Hello – I hope you had an awesome holiday weekend with your family! Today, I’m sharing a fun tutorial on how to raise baby chicks, just in case you’re thinking of getting some this spring…
While I’ve been begging the husband for years, we finally got our first batch of baby chicks in the spring of 2020.
After waiting for so long, I was so excited that he finally gave in!
We decided on heritage chickens for laying purposes. I ordered them from Tractor Supply and they were safely delivered to our post office about a week later.
We got 12 to start with and luckily ended up with all healthy hens.
Honestly, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. Not only do they provide us with lots and lots of fresh eggs, they are so much fun to have around, too!
BONUS: They eat the bugs, too.
At first, I was overly concerned that I’d resent the added work eventually, but, all it has really done is reinforce that this is the right life for me.
I love it!
And I want MORE!
In fact, I’ve added 8 more baby chicks and 2 ducklings to my little funny farm so far this spring.
I plan to add a couple more chicks soon, too, because I am desperate for a couple of the polish breeds.
I LOVE their floppy head feathers!
And I’d really love to get some piglets, sheep and maybe a goat or two, too. But, that’s a story for another day!
You’re here to learn about baby chicks, right?
Are you ready to learn how to raise baby chicks so you can get your own?
Raising chickens is not hard at all!
As long as you keep them housed, fed, watered and give them a place to roam during the day, they’re very happy to supply you with an abundance of eggs.
So, let’s do it – you won’t regret it!
Buying Baby Chicks
Check your local farm store when you start your search for baby chicks.
Most offer “chick days” in the spring, where you can buy directly from the store. If not, many offer the ability to order, through their store, from a local hatchery.
If you don’t have a local farm store, I highly recommend McMurray Hatchery and/or Hoover’s Hatchery. We have ordered from both so far and have had wonderful results.
Baby Chicken Supplies
Baby chicks don’t really require a great deal of supplies to get started. But, there are a couple of things you definitely need…
- Brooder box
- Heat lamp
- Bedding (I recommend natural pine shavings)
- Feeder (We use Healthy Harvest Chick Starter Grower Crumbles)
- Grit (eventually)
- Electrolytes/Raw, organic apple cider vinegar (optional)
And that’s really it.
Setting Up the Chick Brooder
After you’ve ordered your chicks, it’s time to get the brooder set up!
We have chosen to use livestock water troughs as brooder boxes for our baby chicks and ducklings, but you can use lots of different things!
Some people use just a plain, old cardboard box or a dog crate. I’ve even seen people use rubber storage totes and plastic kiddie pools.
But, no matter what style brooder box you choose, you’ll need to set it up right to keep your new baby chicks warm and cozy.
First, place 2 to 3 inches of bedding in the brooder.
Then, set up the heat lamp above the brooder at a level that provides 95 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature inside the box.
That’s it for now. Each week, you should move the heat lamp up an inch or two, so that your temperature inside the brooder goes down by 5 degrees each week.
- First Week: 95 degrees
- Second Week: 90 degrees
- Third Week: 85 degrees
- Fourth Week: 80 degrees
- Fifth Week: 75 degrees
- Sixth Week: 70 degrees
After week 6 your babies will be plenty big enough to withstand the usual temperature and you can remove the heat lamp from the brooder.
Feeding Baby Chicks
Now it’s time to feed those babies!
For the first 2 weeks, your baby chicks will only need some chick starter crumbles and lots of fresh, clean water.
However, you may want to consider adding a package of chick electrolytes or a teaspoon or so of raw, organic apple cider vinegar to their water for the first couple of days after you receive them. This helps to reduce the shock of shipping/moving them from their birthplace.
Plan to change the feeder/waterer out about twice a day because they will constantly get bedding into them.
After they are 2 weeks old, it’s time to include some grit in their diet.
Caged chickens need grit to boost their digestive system and help break down their food. Those that are free-ranged or pastured, are able to find plenty of sand and tiny stones in the ground to help with that.
Treats for Your Chicks
So, treats for baby chicks seems to be a controversial topic.
Some say no treats at all…
Others say it’s okay…
I’m in the 2nd camp and I chose to start my 2 week baby chicks with small treats like lettuces and meal worms because the grass doesn’t green in Vermont until sometime in late April…or June…depending on the year.
In 2020, we got our baby chicks in April. This year, we got them in early March.
So, grass is not an option for us, but if you’ve got a lawn of green already, then by all means use it. In small quantities, it’s a great way to introduce their digestive systems to what they’ll be gaining outdoors.
While I understand that some don’t think it’s right to feed treats to chicks, I strongly disagree…
If a baby chick was being raised naturally by it’s mother, then she’d be giving it all kinds of food from the wild, including grasses and worms.
And furthermore…do you think your ancestors ran to the feed store to pick up grit or special “age-appropriate” chicken treats?
The answer would be a big, fat resounding NO!
I know mine didn’t! They fed them all kinds of kitchen scraps, no matter what their age.
So, I think it’s safe to feed my baby chicks a few small treats here and there.
If you don’t, that’s okay – it’s totally your choice!
Moving Baby Chicks to the Big Coop
Now that you’ve been watching your little baby chicks grow up for about 12 weeks, it’s time for them to move outside to the big coop!
Such a proud moment for a chicken Mama (and a grateful one because the layer of pine shaving dust in your house is finally clean)!
If you don’t have any other chickens, then it’s safe to move your big girls into the coop at any time after the nighttime temperatures are above 45 degrees consistently.
Preparing the Big Coop for your Chickens
We’ve chosen to use the deep litter bedding method in our chicken coop, which I highly recommend!
Here’s how we do it…
Start with a layer of builders grade sand, about 3 inches deep.
Add a 3 inch layer of pine shavings on top of the sand.
Once a month, add another 3 inch or so layer of pine shavings.
Clean out entirely (and repeat) in the spring and fall each year.
That’s right, my friend…I only clean the chicken coop 2x a year! And there is virtually no stench at all!
I know you’re thinking, HOW CAN THAT POSSIBLY BE?
And the answer is, because the deep litter method works much like composting. By consistently adding “brown” material to the chicken manure and mixing it around, it breaks down the bacteria that create the usual smell.
Some people choose to do this with grass clippings, dried leaves, garden clippings and even paper shavings. There’s lots of different ways to create deep litter and I suggest you do some research, if you’re interested, because it saves so much time!
So, now that you’ve got the bedding all ready to go, it’s time to for water and food.
Feeding and Watering Chickens in an Outside Coop
There are lots and lots of fancy feeders available on the market for chickens, but do you really need one?
No, you don’t. Don’t waste your money on some expensive feeder because some advertisement told you need it. You really don’t!
We started out with a 5 gallon pail feeder that the husband made after chatting with a salesperson at our local farm store. It was very similar to this one from Bless this Mess.
The only thing we did differently was the feed holder on the bottom. Instead of the foil pan she chose, we used a rubber horse feeding bowl and it worked great.
Early this spring, we upgraded to a larger, wall hanging feeder that the husband made out of some scrap plywood and beadboard.
And we now use the rubber feeding bowl for water instead of the hanging waterer that they constantly spilled all over in the coop.
But, you can use anything that you have available, really. Don’t waste a ton of money on fancy feeders, they just get super messy and beat up anyway.
Here’s a few ideas that you can make using recycled/scrap materials from around the house…
- PVC Chicken Waterer from instructables.com
- Hanging Coffee Can Chicken Feeder from Willamette Valley Homesteader
- DIY Chicknic Table from Creative Green Living
LOVE that Chicknic Table! I really want to build one for my ladies this summer.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to get some baby chicks?
You might also like these tutorials:
- How to Start a Vegetable Garden Indoors
- Make Your Own Dried Apple Slices with Cinnamon Sugar for PENNIES!
- DIY Stone Walkways and Wood Garden Beds
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Have a Spectacular Day!
Vanessa Hamlin is the owner and founder of Food Life Design and VLHamlinDesign. With her passion for frugal living and homesteading, Vanessa loves to write about easy recipes, making money, gardening, home remedies and everything else that a good life entails! When she’s not writing for Food Life Design or creating products for VLHamlinDesign, you’ll find Vanessa reading, drawing, gardening, cooking or spending time with her family.