How to Raise Baby Chicks

five adorable little chick standing on a wooden background. The focus is on the fluffy, yellow and brown chicks with their cute beaks and tiny feet. The wooden background provides a natural and rustic feel to the image. This image is perfect for those interested in farm animals, pets, or those who simply appreciate cute and adorable creatures.

Chickens are relatively easy animals to raise, whether you have a small farm or just plan on raising your own fresh eggs. While adult chickens are easy birds to keep, baby chicks can be a little more high maintenance with a higher mortality rate while they’re still growing. Having proper caregiving practices is also important to support your baby chicks before they mature into adult chickens. Following some simple steps will keep your babies healthy until they become viable and thriving adult chickens.

Where to Get Chicks

a mother hen and some of her adorable chicks foraging for food in a family compost pile. The focus is on the fluffy, yellow and brown chicks and the protective mother hen with her beak searching for food in the pile. The compost pile provides a natural and healthy source of food for the chickens, and also helps to reduce waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

Sourcing your babies properly is important to be sure you get what you want and that they grow into healthy birds. Chicks can be bought locally in the spring from farms, farm supply stores, or even from mail-order catalogs that supply farms. Before you bring your baby chicks home, you need to set up the proper environment. Baby chicks have different needs than adult chickens, so keep this in mind when prepping.

Set Up Chick Feeders

a group of adorable baby chicks on a farm gathered around a green feeder. The focus is on the fluffy, yellow and brown chicks with their cute beaks and tiny feet, as they huddle around the feeder to enjoy their meal.

Chick feeders will be different than adult chicken feeders. Adult feeders are bigger while chick feeders are smaller and designed to better accommodate the size and needs of the small chicks to make sure they can’t easily stomp through and defecate in their food. Chicks make a mess when they eat. While this is cute for a little while, it can cause bigger problems like wasting feed, chicks eating their bedding, and upset digestive systems. Get your chicks small plastic feeders to be placed on the floor of the brood. Ideally choose a red feeder, as red attracts the chicks. Fill your feeders with fresh food because when the chicks arrive home, they will definitely be hungry.

Get Chick Waterers

three adorable, fluffy yellow and brown baby chicks on a farm huddled around a red waterer, standing on top of a pile of hay.

Like feeders, you will ideally want to choose a chick waterer that is better sized for the chicks. Chicks are more prone to illness and disease, so keep this water clean and keep the chicks out of the water. Refresh the water daily with fresh and clean water. Similar to the feeders, be sure the chick waterer is filled with fresh water when the chicks arrive home. They will have spent a lot of time traveling to get to you and will undoubtedly be just as thirsty as they are hungry.

Install the Chick Brooder

A chicken brooder is a heated enclosure used to raise young chickens, ducks, and other poultry. It typically consists of a container with a heat source, such as a heat lamp or heating pad, and a litter substrate, such as wood shavings or straw, to absorb moisture and provide insulation. The enclosure may also include a feeder and waterer, and should be cleaned regularly to maintain hygiene

Chicks like their living space to be cozy, clean, and warm. Chicks need a draft-free brooder pen with red brooder lamps that stay on at all times. The lamp is crucial, as this is going to keep the chicks warm. Place a thermometer under the bedding to be sure the brood is around 92-95°F at all times. Warm temperatures create the optimal environment for raising chicks. Colder temperatures can contribute to illness, detrimental behavior, and even cannibalistic tendencies. Place the feeder and waterer on the edge of the area where the heat lamp covers the brood. Like with the feed and water, be sure the brood is nice and warm before moving the chicks in. Keep the brooder lined with at least 2 inches of brooder bedding to keep the chicks warm, cozy, and comfy.

Welcoming the Chicks

A group of adorable, fluffy, and bright yellow baby chickens huddled together in a cozy and warm brooder. They have tiny beaks, large eyes, and fuzzy down feathers that make them irresistible.

Upon receiving the chicks, it’s always a good idea to do a headcount to make sure everyone is there. Chicks have a relatively high mortality rate, so don’t be alarmed if a couple of chicks have not made it from the farm to your home. Suppliers will often add a few extras to make up for any potential losses. The same rule of thumb goes for your chicks once they are living in your brooder; some chicks may die before they reach adulthood, which is to be expected.

Once you’ve brought your chicks home, the fun begins! As you’re moving the chicks into the brooder, the first and most important thing to do is to dip each of their beaks in water. By dunking their heads in the water, you train them to know how to drink and where their water is. Next, place them by the feeder. Don’t worry about identifying them now, as their markings and appearance will change rapidly as they grow. You’ll need to do a few things to keep the chicks properly maintained.

Observe the Chicks

small chickens basking in the warm glow of a lamplight, with their eyes closed and feathers fluffed up in contentment. The chickens are likely under a heat lamp, which is essential for keeping them warm and comfortable, especially during colder seasons. The chickens are small and fluffy, with downy feathers and tiny beaks, making them cute and endearing creatures to behold.

Once the chicks have settled into their new home, it’s time to sit back and watch them. This can be fun and entertaining, but can also offer a lot of educational value. Within the first few hours, chicks should have found their way to their food and water. If you see any confused, lone, or peeping chicks, it’s likely they’re cold or having difficulty finding water and feed. Give them a little push in the right direction so they are closer to the area under the heat lamp. Always keep an eye on the temperature. If the chicks are huddled together, it suggests they are too cold. If chicks are roaming outside the area of the lamp, then perhaps the lamp is too hot and should be adjusted.

Pasting Up Problems

a close-up of a baby chicken's butt, isolated on a white background. The chick's fluffy, downy feathers and tiny, round body are visible, with its tail feathers slightly flared out.

Chicks have a tendency to dirty their bums. Consistently check the bums of each chick to be sure their fecal matter hasn’t clogged up their ability to defecate. It’s imperative to preventing disease and avoidable death in your chicks. Wipe their bums with a wet cloth or gently snip where feathers have become very caked in poop.

Keep Bedding Clean

a chicken farmer cleaning out a coop to prevent the spread of Avian Flu and other diseases. The farmer is wearing protective gear, including gloves and a face mask, as they scoop up old bedding and chicken waste with a pitchfork.

Check the chicks’ bedding daily for wetness and buildup of fecal matter. Wet bedding and feces can chill the chicks and breed disease, so it’s important to keep the bedding clean. Scoop out wet or dirty bedding and replace it with dry and clean bedding.

Moving Chicks to the Coop

an urban farmer and her young daughter in a backyard chicken coop. The farmer is showing her daughter how to care for the chickens, holding one in her hands while the little girl looks on with curiosity. The coop is made of wood and wire mesh, with several chickens visible in the background.

Moving your chicks to the chicken coop requires an adequate transition period. As they get older, gradually lower the temperature by 5° until the temperature reaches outdoor temperatures. Like getting seedlings ready to transplant outdoors, it’s important to harden off your chicks before moving them permanently to the coop. Starting at around 2-3 weeks old if temperatures outdoors are above 65°F, you can start bringing your chicks outside for short acclimating outings. By 4-5 weeks old, chicks are ready to move into the chicken coop full time.

To ensure the health and happiness of your little baby chicks, be sure you have all the tools and equipment you need while also knowing what to keep an eye out for.

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