Raising baby chicks is a sure sign of springtime. We were not going to get babies this year, but we lost 15 to a pack of coyotes. So we have to replenish our flock after we reinforced the weak points on our coop. Click HERE to read the post about that sad night and how we prepared for our current and future chickens.
Getting prepared for raising baby chicks:
There is a few things to do and decide on before you bring the baby chicks home. The first thing you need to get set up is a brooder box for the babies to live in until they are fully feathered. There is so many options and setups out there. We use a large rubber water trough we purchased from Tractor Supply.
I have built a smaller brooder box out of scrap wood in a previous year. You just need a safe space that you can hang a heat lamp or a thermo chicken heat plate. Heat lamps can be extremely dangerous. Please do your own research and decide what is best for your situation. We have always used a heat lamp, it fits our needs and we have done our research.
Once you have decided on a brooder box, it is time to get it set up and ready for the babies. Make sure to get it 100% set up before you bring your baby chicks home. They require heat and cannot be without for long. You want to add a nice layer of shavings, never Cedar.
Get your water and food set up and ready. I like to put my water container on a wood 2×6, cut about 8 inches long. Chickens love to kick shavings into their water. By placing a board under the water container, you won’t eliminate the mess, but it definitely helps.
Buying your baby chicks
Start slow! It is so easy to buy more chicks than you need, because they are small, cute and fluffy. Remember, they will grow up and you will have to house and feed each one.
Decide on if you will keep all of the same breed or if you want to have a variety of egg colors. For our homestead, we choose to have a variety of egg colors.
As soon as you purchase your baby chicks, it is important to get them home right away and under heat. They are only a day or two old when your local feed store gets their shipment and offers them to you as a customer. Your brooder temp the first week needs to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Each week, you will drop the temp by 5 degrees until they are fully feathered.
You can tell if they are too cold or too hot. If they are too cold, they will be all huddled together and try to stay warm. If they are too hot, you will notice they will be all spread out in the brooder, as far away from the heat as they can get. You want to see them all spread out throughout the brooder.
Caring for your chicks
Once you get your babies home, you want to take a peak at each chicks bum and make sure they are clean and poop free. Chicks suffer from something called Pasty Butt. It is where they poop and it build up on the outside and covers up and plugs up their butt so they cannot poop. It can be deadly.
how to clean Pasty butt
I bring the baby into my bathroom and get the water turned on to a warm temperature. I use toilet paper, so I can just flush it down the toilet. I hold the baby in one hand close to the water. I wet the towel and wipe the babies bum until it is clean and poop free. Dry the baby off as good as you can so it does not become chilled. Return the baby back to the brooder under the heat.
monitoring your babies
Once they are all settled into their brooder, I like to let them rest for an hour or so. I think make sure to go back and check on them to make sure everyone is okay. Make adjustments as needed.
Daily, I go in and check the temperature and see how everyone has positioned themselves. I give fresh water every day and check their feeder. Once a week, more if needed, I change out the bedding and make sure everything is fresh and clean.