Thinking of Getting Chicks This Spring?
With spring already here and Easter only a few weeks away now is a good time to talk about caring for baby chicks. Many people buy chicks for Easter because of the symbolism of new life they represent, but then don’t have a clue what to do with them after the initial thrill of petting a soft, fluffy ball of feathers. I don’t recommend buying chicks for Easter unless you are ready to provide for their needs and are willing to make a commitment to raising them. Even if you have a plan to keep them for their eggs or meat, there are quite a few things needed to get ready before you bring home the baby chicks.
Here is a list of ten things you should know or be aware of before buying chicks. There is plenty of information out in cyberspace on raising chicks; these are the tips that I gleaned from my “Chicken Diary” and thought I’d share them with you.
One: They need to have a warm secure place to begin their life in your care. Since they don’t have a mamma hen to watch over them, you will become a surrogate mother and provide for their needs. So be prepared!
Two: Have the brooder box set up and ready for the chicks. Don’t buy the chicks because they are cute and then get them home to find that you don’t have everything necessary to care for them.
Three: Have a brooder lamp in one area of the brooder box. If possible use a 250 watt infrared light bulb. The red light is supposed to help keep the chicks from picking (they peck at each other and pull out feathers, sometimes causing bleeding.) I didn’t have any problems with picking, but thought I’d mention that it could happen.
Four: Buy extra waterers and feeders. It is much easier to give the chicks water if you just have to change out the whole waterer than getting it out of the brooder, filling it with water, and then putting it back. For use in the brooder I like the type of waterers and feeders that screw onto a quart jar because the jars are easy to clean. To keep the chicks from roosting on top of the jars I used the bottom part of a 2 liter pop bottle that I sat over the jar. This was a little wobbly and kept the birds from sitting on the jar and pooping into the water or food.
Five: Raise the waterer and feeder up off the floor. My chicks kept scratching the bedding into the feed and water, making a mess and hard to keep clean. I finally found that a patio block in the corner of the brooder was enough to raise the feeder and waterer up. Make sure the chicks can still get to the water, though, with the height never above shoulder high. Keep the water and food as clean as possible. They are chickens, and will eat dirt and grit, but for now give them clean water and food. Do supply some grit to them, in the form of fine sand or purchased chick grit. Put this in a shallow container and let them take it as they need it.
Six: Have a thermometer in the brooder at the same level as the chicks, so you can make sure the temperature is right for them. I doubt that you will want to be ‘mamma hen’ and carry the chicks around with you all day, so make sure that the heat lamp in the brooder gives the right temperature for the age of the chicks. See the chart below for temperatures.
Seven: Get to know your chicks. Handle them frequently, but gently. Hold them in your hands with one palm under the chick and the other cupped over the chick. Pet them and talk to them. Let them eat food out of your hand. I have one hen that will still not come up to me and let me touch her. I think it was because I just didn’t handle the chicks often enough.
Eight: Put a roost in the brooder. I used a small branch that I wired to the sides of the brooder. It was about ¾” in diameter. They loved it! A dowel or a 1 X 2 would also work. I placed mine about 6” off the floor and they were roosting on it within a day of it being installed.
Nine: Give the chicks treats if you can. I caught crickets and grasshoppers and other bugs and dropped them in to the brooder. The chicks scrambled to get the bugs and then they all chased the one that did catch it, making it fun to watch. Grass clippings are also enjoyed by the chicks, and can be given at about a week old. Yogurt (with live bacteria) is good in small amounts.
Ten: Enjoy the chicks! I love the sounds that the chicks made, and the antics when they were chasing a bug. Take time to spend with the chicks and get to know them. Take plenty of pictures and keep a journal or other record of their growth and how you took care of them. You’ll be glad you have this record when you decide to raise more chicks next year.
Temperature Chart for Chicks
|Age in Weeks||Notes||Temperature At Chick Level|
Some chicks fully feathered at 5 weeks (no wing fluff).
Chicks considered fully feathered.
Erik Meyer & Kevin Walter meyer on March 30, 2020:
Can cats claw at them & then the chicks think the cat have chick food &then eat them
SHERRY Heater on July 06, 2016:
I raise the lovely little Serama chickens, for pets, mostly, but their eggs are delish and so cute in a salad, hard_boiled. They have such personalities, and even sing. They take up very little room and are beautiful birds to watch in your yard... and the rooms aren't so loud.but you still gotta keep them outside city limits. I have thirty three of them as of today. They grow to be only about the size of a pigeon or a dove, about 1 lb in weight fully grown and the chicks are darling and very tiny, about 6 grams when first hatched. I have an incubator and a brood box is a see through plastic tub about 40 gal. size. I love every single baby!
julia on September 04, 2014:
i love her puipse
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on August 01, 2014:
Aoife, Many places where you buy the chicks will 'sex' the chicks, and they are usually right. My first purchase of chicks was supposed to be all female, but I did get one male in the six chicks. There are several methods said to identify the different sexes in chicks, but I don't think there are any that are 100% accurate. Check out backyardchickens.com for more help with this. Good luck!
John937, Thank you for the kind words. I hope your presentation went well. Good luck with your chickens.
Johnk937 on July 16, 2014:
Thanks for another magnificent post. Where else may just anybody get that kind of info in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I'm at the look for such information. bddfekedkebg
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aoife on April 28, 2012:
i am thinking of getting 5 chicks but how do u know if they are cocks or hen cause i only want hens thanks
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on April 11, 2012:
Thanks for the vote up. Have you raised chickens? They are still surprising me with their antics.
Eiddwen from Wales on March 28, 2012:
Beautiful, useful and ineresting.
A vote up acroos the board except funny.
Take care and enjoy your day.
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on September 23, 2011:
Kenneth, Thanks for the compliments. Raising chicks is a wonderful experience and I'm glad I finally did it. It sounds like you had a great experience, too.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 23, 2011:
Tina, GREAT hub. Voted up, useful; awesome; beautiful; interesting. This takes me back to when our local farmer's co-op gave away chicks every spring. My parents let me have four one year. I raised them to fully-grown hens. Sold them to a neighbor for a profit, $2.98 and back in 1971, that was money for a teen. Thanks for the great memory.
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on April 04, 2011:
I have heard of people raising bantams in their house, in a large cage like you would have for a tropical bird. This was in a big-city apartment. I don't think I could live with a chicken in the house because it would make my cats crazy.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 04, 2011:
What an excellent guide! Man, I'd love to have baby chicks and chickens if I had the time and space. What fun it would be!
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on April 04, 2011:
Debbie, Thanks! It's amazing to me how many sounds they can make. Guess I should get out my recorder. :-)
gitrdun4444 from North Carolina on April 03, 2011:
Tina, very useful information. I also use to love to listen to their little peep peep noises. And I agree handling them and talking to them is very important. Thanks! Debbie
Tina Julich (author) from Pink on April 03, 2011:
Reynold, Thank you for the compliments.
The only thing I regret about getting chicks is that I didn't get them years ago.
My babies are now 6 months old and are laying eggs, and that is quite a treat.
Good luck with your chicks and let me know how it goes for you.
Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on April 03, 2011:
I'm ready to get some of these cute little chicks now! I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and Useful. Hey! I'm now your fan! RJ