Raising chicks is easier with the right supplies. That’s why chicks are a favorite for families with young children on the farm. Kids are delighted to help feed and water their new feathered friends, and it teaches them responsibility when caring for pets or livestock as they get older.
If you are considering raising chicks for the first time, SoMo Farm & Ranch Supply gives five helpful tips.
1. Start in the middle of spring.
With chicks, you don’t want to start too early, or the weather won’t be warm enough for them to go outside when it is time. It is best to get your chicks at the beginning to middle of spring when you know the last frosts are just about over. This is the easiest time to raise chicks because they start indoors. Spring chicks tend to be the healthiest compared to those raised in other seasons because it’s also in line with their natural tendencies to begin in the spring.
It is also the most common time to raise chicks, so it will be easier for you to buy them. Chick Days, where we have our chicks available for purchase, are usually held around the first two weeks of spring.
While it is possible to raise chicks year-round like major hatcheries do, other seasons bring in problems that will have to be addressed, like extreme heat, extreme cold, and lack of chicks for purchase.
2. Feed them properly.
New chicks need a constant source of water as well as specialty starter feed. Chick starter feed will have all the nutrition they need for their first few weeks of life while they are rapidly growing. Keep water dishes shallow so they can easily get in and out.
After a few weeks, you can start giving chicks little treats to snack on, like lettuce, veggies, and fresh fruits. Don’t give too many treats because they still need to rely on their starter feed for their primary source of nutrition at this point. Around eight weeks, chicks can move up from a starter feed to a grower feed.
3. Watch for their feathers.
Chicks are covered in an adorable yellow fuzz that we all know and love. After about a week old, chicks can start to get their very first feathers. The feathers will slowly come in over the following weeks. As long as they still have yellow fuzz, they are considered chicks.
Some breeds of chickens can have all their feathers grown in by around 12 weeks, but others can take up to 20 weeks before the fuzz is no longer visible.
4. Insulate the brooder pen.
The brooder pen is where you will keep your chicks until they have most of their adult feathers. The brooder keeps them warm and helps to regulate their body temperature, which they cannot do on their own yet. Young chicks not under a heat lamp can get too cold and die very quickly.
To help keep them warm, their brooder pen needs a heat-emitting light and some type of bedding, like pine chips or shredded newspapers. Keep it inside in a warm room, if possible, for the first few weeks. If you have it outdoors, surround the brooder with something to keep out a draft. After about three to four weeks old, chicks can wander outside of the brooder for periods of time.
5. Buy the right supplies.
Chicks are fairly easy to raise as long as you have the right supplies, which can be found at your local farm supply store like SoMo Farm & Ranch Supply.
The brooder is where your chicks will live for at least the first six weeks of their lives. You can buy a brooder box or turn an old box or storage container into a brooder box.
Your brooder box will also need a heat lamp to keep chicks warm. This is a necessity because chicks who are too cold will not thrive.
Having a thermometer in the brooder box can help you regulate the temperature and make sure that your young chicks are staying warm enough.
Your brooder box must be lined with bedding for warmth and for the chicks to snuggle into. Common bedding choices include pine or hemp bedding, shredded newspaper, paper towels, or sand. Cedar bedding must be avoided because the scent can make chicks sick.
The chicks need a constant source of water. A shallow, easy-to-enter dish is best.
New chicks need a specialty feed known as starter feed to keep them healthy. It has all the nutrition they need for the first few weeks of life.
Chickens need the grit to help break down their food. Most chicks don’t need grit until they start eating treats other than their starter feed, but read the instructions on the food. Chick grit is ground up much finer than regular grit.
SoMo Farm & Ranch Supply carries everything you need to raise healthy baby chicks, including the chicks themselves.