The First 6 Weeks of Raising Chicks – Guide For Beginners
Raising chicks for beginners – What to expect the first 6 weeks.
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March just flew by, and our chicks have grown so much. I can’t even believe it! They’ve gone from fluffy, chirping little cuties, to, well, chickens! If you’ve been considering raising backyard chickens, I can’t recommend it enough. They’re the easiest farm animal, so it’s a great place to start when you’re transitioning into homesteading or a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Plus, who doesn’t love fresh eggs?
Raising Chicks For Beginners – What You’ll Need
Here’s a quick rundown. These are all available through Amazon Prime!
- Brooder Lamp
- 250 Watt Red Heat Lamp Bulb
- Chick Starter Feed (we used medicated)
- Optional: Chick Grit
- Optional: Vitamins and Electrolytes
For more details on these products, and why you need them, you can read my full post Raising Baby Chicks For Beginners – Week One.
Before your chicks arrive, I recommend joining some Facebook groups for chicken owners. You’ll learn a lot just by scrolling through and seeing people ask questions. One of my blue silkies got wry neck at about a month old, and the members of these Facebook groups were extremely helpful in guiding me through her recovery. My husband and I almost put her down because it looked like she was in so much pain. I’m thankful for the support from those groups, because now my girl is running around out back with the rest of the chickens, like nothing ever happened.
The First 6 Weeks of Raising Chicks – What To Expect
Here’s a nifty chart I made to help you remember what temperature your chicks need to be kept at, week by week. Feel free to save it or screenshot it for reference.
While you want to make sure your chicks don’t get too cold, it’s not as stressful and difficult as it sounds. Chicks are easy to read. If they’re huddled up together under the lamp, they’re too cold. If they’re trying to stay as far away from the heat as they can, they’re too warm. You’ll be able to tell when your chicks are completely content, because they’ll be active and spread out.
What Temperature Do One Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: 90-95° F
When you bring your chicks home, as tempting as it will be to cuddle them, they need time to adjust. Set them up in a brooder in a quiet, warm, draft-free area. Of course they’ll need food and water, but you might also need some electrolytes, especially if your chicks were mailed to you.
When you’re putting your chicks in the brooder for the very first time, make sure you dip their beaks in water to show them where/how to drink. Some people say to do this for each baby chick, while others say you only need to do it for one, and the others will follow. I personally did it for about half of the chicks, then waited to see them all take a turn.
Your chicks will already have individual personalities. It’s really neat to watch! Let your chicks settle for a couple of days, but don’t be afraid to handle them. They need to get comfortable with you. I started feeding mine tiny amounts of boiled egg yolk at three days old. They went crazy over it, and it’s really good for them, as weird as it sounds. If you do this, make sure you give them some chick grit.
What Temperature Do Two Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: 85-90° F
Your chicks are still fluffy little babies, but they already have some big girl feathers. (Mine started growing feathers by 3 days old!) They chirp, run around, and come to you when you stick your hand in the brooder. Unless, of course, they’re skittish. My beautiful Easter Egger can’t stand me, even now!
You should really start trying to bond with them now. If you take them out to hold them, don’t do it for too long, and make sure they’re warm. This is a fun age. They’ll fall asleep on you and explore a little bit, but for the most part they’ll be too scared to explore very far.
What Temperature Do Three Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: 80-85° F
By this point, my bigger chicks were “flying” around, and were able to out of their brooder. To be honest, I didn’t mind. There was only one chick that was brave enough to do it. The others would simply perch at the top of the brooder and look around before going back to safety. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to cover the top of the brooder by this point.
Your chicks will seem to double in size some days. You’ll go do some chores, come back to look at them, and they have a ton of new feathers out of nowhere. I’m not even exaggerating! It’s insane.
What Temperature Do Four Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: 75-80° F
Your chicks will almost look like chickens by this point! They have a ton of feathers, their feet are huge, and they’re extremely active. It was around this time that I started letting the girls run around in our backyard during the day, since it was finally warming up outside. It’s a good time to start, and it gets them used to the routine of “going home” in the evening. You can only do this if it stays between 75 and 80 degrees outside.
By four weeks old, you might get fed up with the number of times you clean their water out every day. They’re messier than ever now. A tip I learned from a chicken Facebook group is to set their waterer up on a brick so the shavings aren’t constantly getting in it. I didn’t have a brick, so I turned a shallow Tupperware upside down and set their waterer on it. It works perfectly!
What Temperature Do Five Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: 70-75° F
Your little chicks don’t seem so little anymore! You might even start hearing some “clucks” coming from the brooder this week. They love cuddling, but by this point they need some space. Again, if it’s warm enough outside, I highly recommend letting them have some time to run around free.
The chicks are stinky and messy, and if you still have them inside, it’s high time to move their brooder to a safe place outside. A shed or a garage would be perfect.
What Temperature Do Six Week Old Chicks Need To Be Kept At?: Wean from heat lamp and transition to the coop (above 65° F).
Hopefully, if it’s warm enough outside, you can transition your chicks to the coop this week. Your little babies are graduating! I’m in the process of doing this right now, so I’ll link an article here when it’s done. Your chicks probably won’t be laying any eggs for about four to five more months, but they aren’t really babies anymore, either. Say goodbye to the brooder! Until the chicken math begins, you should be able to put that heat lamp away.
A few notes:
- Your chicks will be on starter feed until they’re 8-weeks-old.
- You can feed your chicks little treats and a few table scraps, but keep it to a minimum, and always add chick grit to their diet, so they can digest the food. There are a few foods to avoid, so always check Google if you’re unsure.
- If one of your chicks gets wry neck or any other illness, separate them so they don’t get picked on.
- There are several routes you can take when it comes to treating wry neck, but you definitely want to make sure they’re getting vitamin e and selenium. Some packages of vitamins and electrolytes don’t have selenium, so always check. You can also try feeding them a little tuna, sunflower seeds, and spinach. If they’re not able to eat, add water to a bowl of starter feed and help them out.
- Order gloves and watch out for pasty butt.
- Once you start, you’ll never want to go back to a chickenless life. If you can look past the dust and cleaning poop out of water every day, raising chicks is as fun as it is rewarding.
My beautiful friend Carissa from Creative Green Living, (who I lovingly refer to as “my chicken friend”) advised me to give my chicks a splash of apple cider vinegar in their water when one of my silkies seemed a little under the weather. She perked right back up!
If you’re wondering how to safely integrate new chicks into an existing flock, Carissa has a great article that walks you through the process, which you can read HERE.
Enjoy some pictures of my photobombing rooster, Bruce. He likes to ham it up for the camera.
If this is your first time raising chicks, congratulations! You just signed up for a lifetime of fun and delicious eggs. I’d love to hear from you. Let me know which breeds you bought in the comments. Let’s talk chickens!
Until next time, folks!
Chicks need an utmost care during the first few weeks. Glad to read this post as I got to know some additional information and useful points through it.
Thank you Stephanie! 😊 I’m glad it was helpful.
This is my first chickens. I have 2 white polish chicks with the beard, 1 white crested black polish chick and 2 silver laced sebrights bantams. I had another one that didn’t make it. It was a cute little silkie but had paste butt when i got her and didn’t make it thru the night even though I was careful at cleaning her. Yep I cried over the little chick. Now my other chicks are 3 weeks old and doing great. One of the little bantams is a bully.. He or she wants to peck at the other chicks. I don’t know what to do about that. Should I put it in time out?
Yes my mamma hen just hatched some eggs I’m from east Texas so it starting to get nippy out side should I move the baby’s inside
We got 1 Easter Egger and 7 Buff Orpingtons 1 week ago. They are keeping us entertained during this crazy time in our world. We have 5 kids & 2 dogs and they are loving the 8 new additions to our family. Thank you so much for the info. One chick has already learned how to fly up on the watering jar. We had to put the lid on tonight. I really needed to know what to expect next since this is our first time brooding chicks.
Thank you for this. I’m excited to start this new adventure
We have a new batch of chickies right now and we absolutely adore them! We got Ameracaunas, Buff orphingtons, cuckoo marans, barnevelders(sp?), a turken and one salmon faverolle (sp?). We have adult barred rocks, Wyandottes, a Rhode island red, white leghorn, buff Orphington and a couple mixed breeds. Plus two white pekin ducks! We love our girls and all the eggs! My 7 year old son had a flourishing egg business!
Oh my goodness, that’s the dream! 😍 I love my Buff Orpingtons! I really want some Cuckoo Marans too. Wow, your son is awesome! I hope mine follows suit! ❤️ How do y’all like having ducks? We’ve been considering getting some! The baby ducks at TSC are just too cute to pass up 😂
I have 24 americana’s a couple turkeys Rhode Island Reds and a few other chickens the county next to me had a bird disease they had kill all the chickens a few of my friends had a pow bankruptcy in Los Angeles County so sad I’m in Kern County I’m safe so far
I just got some Rhode island reds.. thank you for the info..
Ooo, we almost got some of those too! I think we will next month 😂 I just want more and more!
My chicks are 7 weeks old this week, have all their feathers. They are in the brooder in our garage, temp durning the day 62 and at night next week down to 40…should I move them to the coop yet? Second question is when I move them should I limit them to just coop ( not in the run) for a few days before letting them have run of all of it. ( Coop and run are completely under hardware cloth, rocks, gravel and buried on the bottom of the run)?
I wouldn’t move them out quite yet because they’re supposed to stay above 65 degrees. But, I will tell you that our temps dropped down to 35 one night, and our chicks were completely fine! They snuggled up in the coop and stayed warm. 😊 I think it depends on how many you have, and how warm the inside stays. The fact that it stays that cool during the day is why I think you might want to wait just a little bit longer. 😊
I didn’t keep mine from the run at all! It only took them 2 days to adjust. I know some say to keep them in the coop for a little while, but I didn’t have any issues whatsoever.. have your chicks run around outside where their new home is? That’s something to consider too. Mine had been running around in our backyard for a couple of weeks during the day before they moved to the coop, so they were familiar with the outdoors already. 😊
My little flock just graduated to the coop this afternoon. I currently have 8 ( 2 Roosters and 6 hens) I have French Cuckoo Marans (1 Roo and 1 Hen) 2 Blue Laced Red Wyandotte’s, 1 Blue Cochin and 3 Splash/Molted Orphington’s (1 Roo and 2 Hens). I also plan to get 6 Americana’s babies this weekend. I am into my 3rd year of raising chickens and absolutely love it. I read your first 6 week article and just wanted to that I wished I had this when I first started raising these lovely little creatures. This is however my first time dealing with Roo’s so wish me luck on those two little darlin’s
Ooo goodness, I’ve heard mixed things about Roos 🙈 I’m not sure what to expect either! Hopefully yours won’t be too aggressive, that’s always a bummer 😩
I want some French Cuckoo Marans so bad!
Hi Victoria, thanks so much for this info. Our family is getting our chicken May 30th and it was very informative! I’m just wondering if you would share some of the chicken groups on Facebook you belong to?
Hi Ms. Kathy!
Awww that’s so exciting! Eek, I bet you can’t wait 😊 I’m in Raising Chickens 101, Silkie Chickens (that one is about silkies of course), and Backyard Chickens. There are so many groups you can join. If you search for “chickens” in the Facebook search bar, then navigate over to “groups”, you’ll find a bunch of choices 😊
Mine are coming up on 2 weeks tomorrow and none of them seem to like me much :-/ they are afraid of me and don’t like to be held or picked up let alone snuggle. In all other instances animals love me!! I’m known as a cat whisperer! What’s your secret??? Treats? Am I past the window of getting them to bond with me?
I too became a new chicken momma in April. I wanted 4, we have 18! In Ky spring has been slow approaching with lots of rain. We have our girls inside (ranging from 5-3 wks old). Since it has been chilly and our chicks were only days old when we brought them home, I came up with an idea that seems to work for us. We bring in dirt (from our farm, only need an inch or two) and let our girls play. They absolutely enjoy their dirt baths and fresh worms! We change out the dirt to keep it clean, its minimal work and doesn’t cost any extra. So far all 18 are thriving and I am looking forward to our new chicken adventure!
Awww that is so clever! I don’t know why more people don’t do that 🤔 Hahaha 18 chickens, that’s hilarious 😂 I already feel that happening to me too. I was supposed to start with 4, and we have 8. I definitely want to order more once we have another coop! Thanks for sharing your story 💕 I love the dirt idea.
I have one baby that isn’t growing I’ve had hime for about 2weeks now he’s the same size, is there anything we can do to help him get bigger?
Awww! My silkies were like that.. what kind of chicken is he? I would just keep a close eye on him and make sure he’s getting enough to eat. You don’t want the bigger chickens picking on him and keeping him from the food. Unless it weirds you out, you can feed him boiled egg yolk, or scrambled eggs too. It’s the same nutrients they were getting while still in the egg, even though it sounds super gross. You can add just the tiniest little splash of apple cider vinegar to their water too, to perk him up a little bit 😊
Perfect timing on this article! We are hoping to get some layers in the next few weeks for the delicious eggs and the tick eating benefits. (One poor kiddo has had Lyme’s twice in two years, yikes!) I will definitely be pinning and referring back to this when we get our junk together enough to bring them home!
Awww thank you so much Brittany! I’m sorry to hear about your little one 😩 we have chiggers really bad out here, but I haven’t run into problems with ticks yet. They’re the WORST! I hope the chickens help 😍 they surely will!
Gueanias make excellent tick eaters and watch dogs to
That’s good to know!
Hi!! My chickens will arrive in about a week and a half. I’m getting an Australorp, Buff Orpington and an Easter Egger. They will be 2 to 3 days old when they arrive. I’m finding myself getting a little nervous as it gets closer to the time for them to arrive. This will be my first time raising babies 🙂
Awwww you’re going to LOVE it!!! What company did you order from? I love my Orpingtons and Easter Eggers 😍
I went through My Pet Chicken 🙂
Ooo ok I’ve heard of them! 😊 I didn’t know they would send as few as 3, that’s awesome!
Hi Im new, My chicks will be arriving on the 26th of March. I enjoyed your information. Very informative. However, what do you do for the pasty butt, you mentioned.
My two girls (chickens) are 9 years old and will be getting 4 new sisters in probably 2 weeks, as then, the new chicks will be 7 weeks old: they cannot be separated, as the coop has only one door from the outside run to their house: do you think that the smaller chicks will bond with the older ones quickly? Also, the 5 week old chicks are still eating the starter feed, what can I give them besides the mashed boiled egg? Thanks for your help.
I bought 3 Easter eggers
2 buff orpingtons
1 road island red
1 blue Andalusian
1 barred rock
Thanks for the info. I’m a newbie we’ve had them for 3 weeks and so far it’s been a blast.
I’m so glad to hear that, Betsy! 😍 how are they doing now?
Today I purchased six baby chicks. I hadn’t planned on purchasing any for a month or two. I went to the feed store to talk to them about when I needed to order the variety I wanted, and when I walked in the door I could hear all the babies chirping. I just HAD to have some TODAY 🤣 I’m so excited about my chicks and nervous at the same time. 😳 🐣🐣🐣🐣
Oh my gosh, your girls are beautiful. I just got a Delaware (Bella), a Langshan (Violet), an Isa Brown (Rosie) and a bantam that turned our to be a Silkie (Tulip). 😃❤🐣 They are growing soooooo fast. Thanks for all the great info.
Getting my chicks (mottled Java and amberlink) next week. First time with chicks but I have had two batches of pullets for 3.5 years. Gonna be exciting
Hi! My husband and I are newbies to raising chickens. We love them! They are almost a month old, and boy they grow fast. We bought a variety of 12 chicks. Rhode Island reds, Wyandotte, buff orpingtons, and americauna. The first day we lost one and next day lost another one from them getting bound up (butt paste). We were able to get replacements. But we are having fun watching them!!
I life in FL and am thinking about keeping my brooder in my screened in porch. It’s currently in the 80s already. Can I get rid of the heart lamp around week 3? Suggestions are appreciated! Love this article, super helpful for a first time chick mama!
Victoria, read you article it was so help!
I’m new at this baby chick’s so I am always looking for information on how to care for them
Mine range from 3-6 weeks, and my husband and I were just talking about maybe trying the older ones in the coop, and today read your article altogether I have 45 chick’s and it’s been quite the adventure with them so much fun.
Rhode Island red
Thank you for sharing your very helpful article.
I’m a first time chicken mama and I am in love!! We have the coop all ready and pred proofed but the girls are only 3 weeks old. We have a ways to go before they move out of the garage. So we have two ISA Browns, two Rhode Island Reds, a Leghorn? … and a Barred Rock. I can’t decide if I’m going to order some colorful Eggers or wait until we get through a winter and add to our flock next spring. It all makes me nervous to keep them safe. But I just love to watch them💕 Eggs will be good too 😊
We just brought home 2 Ameraucanas, a Rhode Island red, a sicilian buttercup, and a California White leghorn. They are bursting with personality. The Red wants to be with me all the time! And she’s very vocal.
Thank you for sharing your article!! I just picked up my first 5 little chicks! They are one week old tomorrow! Not sure what breeds they are as a friend hatched them for me. It is getting warm here where I live but still cooler at night. They seem to be doing well! Fingers crossed that I do alright!!
Great article! Lots of useful info. Although I do have a question…living in South Florida the temperature is high 80s to 90s. Can I transition the chicks outside at two weeks?
Hello. I’m a new chicken momma and I’m on day 3 with my chickens. I got 6 silver laced Wyandottes. All is going well so far but one concerns me with it’s but. I had to remove some poo from her behind the other day and her bottom looks a little swollen. I purchased them at rural king. But I’m super excited about this experience.
I have 11 chickens almost one year old – White Leghorn – 1 roo, 1 hen; 2 Black Sex-Link hens; 2 Ancona hens; 2 Red Sex-Link hens; 2 Buff Orpintons; and 1 Australorp hen. They have been so much fun and I have from 6-9 eggs everyday. My Australorp went broody about a month ago and stole one of the White Leghorn’s eggs. It was in with the fake eggs and I didn’t notice it. When I did I didn’t think it would hatch, but now I have a bouncing 2 week old Leghorn chick. She (at least I hope she) is growing so fast. I’m comparing pics to her parents from last year. She’ll. be two weeks old in two days and has almost all her wing feathers and several tail feathers. She’s close to getting out of the brooder and I’ll be putting the cover on it soon. The Australorp was with her probably half a day before I found her and still reacts to her peeps. She looks like her mom did at 3 weeks. Will probably be a challenge working her into the coop, but I have read your suggestions and others and hope all goes well. As far as the rooster goes. He’s a champ. Takes really good care of his girls. I free range for a couple hours every afternoon and stay out with them because of hawks and such. He alerts me and them of anything suspicious. He even helps put them back in the yard when it’s time. He’s leery of me, but I don’t blame him. We’ve had a few run ins but I love hime.
We’re getting Australorps and black stars at the end of the month. My first batch of hens ❤️❤️. Still haven’t decided on building a coop or turning the shed into one.
our babies are 2 weeks old today. we lost two of the 20 after delivery and they all seem to be growing amazingly well except one… she is two weeks old too, but is the same size we got her at. she is eating, and drinking well…poops great but she is our peanut. is this normal, ok?? I take her out 4 to 5 times daily to give her private food and water with probiotic & electrolytes just to be sure she is not being left out. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. losing the first two wrecked my heart. I am a sucker mama
I’ve raised chickens since I was 8 and now I’m 22 and still love doing it. After I left my parents I actually continued raising chickens there until I was able to get a place of my own where I could make a new coop and moved my chickens. They adjusted very easily and I don’t think I’ll ever not have chickens. My friends actually call me the chicken whisperer!
Help! My daughter just got her first few chickens yesterday. She’s 14 and has been taking care of the school chickens in Ag class. I have always wanted chickens so we figured why not. We bought from Tractor Supply and told them we were new to the game. We got sexed birds that were “Asian pullets”, but apparantly that’s not really the breed name. Any clue what the heck kind of chickens we got?!
I have three hen’s that are broody with no eggs. Now I have four hens inside and they are about 5 weeks old and I would like to put them outside soon, but I thought all chickens need to be about same size before they are introduced. My chickens are kept enclosed in our back yard. If I put the little ones near them so they can get familiar with each other, is it safe to mix the sizes?
I’ve had chickens for a year now and they’re amazing. but the girls are not laying on top of the eggs. how do you know they’re ready to hatch the little chickens?
Thank you so much for this post! It has been one of the most helpful ones I’ve read since getting our baby chicks a few days ago! We have 2 Delaware’s, 2 Dominique’s & 2 Brahmas ☺️ We are loving every second of it!
Thanks so much for this blog! We just started our little homestead a week ago. We now have 10 orpington chicks and 2 khaki Campbell ducklings. I originally got them for my husband but that has changed super fast! I am so in love with them!
I bought 8 on Saturday. (It’s Monday night now) The man somehow mis counted & I got 9 but he shorted me 1 breed. I ended up with 3 buff orpingtons, 2 black sex links, 1 easter egger & 3 productive reds. I have to go back tomorrow & pick up my missed easter egger. I will end up getting a few more black sex links & buffs too & possibly a few more easter eggers. (Depends on what they have left) These are my 1st ever farm animal. They are in a large stock tank in my dining room. We currently don’t have a coop but my hubs & dad in law are gonna start building one. My chicks are close to 2 weeks I believe. We live on the edge of town with a HUGE backyard & woods behind our fence. In the next 2 or so years we will be moving to our 10 acres. (The coop will be on skids I think they called them. We do want it up off the ground due to rot & don’t want the moles & groundhogs to take up residence. My ladies will like being able to go under for foraging bugs & to cool off in our hot summers too! Should I let them free range the entire fenced back yard when they are old enough or keep them fenced off in a run? We hot a free trampoline frame yesterday too we plan to use for my ladies as well. Sorry for the LONG post!
We are gearing up to get some babies!
What companies do you recommend for chicks?
This was a great, easy article to read, thank you!
Thanks for pointing out that you have to clean their water multiple times a day. No one told me this and I’m learning it as I go. Great post overall though so thanks for sharing. We just got 3 speckled sussex and 3 buff orpington chicks that are about 4 weeks old now. It’s all new to me but we are having fun so far.
We just got 6 Sapphire Gems today! So excited to be a chicken tender.
Can young chick that are ready for coop and pen life be put in with adult chickens?
I have 2 Leghorns, 2 Sapphire Gems, 2 Barred Rock. We got them a few days ago and love them already. Wish we could have more but my town only allows us to have 6.
We just got two 3 week old Americauna’s yesterday. Our little girls seem happy, active snd content so far. These are our first chickens and just praying we can keep them healthy, happy and safe. 😬
We live on 5 acres in Alabama so they will eventually have a lot of yard to roam around. Can’t wait to see what these sweet girls will do and of course can’t wait for the delicious fresh eggs they’ll give us. Thank you for your post. I look forward to more! ☺️