With it being chick season, I thought I would do a quick post on the basics (really basics) of raising chickens.
1. Housing: Use a large plastic bin (like Rubbermaid). This is so much better than cardboard! My friend Megan gave me this tip and she was so right! Get one big enough that they won’t outgrow it and when it gets really dirty, just hose it out.
2. Bedding: Line the bottom of your box with a few layers of newspaper and sprinkle with a bit of shavings. There is some debate about what to use for baby chicks but we had good luck with it. If it was good enough for the feed store than it was good enough for us!
Just remember that baby chicks are MESSY and you will need to change their bedding often. Don’t worry, the smell will remind you of when it is time. We did ours just about every day.
3. Lighting: Red lights are the best for keeping your babies warm. Adjust the height of your lamp according to how warm your chicks are. If they all bunch up together under the light it is too high and it needs to be closer to their floor. If they all stick to the sides of the box to keep out of the light, it is too warm and it needs to be higher up.
As they get older place the lamp a bit higher up every week. Our chicks moved out to the coop at about 5 weeks old and I put the heat lamp out with them until the weather was warmer at night.
4. Food and Water: Just have food and water for them at all times. They are pretty rambunctious and will probably spill them quite often. To reduce the waste of food and keep the bedding dry, we put our feeders and waterers up on blocks off the floor. The food and water containers will also have to be cleaned quite often.
I also recommend giving them at least one bag worth of medicated chick feed. It just helps them get off to a good healthy start. After 60 days or so, you can start giving them layer feed.
At about 6-8 weeks, you can start giving them scraps to eat. While they will eat just about everything there are a few guidelines you should follow. You can check them out HERE.
5. Healthy Babies: One thing that most people don’t think about is your chicks behinds. Every day for a few weeks we do a “butt check”. Baby chicks are prone to having loose stools. That being said, loose poop tends to stick to fuzzy little bums. If too much sticks and dries, they can get all stopped up. Chicks can die from this. So making sure your babies have clean behinds is very important! Use a warm cloth to wipe them clean. If necessary, you can clip off dried stool with a small scissors. But be very careful!!!
6. Lots of Love: Don’t forget to play with your chicks and give them names! They will become great pets if you socialize them right away!