Nothing can be more exciting than waiting for your baby chicks to arrive or hatch. Whether you only have one or two as pets, or you want several chickens for laying eggs, chicks’ survival depends on your preparation. Baby chicks are susceptible to infections, temperature fluctuations, dehydration, and even stress. So, it’s essential to take good care of baby chicks.
How to care for Baby Chicks:
Prepare a good brooder that is draft-free and gives chicks plenty of space. Provide plenty of heat with a heat lamp to keep the brooder at 33°C (92°F) when chicks are a day old. Have a water tray, a chick feeder, and plenty of bedding.
In this article, you will learn how to take care of chicks for the first six weeks after they hatch. You will also find out what equipment you need to raise chicks into healthy chickens.
What Do I Need to Take Care of Chickens After They Hatch?
Getting ready to receive baby chicks means getting all the equipment and supplies beforehand. Because newly-hatched chicks are so delicate, you can’t afford for anything to fail or not work. For example, some experts recommend having at least one extra heat lamp in case one fails.
Let’s look in detail at the essential supplies and equipment you need to look after chicks.
Equipment and Supplies to Care for Baby Chicks
- This is an area protected from drafts. You can buy specialized brooders from supply stores, or you can make your own. As a general rule, allow and area of 60 cm x 60 cm (two square feet) for each chick. A wooden box, kiddie pool, or large cardboard box can be useful.
- Use a red 250-watt heat lamp to provide enough heat for the chicks. The red color will prevent chicks from pecking each other. The lamp should be adjustable so you can regulate the temperature. There should be areas that are cooler away from the lamp, so that if the chickens are too hot, they can move away from the heat lamp. There are two options when keeping your chickens warm, you can either purchase a Heat Lamp or a Heating Plate.
- Make sure that chicks have a regular supply of water. The trough should be shallow enough so that they don’t fall in and drown. When your chickens are young you will need to be regularly checking their water, as with their scratching around it will get dirty and even tipped out, and so it should be regularly cleaned out and refilled.
- It’s helpful to buy a chick feeder, especially when the chicks are one to two weeks old. They get access to food and can’t poop in it—and these little chicks poop a lot. It wise to feed them smaller amounts more often to prevent their feed from being contaminated.
- The best kind of bedding for chicks is absorbent hemp or pine shavings. Don’t make the mistake of using newspaper for bedding. Newspaper isn’t absorbent enough and will end up being ineffective as bedding. The bedding on the bottom of the brooder will need to be changed regularly, so that it remains clean and dry, and your chickens continue to grow and stay healthy.
What to feed my Chickens
The right type of feed is another essential supply for baby chicks to thrive. Always choose a high-quality starter-grower feed—if possible, choose an organic starter feed. A good quality feed will provide all the vitamins, minerals, and protein that tiny chicks need.
It is possible to make a homemade starter feed. But this can be time-consuming and you still have to buy supplies like grit from feed stores anyway.
Basic Steps on Caring for Young Chickens
The first six weeks of a newly-hatched chick is critical for their survival. Here is a week-by-week guide on how to look after your chirping furry balls of cuteness.
During their first few days in the brooding area, the chicks will get accustomed to their surroundings. It’s important to let them settle for a couple of days—so, avoid the temptation to pick them up all the time. The chicks don’t usually eat for up to 72 hours after hatching because they absorb the yolk sac.
Chicks need to learn how to drink from the trough. So, gently dip their beaks in water. This action shows them where to drink and how to drink. Do this with a few chicks, and the rest will learn.
Keep the temperature at 32°C to 35°C (90°F – 95°F) to make sure they get enough heat.
You can bring the temperature down a few degrees to between 29°C and 32°C (85°F – 90°F). To do this, all you have to do is raise the brooder heat lamp slightly.
Check that they have enough feed, water and that the bedding areas are clean. If needed, replace bedding with fresh material and also feed if there’s poop in it.
You can start spending some time interacting with the two-week-old chicks so that they learn to trust you.
During the third week, you should notice more feathers on the chicks. It is also time to reduce the temperature by a few degrees to 26°C (80°F).
As part of your weekly chick care, check that they’ve got enough food and water. Replace bedding material as needed.
If you notice that the growing chicks are lacking space, you may need to think about enlarging the brooder.
Every week, you can bring the temperature down by 3°C (5°F). So, the temperature for week four is 23°C (75°F).
Check water levels, that they’ve got enough food, and clean bedding.
During the fifth week, your chicks will now look more like adult hens. As long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 15°C (60°F), you can remove the heating lamp. Now is the time to introduce “finishing food.” So, start by mixing in finishing food with starter feed. By the end of the week, the chickens should be enjoying finishing food.
Because chickens love to perch, think about adding some perches in the brooding area.
At week six, it is time for your chickens to venture outside—as long as the weather permits. Make sure your “teenagers” are in a fenced area and return to the coop at night. If you teach them this habit, they will continue returning to the coop even when they are adults.