I love walking through our local feed store this time of year. You will see anything from baby chicks, ducks, bunnies and more. They are so cute and you just have to hold one. Spring means baby chicks at our homestead and this year was no different.
We chose 12 baby chicks to replace the ones that were killed by a fox last fall. We got 4 Plymouth Rocks, 4 Buff Orpington and 4 Silver Laced Wyandotte breeds for our hen house.
Where can you get baby chicks?
There are several ways to get baby chicks for your homestead:
Incubate your own eggs in an incubator.
Let a broody hen naturally incubate eggs if you have a rooster to fertilize them.
Buy newborn chicks from a hatchery by mail or from a local source.
Buy newborn chicks from you local feed store.
So once you get home with these cute little bundles of fur, what do you do with them?
Baby chicks need 4 things to thrive in their new environment:
Baby chicks need higher protein food than full grown chickens. You can buy chicken starter feed (medicated or unmedicated) at the store.
We use a plastic, flip top feeder for the chicks to easily access the food.
You can also make homemade chick starter feed but it will be more time consuming. It just depends on how you want to raise your chickens.
Chicks will need access to fresh water continually. We use a mason jar waterer in our brooder box for the babies.
When you first get the chicks, you want to dip their beaks in the water source so they know where to get their water.
If you have sick chicks, you can make a homemade electrolyte drink for the chicks to help them get stronger.
Before your chicks hatch, get together a brooder box for them to live in for a few weeks. It can be a box, tub or any kind of container you have. Add a deep bedding of pine shavings to the bottom and a chicken wire lid to the top so they don’t fly out. Add the water and food to the box and you are ready to go.
When the chicks have grown their feathers and are bigger, they are ready to go outside to the chicken coop. If you have older birds, you may want to keep them in the coop but in their own cage for a few days to let everyone get used to each other.
There may be some pecking from the older chickens when the new ones come in to establish the pecking order. That’s normal. But keep an eye on them for any overly mean or excessive behavior.
4. Warm Environment
The last thing chicks need to thrive is a warm environment. You will probably want to add a red heat lamp to your brooder box for the first few weeks. They need to be kept at 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week and then slowly decrease the heat each week.
Watch the chicks to see how they are feeling. If they are all huddled up under the lamp, they are probably cold. If they are spread out on the opposite side of the box from the lamp, they are probably too hot. Adjust the temperature accordingly.
Chick Care Problems:
The main chick care problem you will probably have is pasty butt. Pasty Butt is when the chick has crusty, dried poop on their bottom that blocks the chicks vent, making it impossible to poop. This can kill the chick in the first few days of life. You should check for pasty butt within the first couple of days of life.
If you find it, you can dip their bottom in water and then wipe off the blockage. I have heard that you can add coconut oil to the bottom to help prevent this, but I haven’t tried it. You can also add apple cider vinegar to the water (a small amount) to help with pasty butt as well.
My family loves when baby chicks come to the homestead. It is an exciting time for our family as we get ready for spring. In order to have healthy hens to lay all of those yummy eggs, you must take extra special care of the baby chicks first.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share about baby chick care? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks!
If you are thinking about getting chicks this spring, I have prepared a free class called “Taking Care of Baby Chicks” that will walk you through taking care of chickens from chick to hen. I hope it helps you get the confidence to raise chickens on your own.