New baby chicks! Is there anything more spring-like than the tiny little peeps of new baby chicks? Recently, we picked up eight baby chicks from our local Grain store. These little fluff balls were already sexed, so hopefully all will grow up to be laying ladies of leisure.
Bringing Home Baby Chicks
Growing your Flock
1. So are you thinking about adding to your flock? Or starting a flock of your own? Baby chicks do take quite a bit of care, especially when they are extremely young. Most Grain stores (and big stores too) will sell baby chicks freshly hatched at about 1-3 days old. The first thing that you are going to want to do before you even go pick them up is have your brooder set up and at the appropriate temperature. For my baby brooder, I use a gerbil pen. This will comfortably hold about 8-10 chicks until they are about 4 weeks old. I like to lay down some puppy pads and some pine shavings to soak up any messes and to make it a little more comfortable for them. You’ll want your brooder to be about 95 degrees. The entire thing doesn’t have to be 95 degrees but a larger enough area for them to be at 95 degrees and then areas for them to move away from. I do this with a red heat lamp and thermometer. Once the brooder is up to temp, head over to your local store to pick up those babies.
Tip: decrease the temp each week by 5 degrees until they are about 6-8 weeks of age or fully feathered. Fully feathered means no down left.
Baby Chicks Water and Food
2. Inside the brooder, you’ll want to be sure you have a source of clean water for them. I put my water on a wood block so they can’t tip over nor poop in it. Clean water is necessary for a pest free flock. You’ll also want some baby chick food and some chick grit. You should be able to pick both of those up where you purchase your chicks. Baby Chick feed, also called Starter Feed is essential to feed your little ones. This food helps boost their immune system and is easy for them to digest. I recommend keeping them on this food until they start laying (about 16-22 weeks of age). They are in crumbles form and easy for even the littlest ones to eat. Check out the Starter Feed I recommend here: Chick Starter.
Another necessity is your Chick Grit. You’ll also want to make sure you provide them with and adequate amount of Chick grit. Since chickens don’t have any teeth, they use their crop to grind up their food. Their crop uses the chick grit to grind the food and make it digestible. Your chickens will always need grit provided to them, unless you free range and then they will always need to have grit added to their food or available to them in their run. You can pick up some Chick Grit here.
Settling in the Baby Chicks
3. Once home, give each chick a once over. Make sure they all look alive, alert, and healthy. Gently dip their beaks in the water just slightly so they know where it is and then off they go to find the warmth of the brooder. They will usually huddle together. Most of your chicks will be about the same age but getting ones that are a week older than the rest should integrate well. Anything older than a week should be separated until you are sure they won’t peck at the younger ones.
Checking for Pasty Butt
4. Once they have settled in a little and you notice they are eating and drinking, pick each of them up and take a look at their bottoms. You’ll want to make sure no one has a build up of poop on or around their vent. This is called pasty butt. You’ll want to soak a paper towel or rag in warm water and hold it on the poop area for a few moments and then see if the poop will dissolve off. DO NOT PULL.
Just gently see if the poop will come off. Also be careful as their ‘belly button’ is just below the vent. Don’t play with that, it will come off on its own. As long as you can see the vent is open, your little lady should be good. If there is still some poop around it, you can gently run their behinds under lukewarm water to dissolve the poop some more. Be sure to gently dry them with a towel and a hair dryer until fluffy again. I like to put my hand in front of the hair dryer and allow the air to go around my hand. That way I know if it’s too hot and may need to be adjusted. Keep an eye on the each of them for about 7-10 days to make sure none continue to have pasty butt. It’s imperative that their vent remains clear so they can do what needs to be done!
Turning Baby Chicks to Pets
5. If you plan on having these chicks as pets, you may want to make sure you hold them daily. Several times a day. You’ll get to know which are ok with this and which won’t be too thrilled. Those that settle in to your hand will be life long friends. And so much easier to check for mites, lices, and any other ailments too later on. Make sure you talk to your chicks, hold your chicks, and look in on them often. The more human interaction at this young age, the better hens (or roosters) you’ll have later.
Cleaning the Brooder
6. Clean the brooder often. If water ever spills, clean it up right away. Don’t allow the pine shavings to be become too soiled. This just invites other pests. Clean it out and put in fresh shavings at least once a week, more times depending on how many chicks you have.
Once your new ladies are about 4 weeks old, you may have to move them to a larger brooder. A dog crate or old baby play pen will work great. As long as they have their fresh water, food and grit, they will be happy chicks. You’ll be able to bring them outside, supervised, as long as the temperature is close to the brooder temp. Once fully feathered, they can go into their coop.
Each breed is different but you can expect eggs at approximately 18-20 weeks of age. Each breed is different but this is about typical.
It’ll be fun to see your little chicks grow up. I am really looking forward to sharing this journey with you. If you are thinking about raising chicks yourself, why not take a look at some of the pointers I have for you on this tip sheet.