Raising baby chicks isn’t as difficult as you might think.
If you’ve been watching my Instagram stories, you’ll know that our little baby chicks were born on Valentine’s day. I’ve been asking for chickens for a long time, and now that we’re out in the country, we finally have the space to do it!
Jeff and I have been talking about homesteading a lot lately, and this is one of the first steps we decided to take, along with starting a vegetable garden. I’m trying to pace myself, but it’s really difficult to not go overboard once you see your seedlings popping up!
We ordered our baby chicks from Chickens For Backyards, and I’m really pleased with their service. Any time I had a question they answered back, and they didn’t mind when I called them the day they were expected to be born. They were extremely polite even though I was acting like an excited, impatient kid who wanted an hourly update.
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Raising Baby Chicks
What do you need?
Y’all know me. I ordered everything on Amazon. I was happy with all of these items!
- Brooder Lamp
- 250 Watt Red Heat Lamp Bulb
- Chick Starter Feed (we used medicated)
- Optional: Chick Grit
- Optional: Vitamins and Electrolytes
- *If you order the same cute waterer and feeder as we did, you’ll need a couple of mason jars. We ordered these because it came in a two-pack, and fit perfectly.
Why do you need these things and how do you use them?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory: Baby chicks need somewhere to live! They need a draft-free, safe place to rest, play, and eat. Some people make their own brooders out of boxes or plastic tubs. You’ll need a way to hang or clamp the heat lamp over the chicks, so if you decide to go the DIY route, make sure you keep that in mind.
Pine shavings, hay, straw, sand, grass clippings, and shredded leaves all work just fine. I asked around for a few weeks before settling on pine shavings. Everyone will give you a different recommendation, but at the end of the day, it’s your call. You don’t want to just lay newspaper or cardboard down though, because it can result in spraddles, the dislocation of their hips that can’t be fixed. You’ll need to change their bedding every day.
Heat Lamp and Thermometer:
Your little chickies need artificial warmth since they don’t have their mama hen. The ideal temperature for chicks from 0-7 days old is 95 degrees. Every week you should decrease the temperature by 5 degrees until they’re ready for the real world. Sounds high maintenance, doesn’t it? It’s really not that bad! One of the reasons I recommend this brooder is because the heat lamp can be raised and lowered to adjust the temperature. Ordering a 250 watt red heat lamp bulb is the best option because the red light makes it easier for them to relax and sleep, compared to a white bulb. Keep the thermometer under the lamp, at the same level as the baby chicks. The digital thermometer I used made it easy to check on them by just glancing in the brooder, instead of squatting down and squinting at an old school thermometer.
Waterer and Feeder:
I won’t lie – the only reason I bought this particular waterer and feeder is because you can use mason jars with them. They’re nicer to look at than some of the other options! Obviously your baby chicks will need water and food. Make sure you keep them filled at all times, and clean them often. Chicks are crazy! Every time you turn around there will be shavings or hay (sometimes even poo) in their water. That’s no bueno!
Starter Feed, Chick Grit, and Electrolytes:
Starter feed is all your baby chicks really need. The chick grit is optional. The only reason I ordered any was because I fed them boiled egg yolk every so often, and they need help digesting their food. If you’re just giving them starter feed, don’t worry too much about it.
The electrolytes are optional as well. Most chicks will do just fine without them. Since our babies were shipped through mail to us, I decided to order some just in case. If one of the chicks would have looked puny or sick, the electrolytes had the potential to perk them up and turn things around. Thankfully, since Backyards for Chickens was so awesome, we received our chicks about 24 hours after they were left the hatchery, meaning they were all completely healthy and happy. Our tiny little silkie was a little under the weather, but he perked up without any special treatment within 30 minutes of being in his new home.
What will you notice within the first week of raising baby chicks?
Chicks are messy!
They flap around, stir up dust, and poop. Everywhere. You really shouldn’t skip a day of cleaning their bedding. One day I had to wait for my husband to bring new bedding, so as a temporary solution, I laid out paper towels on top of their pine shavings. Within 3 hours, it was almost completely covered in poop and food. Even if their brooder looks somewhat clean when you’re using pine shavings or hay, don’t be deceived. It’s nasty in there!
Always, always wash your hands after handling them, and don’t let your little ones play with them. I’m not sure at what age they would be safe to handle baby chicks, but my son is 15-months-old, so that was totally off limits for us.
You see their dirty waterer? This was about an hour after I cleaned it and added fresh water.
They grow ridiculously fast
I mean, really fast y’all. If you’re sentimental like me, you’re going to want to take as many pictures as you can. By day three, they were already growing big girl feathers on their wings. It literally happened overnight! I was shocked. My Easter Egger is changing colors by the hour, I swear! She’s gorgeous.
3-day old Golden Comet with big girl feathers growing in.
Fluffy little Easter Egger baby.
Baby chicks have personality
My childhood friend had backyard chickens, and honestly, they freaked me out. They were already grown by the time I met them, so I was pretty scared of them. They were big, loud, and didn’t seem to have any personality to me. But chickens most certainly have individual personalities, and that shows from day one. The day we got our chicks, my golden comet would come running to me anytime I came near the brooder. She’s still friendly, but now my number one fan is this little sweetheart:
Every time she sees me she starts chirping away and runs to me for some lovin’. She loves being picked up and pet! It’s the craziest thing! I honestly have no idea what kind of chick this is. If anyone knows, let me know in the comments! She (or he?) was an extra that the hatchery added for warmth.
Then there’s our little Splash Silkie, who would rather just be left alone.
Every day they start to like me a little more though, so if your chicks aren’t really diggin’ your vibe at first, don’t worry. Respect their space, but don’t ignore them either. They’ll warm up to you. If you feed them egg yolk or any sort of treat, feed them by hand. It’s cute to watch and it builds trust.
If anyone is like me (or how I used to be, rather) and thinks that chickens don’t have any personality, you couldn’t be more mistaken! They can build relationships with people and other pets. They may even choose a random chick in your clutch to pick on. I’ve spent many a night watching them grow and learn, and they’re pretty darn amusing little things.
It’s not as hard as you thought
If you’re thinking about raising baby chicks, you’ve probably been searching around for tips and advice. It can be overwhelming at first. The temperature, the possible defects/illnesses, which feed to buy, which bedding is best, it’s all a lot to take in. Just breathe. It’s not as complicated as you think.
Reading articles and asking questions is great, and I totally support it! But at a certain point you’ll realize that you need to just go for it. Know the basics and go from there. It won’t really matter whether you used hay or grass clippings, as long as the chicks have a warm, safe place to grow, with plenty of space and fresh water and food.
Raising baby chicks is addictive!
I wanted to order more baby chicks the same day we got these little babies, I’m not even joking. They’re absolutely adorable, and so full of energy! It’s fun to just sit and watch them play, and knowing that one day they’ll lay fresh eggs is a huge bonus.
So, is raising baby chicks worth it?
My vote is YES! If you have the space, and your city/town allows it, I highly recommend it. Raising baby chicks is fun and fulfilling, and it’s a great first step towards a more self-sufficient life.
If anyone knows what kind of chicken my favorite little buddy is, please let me know! It’s driving me crazy. I assume she’s an Easter or Olive Egger, since I ordered one Easter Egger. My guess is that they threw in an extra sibling.
I hope this post was helpful. Raising baby chicks is a ton of fun, and it’s easier than you think.
If anyone is curious, we have the following breeds:
- 2 Buff Orpingtons
- 2 Blue Silkies
- 1 Splash Silkie
- 1 Easter Egger
- 1 Barred Plymouth Rock
- 1 Golden Comet
- 1 Mystery Chick