How to Raise Baby Chicks

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Raising baby chickens is a fair amount of work but a lot of fun. Your brooder -- the housing for the chicks -- can be as simple as a large box if you're raising just a few chicks or as large as a stock tank if you're raising large quantities. Keep the brooder in a draft-free area, away from potential predators, including your dogs and cats.

Keep Them Warm

Along with food and water, warmth is key to keeping chicks alive. Place a heat lamp in the brooder box to provide a constant source of warmth. Use a 250-watt heat lamp for brooders with an adjustable thermostat. Consider keeping two lamps on in the brooder, in case one light dies. If you have only one heat lamp and the bulb quits, you might wind up with a brooder full of dead chicks. If you're raising large numbers of chicks, you'll need two lamps for efficiency. Situate the lamps to ensure they don't come into contact with bedding or any other flammable materials. For the chicks' first week of life, keep the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the chicks have all their feathers or until you reach 70 degrees.

Chick Feeding

Chicks require starter feed for their first two months. Introduce it by filling their feeders with it and throwing some feed on newspaper placed over their bedding. Once the chicks start eating out of the feeder, you can remove the newspaper. Chicks should always have plenty of food and water available. Use a half-gallon waterer for every 25 chicks, or a 1-gallon waterer for every 50 birds. Keep the waterers away from the heat lamp so chicks have cool water. Clean the waterer and feeders daily.

Chick Bedding

The brooder requires bedding for the chicks' comfort and sanitation. For convenience, place newspaper sheets on the floor of the brooder and cover them with approximately 3 inches of pine shavings. Each day, roll up the newspaper and dirty shavings, and throw them away. Other suitable bedding choices are straw and ground corncob. Don't use newspaper by itself; the chicks need firmer footing than paper provides. Without proper footing, chicks can develop leg problems.

Increase the Space

Baby chicks grow rapidly. Within a few weeks, they require far more room than they did as newborns. While newborns need half a square foot of space each, by the age of 2 weeks they need a square foot of space each. When they're at least 2 months old, you can start transitioning them to the outdoors as long as the weather is warm. Start slowly, placing the brooder in their future coop for an hour for the first few days, increasing the time outdoors gradually so that they're out for four hours daily at the end of the second week. By that time, they should be ready to move into their chicken coop.

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