Raising Baby Chicks – What To Feed Them & How To Care For Them
Welcome to chapter 5 in our ultimate guide: How to raise chickens in your city.
By now you should be pretty excited because in the last few chapters you would have confirmed that you're allowed to raise chicks in your city, your brooder is set up and your new chicks are on their way - exciting stuff.
Days 1-60 are all about raising healthy young chicks; they need lots of love and nurturing for the first 2 months , however with the the following few tips and tricks it will be easy, and more importantly - fun!
Learning How To Care For Your Baby Chicks Means Knowing How To Do The Following
- What to feed your baby chicks, and how often;
- How to keep your baby chicks warm;
- How often you need to clean your brooder;
- The importance of playing with your baby chicks;
- The right time to move your baby chicks from their brooder to their coop!
What To Feed Baby Chicks & How To Feed Them
Feeding and keeping your young chicks hydrated is simple, easy and a very enjoyable experience at the same time. In terms of WHAT you should feed them, you have the following options:
What To Feed You Baby Chicks
Chicks start on a food called 'crumbles' which is a special formulated feed that you can find at a local or online hatchery, or a farm supply store near you.
'Crumbles' is a complete food source for your baby chicks (meaning nothing else is necessary) and you should feed them crumbles and nothing else for the first 2 weeks of their lives.
Sometimes your baby chicks will seem confused not interested in their chick feed when they are young. So what can you do about it? Try these 2 handy tricks:
1) Super special chick feed - Mix approximately 1 teaspoon of plain yogurt and a dash of warm water in with their chick starter/crumbles.They will love it and it will train them to eat their crumbles. You gradually reduce the yogurt and warm water (although you don't have to!)
2) Train them by using your finger to mimic a chicken eating - watch the video below and it will all make sense!
At week 2 you can and should start giving your chicks treats once per day, such as:
- Chopped up vegetable scraps
- quakers oats
- Mashed up boiled eggs
- Chopped up strawberries
- Meal worms
- Plain yogurt
When feeding treats, you must add small rocks/course sand/chick grit into the mix so the chicks can grind up the food with their gizzards (chickens don't have teeth).
For more ideas of what to feed your chickens and homemade recipes, see our article on Chicken Feed.
How To Feed Your Baby Chicks
Feeding you baby chicks is easy; either buy chick feeders or make your own chick feeders with common household materials.
The advantage of buying special chick feeders is that they are harder for chicks to jump on and poop in (which they will do) meaning you have to worry less about keeping them clean.
If you'd still prefer to make your own DIY feeders, simple use egg cartons or peanut butter/jam jar lids and fill them with chicken feed.
How much should you feed them - chickens are not like dogs that will continue to eat until they are sick - they eat until they are full, so keep your feeders stocked up with food as much as you want.
Water For Your Baby Chicks
Water for your chicks should be plentiful and should be served at room temperature - not hot or cold. Here's what you need to do to keep chicken water from freezing during the cold weather.
Again, you can make your own DIY water-er out of household materials, however we recommend a specially and chick waterer which will make it harder for chicks to poop in their water supply, meaning you wont have to change the water as often
When the chicks are several days old and have grown up a little, put the water up on half a brick which will stop it from constantly filling with shavings and pooping in it.
Use a shallow watering dish where possible but if you must use a deep dish waterer place a few small stones or marbles into the bottom to ensure no chicks end up drowning if caught in the waterer.
Watch how fast your chicks are drinking: birds tend to drink to cool down, if they start going through more water than normal, this means that your brooders temperature is too high and you should turn it down
The following video shows you how to make a simple DIY chick waterer from a few simple household materials:
How to Keep Your Baby Chicks Warm
By now you'll already have set up your brooder with a heat lamp like we described in the previous chapter on chicken brooders, which is the source of heat and warmth for your chicks as they get older.
The idea is that as your chicks grow they should rely less and less on the warmth of the brooder heat source.
Follow the guide below to regulate your brooders temperature from weeks 1-8:
70 Degrees (or room temp.)
65 Degrees (or room temp.)
The above is just a guide; you may need slightly different levels based on your climate and conditions.
If your wondering if your chicks are warm enough and ready to go outside, have a quick read of this simple guide here before making your decision.
Observe your chicks often and watch out for the tell tale signs that they are too hot or cold:
Warning Signs That Your Chicks Are Too Hot...
Are they drinking their water fast? Do they seem to stand away from each other, and away from the heat source? Do they seem to be ‘panting’ with there beaks open? It’s likely that your brooder is too warm, reduce the temperature or get a bigger brooder.
Warning Signs That Your Chicks Are Too Cold...
Are your chicks huddled together under the heat source? If so they may be cold; increase the heat by lowering your lamp, adding another lamp of getting a smaller brooder.
For more tips, you can check out this article.
Playing With Your Baby Chicks (& Why It's Important!)
You’ll be tempted to play with your young chicks because they are oh-so cute, and the good news is: you should indeed play with them!
It’s important for your chicks to grow up being comfortable around humans – the last thing you want is a unsocial flock of chickens who peck you and your visitors when you have friends over.
So don’t feel bad for picking them up and playing around with them – even if they look a little scared (they’ll be a little shy at first).
How to Teach Manners to Your Baby Chicks
It's important to teach manners to your chicks from a very early age, so that they are used to humans when they are grown up. The following rough guideline shows you what you can do each week as they are growing up in your brooder:
Days 1-3: It’s best to avoid playing with them for the first few days and let them be – they need to get used to their new environment and explore the brooder. This will be hard because they are so cute, but let them be for a few days.
Days 3-5: You can put your hand in their brooder, and let them explore around your hard – no sudden movements – be gentle.
Days 5-6: Keeping your movements slow, continue to put your hand in the brooder, however start feeding them from your palm. It helps for you to softly talk to them as you feed them too – this way they will associate your voice with feed time.
Week 2-3: You may start to gently hold them, and continue to feed them from you hand while talking to them.
Week 3 onwards: By now your chicks should not be afraid of you. Don’t forget to keep feeding them with your hand, speaking to them and picking them up.
When To Move Your Chicks From The Brooder To The Coop
When should you do this?
The short answer is: it depends.
The main reason you have your chicks in a brooder is to keep them warm while they grow and develop their feathers.
Once they have their full set of feathers, they have the ability to keep them warm and can be moved into a coop.
In general, if most chicks are fully feathered at about 6 weeks old, and hence, this is a good time to start assessing whether your chicks are ready for the coop.
If you already have chickens and a coop and are wanting to know how to integrate new with old, click here to find out how to introduce new chickens to the flock!
If you live in a cooler climate (where the temp outside is consistently lower than 95 degrees) you’ll know that you likely need a heat source in the coop as well. In these situations it’s better to wait for more than 6 weeks to allow the chicks to completely develop their feathers
- Don’t judge based on age, judge based on development (i.e. if they have developed their feathers, not how old they are)
- Don’t forget to ensure that your coop is predator proof before moving them in (we'll show you how to do this in the next chapter on setting up your chicken coop!)
FREE DOWNLOAD: WEEKLY CHECKLIST FOR RAISING BABY CHICKS
There's a tonne to think about when raising baby chicks, so we've put together a helpful checklist for when your baby chicks arrive to when they are ready for the coop!
Make sure you chicks have the best chance of survival - Click the button below to download and print off the checklist, its 100% free!
Enjoy the journey of raising your baby chicks into beautiful and health hens that are friendly and ready to lay perfect eggs! The next chapter walks you through setting up the perfect chicken coop, which we suggest you start ASAP as it always takes longer than you think!