How to Keep Baby Chicks

Chicks need warmth and shelter when they are young.
Chicks need warmth and shelter when they are young. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Baby chicks take up to two months to grow into fully feathered chickens. Until then, chicks must be kept in a warm and secure place if they have been separated from the hen. The materials needed for rearing baby chicks are not expensive, but the chicks must be monitored daily.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard box
  • Wood shavings
  • 100-watt bulb
  • Reflective lampshade
  • Chicken waterer
  • Feed

Find a suitable living space for the chicks. This can be a cardboard box, old hamster cage, cat carrier or even an old aquarium.

Line the inside of the housing with bedding. For newly hatched chicks, a blanket, towel or layer of wood shavings is suitable. Change this bedding to wood shavings or straw when the chicks are 3 weeks old. Replace old bedding when it gets wet or dirty, initially about every two days.

Heat the area to ensure the baby chicks stay warm. A 100-watt light bulb in a lampshade with reflective internal surfaces is sufficient. A heat lamp also is a good heat source. Keep the light bulb trained on one side of the container and note the reaction of the chicks. If they are too warm, they will stay away from the heat source. If they are too cold, they will cluster together as close to the heat and each other as possible. The correct heat for a newborn chick is 90 to 100 degrees. Each week as they grow you can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees. Keep the heat on at all times during the first weeks.

Buy a chicken waterer at a farm supply store and make sure there is always water in it. A purpose-made feeding tray will reduce the amount of mess the chicks make when eating, although this is not essential. You also will need feed made specifically for baby chicks. Most feed for baby chickens is medicated to prevent disease. If you want to use non-medicated feed, thoroughly clean the bedding, waterer and feed container regularly.

Add a roosting area when the chicks are 1 month old. This can be a piece of wood set about 4 inches off the ground so the chicks can perch on it.

Check the chicks for health issues regularly. A chick is probably sick if it is limping or having difficulty breathing. If the chick has excrement stuck to its backside, wipe it off using a damp tissue as the dried excrement can prevent the chick from having more bowel movements. Watch the chicks for signs of aggression toward weaker chicks and remove the weaker chicks to another area if necessary.

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