For a first time chicken owner, raising baby chicks may seem overwhelming. The best way to start out is by getting these 5 things baby chicks need before getting your chicks.
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1. Baby Chicks Need a Container
Choose a sturdy container that can easily hold all the baby chicks and the other items necessary. We use an old plastic water tub usually used to water cattle and other livestock. The tub is large enough to hold everything but small enough to fit inside in the school room. I like to keep the chicks inside for the first couple of weeks. This way I can keep a close eye on them, making sure everyone is happy and healthy. My kids love having the chicks in the school room too! They enjoy watching them and listening to their sweet little cheeping noises while we have school.
Once we move the chicks outside, we put rat wire on top of the container to keep predators out. Baby chicks would be an easy snack for roaming dogs, neighborhood cats, hawks, and other hungry wildlife. We also use the rat wire cover to keep the chicks in. You will be surprised at how high your baby chicks can jump and how quick they are!
2. Baby Chicks Need Shavings
Pine shavings are great to put in the bottom of your container. The pine shaving will help soak up moisture. You can’t potty train chickens. They go whenever and wherever. The pine shaving will help soak up all that extra moisture.
Baby chicks don’t roost, so the pine shavings also provide a nice bedding for them to sleep on. And the pine shavings are a good place for the chicks to learn to scratch. Chickens scratch in the grass and dirt looking for bugs and worms to eat. Baby chicks will begin practicing this necessary skill in the pine shavings when they’re only a few days old. One negative thing about keeping chicks indoors is that they will create a lot of dust from scratching in the pine shavings. The dust from their scratching will settle on everything. You probably want to keep that in mind when deciding if and where to keep your chicks inside.
It will be necessary to change the pine shavings out every few days. Depending on the size of your container and the number of baby chicks you have, you may need to do it more frequently. Fresh pine shaving will help keep things clean and help keep the smell down.
3. Baby Chicks Need a Waterer
There are many types of waterers for baby chicks. We like to use one like this waterer. They are inexpensive and hold quite a bit of water.
We use it with a glass, regular mouth one quart mason jar. You just fill the mason jar up with water. Screw the waterer on while the mason jar is upright. Once you get the jar and waterer over to the container quickly flip it over and place it on a level spot in the chicken container.
It is very important that the waterer is level. If it isn’t level all the water will leak out. The pine shavings will be wet, and the chicks will be out of water sooner than you expected. Keep a close eye on the waterer. Depending on how many baby chicks you have will depend on how frequently you need to refill it. If you have lots of baby chicks you may want to add another waterer or get a larger one.
4. Baby Chicks Need a Feeder
They are inexpensive but last a long time. This particular design allows for a lot of chicks to feed at the same time. We usually have at least 12 baby chicks at a time, so this feeder design makes it easier for everyone.
Baby chicks are not quite ready for cracked corn or laying pellets. They need chick starter. It is smaller so they can easily eat and digest it.
5. Baby Chicks Need a Heat Lamp
Baby chicks cannot keep themselves warm. Using a heat lamp will provide the necessary heat to help your chicks thrive. The heat lamp should have a 250 watt infrared bulb. The red light helps keep the baby chicks from pecking each other. Also the red light provides less light than a white light so the chicks can still sleep at night. We use a heat lamp with this bulb and clamps to hold it in place.
These heat lamps put out a lot of heat! Do not touch the bulb while it’s on or shortly after turning it off! It will burn you!
The younger your chicks are the more heat they need, so the closer the heat lamp will need to be to the container. As the chicks grow you will adjust the distance of the heat lamp. Eventually the chicks will no longer require any heat at all. This usually takes about 4 – 6 weeks, depending on the outside temperatures.
If the baby chicks are happy and scratching away from the heat lamp and sleeping under the heat lamp, you have it in a good location. If your chicks spend all day under the lamp and they continually chirp loudly, they may be too cold. Try getting the heat lamp closer to them. If your chicks are trying to get away from the heat lamp, it may be too hot. Try moving the heat lamp further away. There is a little bit of trial and error here. Just follow your chicks lead. They will let you know if they are hot, cold, or just right.
Getting these 5 things baby chicks need before getting your chicks, will help you prepare your space for healthy, happy chickens!
- I would also add that every baby chick needs love. It is good to talk to your chicks so they will begin to recognize your voice. I usually talk to mine while feeding them so that they associate me with treats!
- It is also a good idea to hold your baby chicks. This will help them to become less skittish as they grow up. When holding your chicks, cup their little feet in your hand so they don’t feel like they’re falling. Baby chicks are so soft and snuggly! If they begin to cheep loudly while you hold them, that means they are not enjoying it. You may need to change positions, or they may be cold and need to be back under the heat lamp.
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