Caring For Baby Chickens

January 15, 2016

You’ve ordered new chickens and you have questions on how to take care of them. Here are tips to help you take care of your baby chicks.

Baby chicks need WATER, FEED, HEAT, (a draft shield is essential), LIGHT, VENTILATION, AND SPACE.


Have a one gallon waterer for each 50 chicks. MOST BABY CHICK LOSS IS BECAUSE THE CHICK DOES NOT START TO DRINK RIGHT AWAY. WATER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FEED THE FIRST DAY. NEVER LET THEM RUN OUT OF WATER. We strongly recommend putting vitamins and electrolytes in the water when you start your chicks.

Give your chicks a commercial chick starter with a coccidiostat in it. Broilers do best if you feed them 20% to 21% protein feed. Do not push them the first 3 to 4 weeks. FOR BROILERS, RESTRICT ACCESS TO FEED (AFTER FIRST TWO DAYS) TO 10 HOURS PER DAY FOR THESE FIRST FOUR WEEKS. Be sure that all chicks have adequate feeder space so that most of the chicks can eat at the same time. Slowing a broiler’s growth at the very beginning so that heart and lung size matches muscle (meat) development is very essential. NEVER feed drastically lower protein rations or grain only rations as this can cause severe and permanent leg or joint problems. Feed broilers in the morning and evening but DO NOT keep feed in front of them at all times.

Keep your chicks warm. A brooder temperature of 90 to 95 degrees is recommended the first few days. A DRAFT SHIELD IS ESSENTIAL. After 48 hours, begin to reduce the brooder temperature by 1 degree each day down to 75 degrees by 3 weeks of age. The room temperature where the chicks are brooded should be near 80 degrees the first two weeks. If baby chicks huddle together, they are too cold. If they scatter, spread out and eat and drink, the temperature is comfortable.

Starting the third day, sprinkle baby chick grit on the feed daily as if you were salting the food.

If you use a heat bulb, this will also serve as the light you need. Otherwise, limit light, particularly on broilers, to natural day length or 12 hours (whichever is longer).

NEVER USE STRAW FOR LITTER. Use wood shavings or ground corn cobs. If you use a fine product, such as the fine wood shavings or rice hulls, cover with paper for the first two days, but DO NOT leave paper down more than two days.

Provide plenty of ventilation during the entire brooding period. Have good ventilation but avoid drafts. Keep fresh air moving and keep ammonia concentration at a minimum.

Allow plenty of space for your chicks. From 1/2 square foot per bird at day old to 1 square foot per bird from 6 to 12 weeks. Allow 1/2 square foot for broilers. For baby chicks, provide 2-one gallon water founts and 100″ feeder space per 100 chicks.

Any time you have service work done, such as debeaking or dewinging, use vitamins and electrolytes in the drinking water.

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