We love raising baby chicks around the farm. They are always so sweet and cute. They are so fluffy and chirpy! I just love having them around and the kids enjoy watching them and playing with them.
Each year, we like to raise some more fresh laying hens for the next year’s flock. We always have a lot of chickens around but as they older, they get a
lot little less productive.
How to Raise Baby Chicks
Chickens are relatively easy to care for. All they require is food, fresh water, and safety. If you can supply these things you can raise some happy hens who will gladly lay eggs for your family. Chicks aren’t hard to take care of however they do need a good start to grow into healthy hens.
When to buy baby chicks
We often buy baby chicks in the spring but it takes a while for them to start laying (20-24 weeks). Sometimes we choose to buy baby chicks in the fall or early winter. In doing so, they are ready to start laying eggs in the spring. This ensures that we have plenty of eggs all summer and we go through a lot of eggs!
Purchase your baby chicks
1- First things first, you need to buy your chicks. You have multiple options for this. You can order chickens from hatchery, buy through a local farm store, purchase from a local farm, or them on your own. Once you have your chicks the care is the same.
Supplies and Care
2- Secondly- Baby Chicks need to be kept in a brooder of some sort that is safe from predators (or small hands that just want to squish their cuteness), draft free, and can be kept warm. You can buy one, build one, or utilize something you already have on hand. With our first chickens we used a Rubbermaid tote as a brooder. We’ve also kept them in a shallow water trough for a few days in the house before transferring them to a wooden 4’x4′ brooder outside.
We’ve now built a large brooder that hold 100 chicks or more as we raise large batches of meat birds every year.
3- Thirdly- You will also need to use a heat lamp or heat source to keep the temperature between 90-95° F for the first week. Each following week the temperature needs to be decreased by 5° for 4-5 weeks until your chicks used to being at 70-75° F.
Observe your chicks to be sure they aren’t too cold or too hot. If they are cold they will be under the heat light all huddled together however if they are too hot they will be staying away from the light and panting. When they are just right they will be active, spread out, chirping, eating and drinking like happy little chickies.
Adjust your heat accordingly. In cooler months, you may want to continue to keep them at this temperature for longer until they are little bigger.
In a small backyard or homestead flock I personally do not see medicated feed as a necessity. Personally, we tend to stay away from medications if at all possible. Some people are more comfortable using medicated feed. It’s a personal preference choice.
We free feed our chicks until they are big enough to go out and forage then we feed them once or twice a day plus scraps. They also need to have access to fresh clean water at all times. You might be surprised by how much water these little boogers can drink in a day!
Water is a must for baby chicks
I recommend adding raw apple cider vinegar and garlic to your chicks water once a week to boost their immune systems. About a 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a crushed garlic clove per gallon of water is perfect.
Be observant of your chicks to be sure they are healthy. By keeping an eye on them often you will notice if any of them have a health issue arise. We rarely have any health issues with our chicks when providing all of the above for them.
Baby chicks grow fast!
The chicks will quickly trade in their fluff for real feathers. It is so much fun to watch them through this process. I think I could (and do) spend hours just watching them run around and chirp.
I’m so glad that we decided to learn how to raise baby chicks all those years ago. They say that chickens are the gateway animal into homesteading. I think this is often true. If you are unsure of this get yourself a few chicks.
It won’t be long and you’ll find yourself wanting pigs, cows, goats, sheep, ducks, bees….. you get the picture. Be careful, raising farm animals can quickly become an addiction…… or so I hear.
Chickens will start laying between 20-24 weeks of age on average.
Chicks need heat for about 4-5 weeks or until the brooder temp matches the outside temps being at least 70 degrees F.
No, you don’t need a rooster! Chickens will lay eggs no matter what. If you want fertile eggs to hatch, you will need a rooster though.
The recommended amount of space in a coop is 1 sqft per chicken.
You can order online from a hatchery, buy from a local farm store, buy from a local farmer that hatches chicks, or even hatch your own eggs!
We prefer non gmo feed which has become more readily accessible. Some local feed store carry non gmo feed and certainly carry conventional feed.
See the baby chicks in action!:
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