Chicks, How to care for them

Hedgerow Farm Dominique and Delaware chicks

Raising chicks is not especially difficult if we understand what they need and don’t need in the first few weeks.  It is rewarding and satisfying to care for creatures beyond ourselves and our pets.   For us, Barred Rock chicks were our first livestock.  We were living in a neighborhood and preparing to move to the farm later in the year.  We brooded them in a spare bathtub for the first few weeks of life before moving them to the garage chicken pen for another few weeks.  note: we did not park cars in the garage during this time.

Chick Needs:  Warmth, Water, Food,  Safe Shelter.

Avoid stressing chicks from overcrowded conditions, wet litter, hunger, thirst, curious pets, people who handle them too often in the first week of life.   Respectful considered care goes a long way in raising chicks.

The safe shelter can be a simple cardboard box for the first week or two of life, a galvanized tub (we use a round #3 size for up to 15 chicks for the first 7 days), or for longer periods of time a large and deep water trough purchased from a farm/feed store.

Heat Lamp  from farm/feed/or hardware store.  I keep a spare bulb on hand just in case at 11pm the bulb in use “burns out”.   Be safe.  Be sensible with how the lamp is set up in regards to the surroundings.  Give the chicks enough space to move away from the edges of the heat source.  If they are huddled directly beneath it, they are cold.  If they are flattened to the outer edges of the brood box or shelter then they are too hot.  Moving across and around the space being heated is “just right”.  I have seen farm stores using a deep watering trough or stock tank  with a broom stick handle secure across the top and the heat lamp secured to the handle by a chain and carabiner and lowered and raised appropriately into the trough.

Bedding:  First few days paper towels alone or over dried pine shavings and straw will do nicely.  Once they recognize their feed,  the paper towels  are not necessary.   For various reasons, usually resulting in deformed leg growth or death, do not use: slick newspapers,  sawdust, cedar shavings.

Feed:  chick starter (we use non medicated) and greens from the pastures and meadows.  None of which have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.  Dutch clover, henbit, chickweed, plantain, violets, grasses that are seeding out,  and we try to pull some of it up by the roots with some dirt and grit clinging to it.  Read more about changing feed needs in the link at end of post.

Water:  in a container they cannot walk about in.  Clean water.  Some people add apple cider vinegar and other natural products to the water.  See link below.

Consider your outside temperatures and weather conditions for the time of year. Moving chicks outside will depend on these factors.  and of course, safe shelter still applies.

Happy Homesteading with chicks.

For a very good tutorial from a very experienced poultry keeper see the modern homestead