How to Care for Baby Chickens? Guide for Beginners
If you are looking forward to raising chickens you must also know how to take care of baby chickens. These little birds are not as delicate as most people think. Even beginners will find it easy to handle them as they grow.
With good care, they can grow healthy and strong among other flocks of chickens. All you need is the right tips to guide you and everything else will fall in place.
Check Local Laws
Before you even think of raising chickens in your backyard, you need to ask yourself some questions related to chicken keeping. Ask yourself if the law or local ordinances allow you to keep chickens in your home.
Also, find out which conditions everyday chicken owners in your area need to fulfill before starting off this project. This is a very important factor to consider because some states don’t allow homeowners to raise chickens.
Buy Chicks From NPIP Certified Breeders
If you want healthy and high-quality baby chickens then you should think of buying them from NPIP certified breeders or hatcheries. NPIP is a short form for National Poultry Improvement Plan. This is a voluntary certification system for any poultry breeders and hatcheries who want to participate in.
NPIP certified breeders submit their chickens from their breeding flock for regularly scheduled testing. The main purpose of carrying out the testing is to ensure that chickens are completely Pollorum-Typhoid free.
Again the main objective of the National Poultry Improvement Plan is to promote the improvement of poultry including poultry products. NPIP achieves this goal by setting proper standards that should be followed when evaluating or testing poultry breeding stocks, hatching eggs, poults, and baby chicks.
Buying chicks from breeders who are already NPIP certified comes with a lot of advantages. It helps to reduce mortality rates in chicks that seem healthy. What this means is that some chicks can look healthy and strong at a glance but later develop some health complications. This information is important particularly to the upcoming chicken owners.
Even if you decide to raise unhealthy chicks to become mature chickens, rest assured that these birds will still be able to carry some diseases indefinitely. They will also infect future members of chickens within your flock. So, acquiring baby chickens from a trusted source such as NPIP certified breeders and hatcheries can help you avoid disasters when raising your young chickens.
The most economical way to start a happy, affordable, and healthy flock of chickens is to raise baby chicks from the start. Newly acquired chicks need special care before you can let them join other chickens in the coop. In this case, special housing will come in handy to protect them from predators, older chickens, and harsh weather conditions.
A pen or a container set up is a good option to house your baby chicks. This type of structure is normally considered to be a brooder for newly hatched cheeks. You can just add a controlled heating element to this type of brooder to keep the chicks warm.
Alternatively, you can go for a commercial brooder although a homemade one is an affordable solution. These structures will serve your chicks for approximately eight weeks before you can transfer them to the coop.
Keeping Chicks Warm
New chicks should stay warm most of the time. Prepare their brood a day before their arrival. Then choose the right heat lamp and set the ideal temperature to create a comfortable climate for them.
Your baby chickens need supplemental heating to keep their bodies warm throughout. You can provide them with a source of heating until they become six weeks old. Also, these little birds can enjoy supplemental heating until they have fully grown feathers.
Use a suitable heat lamp, especially one that can emit 250-watt infrared heat. Ordinary incandescent bulbs, screw-in ceramic heaters, electric heat pads, hot-water radiators, and ordinary incandescent bulbs should not be used as a source of heat for baby chickens.
These heat sources don’t provide reliable, optimum temperatures for chicks and can easily overheat them if left unchecked.
You should also use a red-tinted bulb rather than a white or clear one. Red light is more comfortable for your baby chickens than white light. At least two smaller-wattage heat lamps will ensure that your chicks get heat when one of them burns out at night.
Here is the breakdown of different temperatures at different stages of growth for your chicks:
- 1st week: 92-95 °F
- 2-3 weeks: 85-90 °F
- 3-5 weeks:80-85 °F
- 5-8 weeks: 70-80 °F
- 8 weeks plus: room temperature
Make the habit of looking at your chicks’ legs to know their temperature preference. If their legs appear swollen, puffy, and cold to your touch, just know they are cold. If the legs look thin, dry, and dehydrated then your chicks are overheated.
Food & Water
Chicken food is available in three categories-food for layers, food for chics, and food for broilers. Each type of food is designed to provide different levels of essential nutrients for different groups of chickens.
Since you are starting with baby chickens, you need to look for food types that suit these young birds. Their food should contain high percentages of protein-around 20 to 22%. High protein content helps baby chickens grow faster. However, try as much as possible to feed your little birds holistically using organic feed where possible.
Regular chicken feed is a great option but just know it will cost you some money. Regardless, this type of food for chickens is affordable but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to its composition.
Most of the commercially produced chicken food is laden with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs or Roundup Ready can make your little chicks sick because they contain massive amounts of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. So, avoid feeding your baby chickens foods containing elements of GMOs.
In general, you need to feed your baby chickens as follows:
- From 0 to 8 weeks old chicks: up to 20% starter feed crumbles
- From 8 to 14 weeks old chicks: between 16 and 18% starter combined with grower feed
- From 15 to 18 weeks old chicks: 16% finisher feed
- More than 18 weeks old chicks: 16% layer feed.
Chicken feed in a can comes as either medicated or un-medicated. The medicated feed contains a coccidiostat to protect chicks against coccidiosis disease. There is no point to provide your little birds with medicated feed if they are already vaccinated for food coccidia.
For your young chickens, clean fresh water is recommended. Water is as essential as food for chicks of all ages. Their drinking water should not be too hot or too cold. Make sure to dip the beaks of your chicks into the water to help them know where they can locate it.
In addition, add a few clean marbles and pebbles to their waterer to prevent them from drowning. The addition of an electrolyte or vitamin supplement to your chicks’ water will give them a good start.
Provide enough waterers and feeders where your baby chickens can reach them. These two poultry equipment should be placed on wood blocks just a few inches from the ground.
Treating Sick Chicks
When baby chicks come from their hatchery and feed store, they usually have more internal bacteria and other pathogens than normal. Plus, the exhaustion and stress from transportation can make your baby chickens become more sensitive to diseases.
The most ideal solution for this type of problem is to provide your chicks with an anti-biotic feed. You can also use dewormers to help get rid of harmful bacteria in their intestinal tract.
Most importantly, maintain hygiene around your chicks. Knowing how to handle your sick baby chickens is a matter of life and death. That’s why you need to plan adequately before welcoming your first chicks to your backyard.
The following supplies will help you deal with sickness among your chicks:
- Plain yogurt
- Vitamin and electrolyte tablets-1 drop of molasses and 3 tablespoonful sugar in one 1 quart of water
- Smal dish-a jar lid
- Medicine dropper or even an eyedropper
- Cotton swabs
- Antibiotic cream
- Stretch bandage-disposable elastic and non-adhesive type
- Several antibiotics for oral administration
With these supplies, you can prevent injuries and treat minor ailments that affect young chickens from time to time. Otherwise, you should get in touch with a veterinarian to help keep your little birds healthy.
Some keepers recommend moving chicks to their coops at four weeks old. At this tender age, the chicks will still need to get some external warmth.
Therefore, set up a reliable heating lamp in their coops for additional two weeks until they are used to their new environment. In the course of those two weeks make sure to check on them as many times as possible.
Raising chicks can be fun and exciting if you know the right steps to follow. These baby chickens need close attention and all essential things that keep them comfortable. First, you will need to buy your chicks from NPIP certified breeders to be sure of their health and quality.
Housing, food, water, and health services are also important when it comes to taking care of baby chickens. We hope the guide above will help you raise your chicks properly.