Baby chicks seem like delicate little creatures that need all of your time and attention. One wrong move and your future flock could be at risk. We are here to ease your mind. Baby chicks are not as complicated as they might seem. And with our step by step instructions on how to prepare for new baby chicks, you will be fine.
How To Prepare For My New Baby Chicks
It is crucial to prep before arrival of chicks. Those first few hours are the most delicate time for a chick. And if you are scurrying around to put together a brooder, it only causes more stress to you and the chicks. So what all do you need?
If you are hatching chicks from the egg, you will need an incubator. Incubators can be as complex or as simple as you want. Some of them have automatic turners, humidity and temperature gauges, and countdowns. All of which makes caring for your eggs a breeze.
The easiest thing you need is a brooder for your hens. There are many great ways to DIY this step, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use a feeding trough, store-bought brooder, or even a large cardboard box. But no matter what you choose, be sure that it is large enough for all of your chicks. The average brooder needs to have 0.5-1 square foot of space.
Another important factor in preparing for baby chicks is choosing bedding. You might have seen some breeders using newspaper for bedding in their brooders. But you don’t want to do that. Newspaper is slick and can cause straddle leg.
Instead, opt for 3-4 inches of pine shavings. Pine is naturally deodorizing, and it gives your chicks the grip they need. And since it’s so cheap, you might only need one large bag for the time your chicks are in the brooder.
Chicks also need a constant source of heat inside the brooder. So you will want a heat lamp or warmer. Warmers like the RentACoop Chick Brooder Heating Plate are perfect because they don’t get too hot. And since they don’t heat the entire brooder, your chicks can regulate their temperature more freely.
If you do decide on a heat lamp, there are a few things to look for. You want a bulb that will keep the brooder at an ambient temperature of 92-95. It should also be in a secure housing away from the chicks. And finally, no matter what light bulb you choose, you will want to choose a red one. Red bulbs hide any wounds that your chicks could get and prevent the others from pecking at them.
And let’s not forget to add a couple of thermometers-one gauge on the cool side and one under the heat lamp. The brooder’s cool side should never be below 65 degrees, and the warm side no hotter than 95. It will also help you adjust the temperature as your chicks age. But we will talk more about that later.
Feeders And Waterers
Another step in how to prepare for new baby chicks is to choose feeders. These don’t have to be fancy or even cost a lot. Shallow dishes or mason jar lids are a perfect DIY for food and water because the tops’ shallowness prevents drowning and food waste.
But you could also choose to buy feeders and waterers specially made for the brooder as well. There are cheap chick feeder and waterer kits that are perfect for the job. But you might need to add a few marbles to the water to keep your chicks from drowning.
Finally, let’s not forget about buying food for your chicks. Your chicks should only eat chick starter with high-quality vitamins. But it would be best if you didn’t bother with treats at this age. Treats are empty calories that take away from the nutritional things that they need for their little bodies to grow.
When To Get Baby Chicks
Assuming that you have already chosen what breeds you want, the next big question is when to get started. You can start prepping for your chicks at any time of the year. But the best time to get your chicks is in the spring.
If you are ordering your chicks online, spring is the perfect temperature to prevent heatstroke. Just remember to order on weeks where there isn’t any rain. And if you buy from a local breeder, they likely have more breed varieties.
What To Do When Your Chicks Arrive
No matter if you get eggs or live chicks, there are a few things you should do upon arrival. For eggs, you will need to do an inspection. Eggshells shouldn’t have cracks and hard shells. You should also candle the eggs quickly before putting them into the incubator.
When live chicks arrive, you should also do a wellness check. Eyes should be open and clear. Butts should be clean and not have feces caked to them. You should also check that the chicks can all walk properly with sturdy legs. If you spot any signs of illness, isolate them in a separate brooder to prevent the others from pecking.
Once they pass your inspection, you can put them in the brooder. But you don’t just want to put the chicks in there. You will want to dip their beaks into the water, so they know where it’s at.
How To Take Care Of A Baby Chick At Home
Now that you know how to prepare for new baby chicks, it’s time to talk care. We are going to show you baby chick care week by week. This step by step guide makes baby chicks for beginners seem like a breeze.
When hatching chicks at home, you will want to keep the chicks in the incubator for 24 hours. This allows them enough time to dry off before going into the brooder. Once in the brooder, you will want to tend to them several times a day.
Regular health checks for illness or injury are crucial. You also will have to check the temperature to make sure it’s staying at 90 degrees. Hand-feeding is also encouraged at this stage to get your chicks accustomed to you. Plus sugar water for baby chicks to keep their energy up for the first three days.
Your chicks will also need daily cleaning to keep them healthy. Spot cleaning feces and any spilled water will keep your chicks from getting URIs. It would be best if you also took this time to clean any dirty feeders and waterers.
Congratulations on making it to week two! A lot of what you did in week one will continue in week two. Daily checks, hand feeding, and spot cleaning all need to continue. You might even find that your brooder needs a deep cleaning by week two.
The difference between weeks one and two is that you will start to drop the brooder’s temperature. By raising the heat lamp, your brooder should be at 85 degrees. Another thing to consider is to introduce a small perch at this time. Not all chicks will take to it right away. But thin sticks make the perfect first perch.
You are doing great! Continue with your daily checks and hand feeding. By now, your chicks will start to come when you enter the room. And since they are larger, you could start taking them out for short playtimes.
In fact, they might be getting so large that you need to upgrade the brooder. And don’t forget to lower the temperature a little again. Now your brooder’s temp should be a perfect 80.
At week four, nothing else really changes. Keep up the same daily tasks as always. And drop the temperature again to 75 degrees. Though their care hasn’t changed much, you might notice that they all act differently. Your chick’s personalities are forming, and maybe even a pecking order already.
By week five, your chicks are officially teens. They have started to grow their adult feathers and can withstand temperatures as low as 60 degrees. So if your brooder is inside, your chicks don’t need a heat lamp anymore.
And, of course, you need to keep up with daily health checks and cleaning. But at five weeks, your little chicks are ready to start their grower food. This new feed will support their growing bodies and give them the daily nutrition their body needs before eggs.
Week six is the time to introduce your chicks to the outside world. If you have a coop and run, you can put them in their new homes without a problem. But chickens this young should never free-range until they are used to their new routine.
You can also start healthy treats at this time. But don’t overdo it. Dark leafy greens, bugs, and vegetables are great first options. As long as you keep up with daily checks, you will notice when treats are messing with their stomachs.
Now your chicks aren’t exactly babies anymore. Daily checks and tending still happen. But they become much more self-sufficient at this age. You can let them free-range to forage. And they will do just fine with their new routines. After week 16, your hens will switch to layer feed and start laying eggs.
That Wasn’t So Hard, Was It?
How to prepare for new baby chicks couldn’t be any easier. And before you know it, your chicks will be off laying eggs. You will wonder what you had to worry about all along.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!