Getting Started: Bringing Chicks Home

You brought home what?!
My brother took a 4-H class in high school and surprised my mom by bringing home four baby chicks one day. After some convincing, she reluctantly agreed to let us keep them.  We quickly named our chicks, searched the internet for a crash course in keeping chicks and watched them grow.

A chick’s home. Because we only had a few chicks, our brooder consisted of a large box with high sides and a heat lamp. We attached a thermometer to make sure our chicks stayed happy and warm. If chicks are too warm, they will try to get out of the brooder and press against the sides or spread out to stay cool. If it’s too cold, they will huddle together under the heat lamp. Here’s a helpful temperature chart for the approximate heat needs by age. However, make sure chicks are happy and healthy by their content behavior.

chick,-brownApproximate Heat Needs by Age:

1 Week          95-100 degrees

2 Weeks         85-90 degrees

3 Weeks         80-85 degrees

4 Weeks         75-80 degrees

5-7 Weeks      70-75 degrees

8 Weeks         65-70 degrees

9 Weeks         65+ degrees

We also had newspaper covering the floor and paper towels. Other great options are pine shavings or straw. Besides bodily excrement, chicks lose their baby feathers and are messy eaters, making for a very stinky environment. We cleaned and put down new bedding regularly.

The feed they need. The chicks needed a high-quality feed to keep them healthy and growing. Our local farm supply store had a few great options. We used chick feed for the first six to eight weeks and then a different formulation for other stages of their lives. We cleaned and refilled their water regularly, too. Chickens don’t overeat so we made sure their feeder always had plenty of food.

Movin’ on up. Once they had their adult feathers and the weather was warm enough, my dad helped us build a coop in our backyard and we moved our chickens out there. We wanted to make sure our chickens were protected from the local coyotes so we used thick hardware cloth to keep the chickens in and the coyote out. We lived on over an acre of grass and wooded areas so we were able to build a large coop with plenty of room for our chickens to explore, eat and start laying eggs. Although we had quite a bit of space for our chickens, most people don’t realize that chickens are some of the easiest animals to keep in a small space. A family can keep nearly a dozen chickens on just a quarter-acre lot.

Not only did the chicks provide great lessons in science and being responsible for animals, once they started laying eggs, we had some of the best tasting eggs around!

Healthy tips

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling chickens, their eggs, or anything inside their brooder or coop.
  • Keep the chicks and their brooder away from eating, living, or bathing areas.
  • Avoid snuggling and kissing your chicks, taking care to keep them away from your mouth.
  • Keep the brooder and coop clean so their eggs will stay clean.