Baby Chick Care 101
What do you need BEFORE you bring your chicks home?
Heat source– Whether that’s a heat lamp, pad or plate. I personally prefer the heat plates. I have one large one that I used for my first chicks it is VERY long. I let it follow them to their out side coop for cool nights. In my opinion the smaller plates are better for control of size and room for your chicks to grow comfortably. They can all huddle under it and feel safe, too. You raise it once a week to cool the temp down for them. Which brings me to the next part of heat source – temperature.
The temperature needs to be between 95-100 for the first week of their life. Then every week following you need to decrease it by 5 degrees. To me 100 was way too HOT so I tried to maintain 90-98. My current chicks also have a heat pad which keeps their little feet warm. Keeping your chicks body temp pretty well regulated cuts down on pasty butt. I lost three my first week of being a new chicken mommy. So far this time around I still have all six chicks. Fingers crossed.
Bedding-Now this is where it’s preference on you and how often you WANT to clean your brooder. Most people, (including me), use pine chips/shavings. Make sure they are LARGE pieces because the chicks will eat the small pieces and bound up their system. Other bedding items can be shredded up newspaper or hemp bedding. The choice is completely yours and you will learn as you grow.
Food-Chicks need a constant supply of food. I personally prefer medicated chick starter. My chicks will be moved outside at 5-6 weeks. They will be on the grass and the ground (everywhere) carries Coccidiosis. This disease affects the intestines of birds and mammals. I will feed them this up to 18 weeks. Then I will switch over to egg layer protein pellets. Another bonus, it is not harmful for your roosters to eat.
water– Make sure your chicks constantly have fresh water.
brooder– I use a plastic tote. Long and tall. They grow pretty quickly so make sure you keep the top close. My husband cut a long rectangle in the top then drilled holes in the top. He took zip ties and tied a piece of chicken wire cut to size to it. The he put duct tape all around the edges underneath. This protects not only the chicks but anyone taking the lid off and on. Having the lid on prevents the chicks from flying out when not supervised and any household animals from getting in and harming the baby chicks.
Thermometer– I have a large one lying in the brooder so I can see at a quick glance what the temperature is. This way I can adjust it quickly. Your chicks are a good thermometer, too. If they are huddled up together and chirping loudly they are cold. It truly is best to have a thermometer in the brooder to know for sure and no guessing.
Pasty butt– This needs to be watched for diligently. Sometimes when the chick poops it gets stuck in the feathers and needs to be cleaned off. However, actual pasty butt is caused from a few different things. Keeping the brooder to HOT or to COOL. Also, from stress and sometimes from nothing. It just happens. Most of the time chicks that are properly cleaned up and watched very often and cleaned up often survive this terrible thing. The way I clean up the butt is I take a cotton swab and moisten it/them very well in a bowl of warm water. Gently just keep wipe and dabbing until it softens and wipes away. You will go through several swabs. Then I take olive oil and dab around the vent on light on the vent. Usually one time will take care of this twice at the most IF YOU ARE WATCHING THE TEMPERATURE in the brooder.
drop dead sleep– Seriously. When chicks decide to sleep they drop flat like they are dead. I still will look to make sure they are breathing. Just a Mom thing I guess. I do have a few that will just stand and drop their head until their beak is on the bottom of the brooder. (weirdos) lol.
All in all. You will continually learn daily about care for your chicks and you will be a nervous Nelly over your first brood of babies. It gets easier every time but don’t stop learning. New things are being invented all the time to make life easier for us homesteaders.
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