it to sleep. On roosting bars the chicks head may droop straight down to the ground as they sleep this is normal.
Chicks displaying balance issues, splayed legs or wry neck may be sick. Separate them from the other chicks just in case until the cause is determined.
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How To Raise Baby Chicks With Manners
Its important to teach manners to your chicks from a very early age so that they are used to humans when they are grown up. The following rough guideline shows you what you can do each week as they are growing up in your brooder:
Days 1-3: For day-old chicks, its best to avoid playing with them and let them be they need to get used to their new environment and explore the brooder. This will be hard because they are so cute, but let them be for a few days.
Days 3-5: You can put your hand in their brooder, and let them explore around your hard no sudden movements be gentle.
Days 5-6: Keeping your movements slow, continue to put your hand in the brooder, however, start feeding them from your palm. It helps for you to softly talk to them as you feed them too this way they will associate your voice with feed time.
Week 2-3: You may start to gently hold them, and continue to feed them from your hand while talking to them.
Week 3 onwards: By now your chicks should not be afraid of you. Dont forget to keep feeding them with your hand, speaking to them, and picking them up.
When & Where To Raise Chicks
There are several points to consider here baby chicks need a constantly warm and draft-free environment, it needs to be predator-proof, theyll smell, and they create amazing amounts of dust so a garage, barn, workshop, or location outside your home is usually the best choice.
Day-Old Chick on Baby Chick Feeder
The first time we raised day-old chicks, we thought taking care of the predator-proof, smelly, dusty part was easy we put them in a barn stall. However, keeping chicks at a constant temperature in a barn stall while the temperatures ranged from 54° 98° outside proved to be quite challenging. So, keep in mind the likely outdoor temperatures for the first weeks, and choose accordingly.
Each time weve raised chicks subsequently, weve gotten a little smarter. We now get day-old chicks in the spring as temperatures are warming up, that way as theyre getting older, temperatures are going up, and you dont have to play with the heat lamp as much.
Keeping them indoors is an option too, just dont underestimate the dust and smell theyll create. If possible, pick an unused room and cover surfaces with old sheets to mitigate the dust problem. It will certainly be easier to maintain a constant temperature and stop predators with them indoors.
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