How to care for your baby chicks when you bring them home. While chicks seem small and simple there are many things you need to know to care for and successfully raise them. Once you know these few steps raising chicks is really quite simple.
How to care for your baby chicks
If you are ordering your chicks through the mail or getting them from your local store the steps are pretty much the same. The mail to order chicks usually have a minimum quantity in order to ship. Not sure what breed to order check out the post on “Which breed is right for you.”
Just before a baby chick hatches, it swallows the yoke in the egg. This gives the chick enough nourishment which allows it to go without food and water for 3 days. That doesn’t mean when you pick them up from the store or out of your post office you can wait 3 days to start caring for them. It is very important that you start these steps as soon as they arrive.
There is nothing sweeter than those little chirps coming from the box as you bring those babies home. Here are a few tips to help you successfully raise those little chicks. It is the same whether you are bringing home goslings, ducklings or any other type of a baby bird.
Important steps for care
- The first important step is to get the chicks under the heat lamp. It may be warm outside but the chicks need to stay at a temperature of 95 degrees for the first few days.
If you don’t have a thermometer don’t worry you can watch the babies and they will help you know what the temperature is. When the chicks huddle in a bunch under the light they are too cold. Although they stay a little warmer huddled together they can easily smoother each other and if it is too cold they will eventually die.
If the babies are to warm you will be able to tell also. They try to move as far away from the light as they can get. If it is to warm they will die from the heat and possible dehydration.
Tips as they grow
As the chicks grow this theory will also help you know how to position the light. As they get feathers they will need less heat and you will be able to raise the heat lamp up slowly until you can turn the heat lamp off. It is hard to say what age you can turn the light totally off. It will depend on how quickly they get their feathers and how cold it is in the place they are living.
One downfall of a heat lamp is they can be a little dangerous. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to try a chick heating plate, this looks like a great idea that would work very nicely.
- The next important step is to make sure they have a good feeder for food and a safe container for water. I usually dip the beak into the water lightly just so they can get their first drink and know where to find the water. If your water tray is deep you can always put marbles in the bottom to keep them safe. They are also curious about the marbles and will peck at them encouraging them to drink.
Clean water is very important to keep them well. The type of feed is also very important. There are many different brands of chick starters. Some come medicated and some are without the medication. The medication is to help prevent coccidiosis. This is an infection that can easily cause death in chicks. This is one of the reasons it is important to keep the water and their living environments clean.
Chicks require the nutrients in chick starter to help them grow and get a good start. When we owned a feed store I had customers that would buy scratch and think they could just eat that. They need food that is high in protein and easily digested.
What to use for bedding
- Bedding is also very important in keeping the area clean to prevent sickness. Pine shavings or straw works the best. If you use newspaper the babies may break out in a rash from an allergic reaction to the ink. Also, it is important you do not use cedar shavings. Although it smells good it is a little overwhelming for those little chicks and may make them sick.
There are many containers you can put the chicks into. I have used horse troughs, brooders, totes and big cardboard boxes. Although the brooders work the best the other options work well also.
The important point is you need to have a space big enough for them to get out away from the heat lamp if they need to. It is also important they are not in tightly cramped quarters, leaving enough space for them to move around.
Two more tips I have learned
- I hope this article helps you prepare for bringing home those baby chicks. Here is one more thing to watch out for. Occasionally you will notice the poop sticking to the rear end of the chicks. This needs to be cleaned off of the chicks to help them stay healthy. One of the causes may be draftiness in their living quarters. To help prevent this make sure your chicks are out of drafty areas in a room to prevent sickness.
- Occasionally you will have chicks or even chickens that like to peck at each other. I throw in green grass or dandelions or maybe even a few weeds. This seems to give them something to do other than pick on each other.
Raising chicks is fun and very rewarding, it can also become a very addictive hobby. You know you can’t have just one!
Share your ideas with the rest of us. We would love to hear!