Friday, 4 January 2008

Caring For Chicks - A Quick Guide To Raising Baby Chicks



As a general rule it is usually best to keep chicks of the same age together and to only keep as many chicks as there is comfortably room for (bearing in mind that they grow quickly!). The main concerns when raising chicks are proper heat and proper feeding – there must also always be clean fresh water available (not easy to achieve when they tend to like to go paddling in it and perch on the edges!). Heat should ideally come from overhead as that is the most natural method. They also need to be able to get away from the heat if they want to. For the first two or three days the temperature should be around 95 degrees and will be gradually lowered to around 80 degrees by the end of the first week and a half and then continuing to gradually lower the temperature by about a degree a day. If your chicks have not already been vaccinated then medicated chick feed will help protect them against coccidiosis.

Using A Hoop House To Raise Baby Chicks



Related Blog Post : Using a Greenhouse as a temporary chicken house or scratching shed.

39 comments:

BARBARA said...

I am new to the world of raising chickens. My only experience is from a country up bringing and an uncles farm, where they were a common menu item, which all the kids helped prepare. My huband and i want to be more self suficient and decided to start with Chickens. I also would like my kids to know where food comes from, grow up to be self suficient and respect their planet.
So we read "Chickens in your back yard", researched online, bought (way too many)chicks and are almost done with the (way too extravagant) coop. We're in upstate NY so my 3 week old chicks are still in the house.

With all my research i still have a few questions, i am so glad to find your wonderful community here!

1. At what age can i start giving my chicks foods such as leafy greens and apples? They seem to be getting board in their brooder box.
What exactly is ment by leafy greens? Spinach, lettuce, mustard?
can i give them "scratch" at this age?

thanks for any help you can give, i'm sure i'll be logging on quite often.
-barbara

Gina said...

If they were out and about pecking around with a mother hen they would be eating practically everything an adult would (bugs, grass, weeds etc.), but for hand-raised chicks most recommend only their chick starter food - at least for the first two or three weeks - so that they get a complete balanced nutrition. In any case the chick starter should always be the bulk of their input.

If you want to offer a few treats (which can help with bonding, especially if they will take them from your hand) the occasional treat such as small meal worms to play with and eat can provide a source of amusement (for both them and you!). Little pieces of lettuce, small pieces of chopped up boiled egg or scrambled egg are other common chick treats.

Most chick starter food is complete and will not need any grit added (you should check the packaging to be sure). If they are eating treats then they will need a bowl of grit (for chicks) available to them.

Lettuce, Mustard Greens and Spinach should be fine - any treat you give should always be 'in moderation'.

BARBARA said...

Thanks for the information Gina. We have certainley enjoyed our chicks so far and have found to our surprise many different personalities among them. Some will no doubt wind up be pets we keep for years. I find myself watching them so often, they can be quite amusing. thanks again

Anonymous said...

How many weeks does one keep chicks on medicated chick starter before it interferes with natural immunity development

Gina said...

If they have been vaccinated at the hatchery against Coccidiosis then you will not need to use a medicated chick feed. As a rough guide you usually feed chick starter / grower for the first 20 weeks. 4 to 16 weeks old is the most common age to come down with Coccidiosis, although chickens of all ages can get it.

Anonymous said...

We just found a baby chicken roaming in our neighborhood. We think it's a Rhode Island red. Any advice? We know nothing!

Gina said...

If there is a hen and chicks nearby, it could be that it got seperated from them, in which case putting it nearby to them may get it 'found'.
If you are to keep and look after it, then the chick video shows the principal care needed. At about 5-8 weeks old it should have it's full feathers and then it will be ready for it's 'adult' home which could be a coop, although it is not unheard of for people to have kept a chicken indoors.

Lisa said...

Great site and full of brilliant information for the newbie to chickens.

I am getting things ready for my 3-4 chicks, which should be in about a week. But when my father found out that I was going to be keeping them in the house until they were old enough to go outside (very cold here in the UK), he hit the roof. Asking me if I wanted to give all the children TB. Chickens carry TB and should not under any circumstances come into the house.

However, I have read all the time about the 'brooder' being in the house until the chicks move outside. The amount of people raising chicks indoors, you would think there would be millions of new cases of Chicken TB spreading around.

Can you please clarify this for me.
Is is dangerous to keep chicks in doors or not?

Gina said...

I have never heard of anyone catching TB from chickens and in fact there was a recent news story about some workers at a chicken plant who had TB and it specifically said that it was not possible to get TB from chickens or chicken meat (only from a contagious person). I am not a doctor though, but your own doctor should be able to confirm whether this is true or not.

You don't have to keep chicks indoors, but you do have to keep them safe and warm. For some this may mean keeping them in an area of their coop, or in a 'brooder' in the garage, or in the house somewhere. It is really down to your personal choice, circumstances, and what you feel comfortable doing

Microbe said...

I am new to raising chichens and have a few little chicks. One of the roosters won't walk on his feet. He's walking on his knees. His feet look fine, but his knees are very swollen. I called the hatchery and they said he'd be fine in a few days, but he just looks so sad! Is there anything I can do? Why is he doing this? Thanks!

Gina said...

It may be an issue with weak legs like 'spraddle legs' which is fairly common with newly hatched chicks. With weak legs the chick can't get a grip and just sinks down to the floor (sometimes still able to get about, but not on their feet). If you are using newspaper in the bottom of your brooder that can be quite slippery to chicks and so something like paper towel would be a better help to it. To give the legs an extra bit of support you could try using a normal bandaid to help keep the chick more upright. The bandaid would be cut in half by length (so you are left with two strips of bandaid about 1/2 inch wide and 3 or 4 inches long). Gently hold the chick so that its legs are a comfortable width apart, then wrap the sticky ends of one of your bandaid strips around each leg which usually leaves the gauze part roughly in the middle gap (the legs with bandaid look like a letter 'H'). It should help the chick stay upright and start walking on its feet more as the legs get stronger. If the bandaid comes off and he still cannot walk on his own, put another bandaid strip on (it may take a few times if the legs have gotten very weak). Hope that helps.

Tammi said...

HI, I have 3 chicks that are a week old. One chick has poo stuck to her backside. I can't get it off. It's not in her way, but needs to be removed. Does anyone have any suggestions. Thanks,

Gina said...

For very hard to shift poo try soaking her bottom in warm water for a minute or two which will hopefully help soften it enough to wipe away using a dampened cloth or paper towel (if soaking doesn't work you may have no choice but to pull it away - especially if it is blocking the vent). Be sure to dry the chick well so it doesn't get cold. Then apply some vaseline or baby oil to her vent to help prevent it from sticking again.

Traci Menie said...

One of my hens just hatched out 3 chicks for the first time. I have 2 questions. I have been keeping her and the babies inside the house separated from the other 14 chickens we have outside. 1. At what point would it be safe to reintegrate the mom and chicks back into the flock? 2. How long will it be before the mom starts to lay eggs again?

Gina said...

There is no specific best time to reintegrate with the flock (that I know of) and no real way of knowing what will happen when you do. In nature a mother hen would probably go off and have the chicks and then come back to the flock when they are a few days old. In an ideal world she would naturally defend them from any of the flock members (she may have to teach one or two of the flock a lesson about leaving her chicks alone, but usually once that is established it can work out fine). In the real world some flocks are more accepting of a hen with her brood than others and some mother hens are better mothers than others (some of the natural instincts have been bred out of hens over the years). I have a few general tips for adding to a flock here http://www.keepingchickensnewsletter.com/site/ but it is impossible to predict how a flock will react. Whatever way you go it is probably as well to have a plan 'b' (and even a plan 'c') ready just in case. She will usually start to lay again once she has finished raising her chicks which tends to be anywhere from around four weeks to two or three months.

Anonymous said...

Hi
Ive got 5 barred plymouth rock chicks and one buff orpington bantam chick all just over a week old but a couple of them have started getting droppings sticking to them around the vent. Ive read that this could be an infection what should I do they are all eating and drinking well and are very lively!

Thanks
Moira

Gina said...

If their poop is sticking to their bottoms it should be cleaned away as gently as you can. A little olive oil around the vent can help prevent it getting blocked. The primary causes of good health are good nutrition, clean water, exercise and good sanitation - it is important to try to keep the brooder as clean and dry as possible. A lot of things could give them the 'runs' including being sick, eating things other than a complete chick food (if you have given them any extras then they would need grit to help them process it) and being too hot (they need warmth, but also to be able to move away from the heat if they want to). Being lively and eating and drinking is usually a good sign though.

Anonymous said...

I have 26 8 day old Buff chicks and have ran out of chick feed.It is Sunday and the feed store wont open again until tomorrow. What can i feed them out of my pantry to hold them over until tomorrow.

Gina said...

Plain scrambled eggs should keep them going until you can get the chick feed tomorrow.

Haleigh said...

I'm only twelve , but I own half a dozen! I bought them today, they are so cute!!! I haven't named all of them but I named one Fluffy Butt, due to the feathers that still haven't grown on her tail. I'm so glad that they sell them all as females. I don't want a rooster cawing at 3:00 am.

Anonymous said...

a friend gave me half a dozed free range eggs and instead of making a cake I put them in my incubator. I now have 2 x 2week old chicks living in a hutch in my conservatory (and another 6 eggs in the incubator!) How do I tell if they are male or female?
thanks Suzie

Gina said...

Congratulations :-) I have a post on the blog with some tips for sexing chicks here :
Tips for Sexing Chicks
It has a few general pointers to look out for, but unless they are sex-linked breeds you probably will not know for sure what sex your chicks are until they are around four/five months old.

Anonymous said...

I am also a chicken newbie. My husband brought home 6 Barred Rock peeps and one of them has what appears to be a deformed foot. She (or he) walks on the side of the foot with the toes curled inward. It doesn't seem to bother it. Should I be worried as it grows & adds weight or consider it a loss?

Thanks!
Dana

Gina said...

With issues of curled toes, particularly if the chick is still very young and the bones have a lot of growing left to do, it can sometimes help to cut a small piece of cardboard for the bottom of the foot and then use the sticky part of a bandaid to stick the toes to the cardboard in a more normal position (effectively making a kind of orthopaedic shoe). After are few days the 'shoe' will probably have fallen off, but obviously you can just put a new one on and try as often as you like if it seems to be helping. If it does work you should see improvements within a week of wearing the 'shoe'. If the legs themselves are weak, then putting the sticky part of a bandaid to hold the legs at a comfortable distance (so the legs look like an 'H') should also give some extra strength and support. It may help to give a vitamin supplement aswell.
A grown chicken with crooked feet or toes can usually still get around quite well and live a normal life. Depending on how crooked the feet are you sometimes just need to watch out for them catching their foot/leg in the fence or something like that and not being able to free themselves.

Mrs Yoder said...

Hi there. I just found your blog and I love it! I was hoping you'd have some advice for me, though since I can't find what I'm looking for. We have a Silkie crossbreed that has gone broody and I decided to get some fertile eggs for her to sit on so she can feel completed. We plan on keeping her separate from the rest of the flock in a nest box in our shed or maybe even the house. Are we going to need to get a heat lamp to keep them warm or will she (ideally) keep them warm herself when they hatch? My cousin is insistant that the chicks will need a lamp, but isn't that what the broody is for? Any other advice you may have is appreciated!

Thanks,
Mrs. Yoder

Gina said...

In theory they should not need anything more than their mother hen. Assuming that she takes to motherhood well and you are not in a particularly cold area then she should be able to keep them warm enough. If you are in a particularly cold area or there are more chicks than she can physically cover, or she turns out to be a bit of a careless/neglectful mother hen then a heat lamp would probably help.

Anonymous said...

I am as much a novice as they come when it comes to chickens. I have four, two brown (one with a lemon coloured head!), one white (now very scruffy) and one black. I have a few questions I need help with please:
How can I tell how old my chicks are - the day old chicks appeared in the market and were all bought out. Two weeks later the farmer brought more so I just assumed they must be about 2wks old?
The white one looks like my moulting canary at the moment. At what age do chicks start to lose their down and grow adult feathers?
My black chick is almost bald on it's back (left and right side of it's saddle). Should I be worried?
I take them out in to the garden now most days when it is sunny (they're in a rabbit hutch at the moment but it isn't in direct sunlight) and they seem to love to scratch around, take dustbaths and trying to fly. Until now I've kept them in a cardboard box with a light overhead at night time. They spend more and more time trying to get out. Are they ready to go in to the garden and will they be ok without a light now?
Thanks for any help/advice, Debbie.

Gina said...

The farmer perhaps was just bringing in a new batch of day olds. They should have their adult feathers at around 5-8 weeks but will still not be quite as hardy as adult chickens would be. With chick brooding the general guideline is to gradually drop the supplied warmth (which they need to be able to move away from if they want) by 5 degrees every week so by 5 weeks old they would still need to be kept at around 75 degrees, 6 weeks 70 degrees, 7 weeks 65 degrees, 8 weeks 60 degrees etc. As they get their full feathers and the weather gets warmer you may find that it is not necessary to give them any extra heat. They can go to their permanent home in the main coop whenever you like as long as they can be kept warm and safe enough.

KMc said...

HELP! I have been the prud owner of chickens for the past 4 mths. The first 15 we bought are growing fine and perfectly healthy. We decided to purchase 5 more from the same feed store we purchased the first set from, about 3 weeks ago,, All 5 have developed a lump the size of a large grape in their breast area , what could be the cause of this , i let them out to free range with the older chick for about an hour everyday but other than that they are still on chic start . What could be causing this and what do i do to help it????

debs said...

hi I too am new to chucks. I have 3 silkie/ old english cross one of which is male and I'm right in the middle of hatching chicks. Two have hatched today and she has two more to go. she is on her own in the coop in a cosy nest box and seems to be being a good mum. as the weather is so nice is it safe to leave them all there for now? how soon will they want food and will they be able to get down the ramp! is not a prob to put food in the coop for them if that's best. as i'm a novice what else should i be doing or not doing! any info will be gratefully received!!!

Gina said...

Hi, She should be able to keep them warm enough in this nice weather. They will not need to eat for the first 24/48 hours because they will still be living on the yolk to start with. Fresh water will still be needed though. One tip is to use a chick waterer for them or put clean marbles or stones into the waterer to make it shallower so that they cannot fall into it and drown. Unless it is very steep, they probably would be able to manage going down a ramp but you may need to be around in case they need help getting back up it again.

Dee in Arkansas said...

I had a broody hen, so I gave her about 20 fertile eggs to hatch. I had one actually hatch .. a few more she attempted to help, but they didn't make it. So I removed all the eggs that did not make it. For the first week, my new peep was great, happily hopping about and I had mother hen and chick in a brooder box. After the first week, I let both out to reintroduce mother hen and peep to my 2nd hen -- all was well. They all have been staying IN the coop and not free range as of yet together, only the single hen is still free range. When I came home from work on Saturday this past week, peep could no longer stand on her own. I removed her from the coop and let mother hen back to free range. I do know mother hen did show her hot to eat and drink, but I am thinking that as an only hatch, she might not have been getting enough substance. There was always fresh water and medicated chick starter available. I am now also giving her medicated water, plain water and chick starter by hand to be sure she is getting enough to eat. Is there anything I should be aware of that makes chicks go from upright to sideways ? She doesn't seem to have any equilibrium. Thanx!
Dee in Arkansas

Gina said...

Vitamin deficiencies can cause weak legs and even paralysis so if the little chick has weak legs the extra vitamins you are giving should help. You may be able to offer a bit of extra support to the legs if they are weak by using a bandaid (the legs with bandaid look like a letter 'H' - more details of how to do this are in one of the previous comments). A couple of other common(ish) more serious chick ailments are coccidiosis and mareks, also it can help to regularly check the vent to make sure it has not become blocked with feces (known as 'pasting up').

Anonymous said...

I have had chickens for the past year with my first batch March 2011. I got six straight run Easter Eggers (three ended up being roosters which I took to the SPCA). I adopted a lakenvelder from the SPCA too. This spring the lakenvelder got broody, again, so I purchased four fertilized Easter Egg chickens. Two eggs mysteriously disappeared. Two hatched on May 18, 2012, but only one chick lived. I separated momma and the chick in the coop by dividing it with chicken wire and giving them a smaller coop so that the other hens could still see them. I was able to put them all back together only two weeks later. Momma protected the little one and the others were fine with it. It was so cute watching Momma teach the chick how and what to eat. Today, July 7, 2012 I was watching Momma and chick. I guess she has "weaned" the little one because they were fighting like crazy! My question is..Now that Momma has decided the little one is old enough to be on her own, what will the other three hens do now that Momma will not protect her anymore?

Gina said...

Hopefully as the chick is already integrated into the flock the hens will continue to accept it. Even with adult flocks though hens that got along fine one day can suddenly change their attitudes to each other for seemingly no reason so you never can tell but there is no reason to expect trouble - fingers crossed it will all stay fine. If they do seem to be keeping the chick away from food and water or chasing it etc. then an extra food and water dish in a different area will help ensure the chick can get all the food and water it needs.

Jewels said...

I was very interested in reading responses to KMc, as my friend experienced the same thing... Hopefully by me responding, it will bring it back around...

Gina said...

If they all have lumps it is most likely to be that they have full crops. They should empty overnight. Chicks need grit to help them process any treats etc. that is not their commercial chick feed.

Anonymous said...

My two week old chicken is losing a large amount of feathers in a single place. Is this normal for them?

Gina said...

Chicks do have three sets of feathers before being fully adult so it may be possible that it is the beginnings of your chicks first mini-molt. The other likelihood is that the feathers are being pulled out.