How to Start Your Chickens Off Right
Part of the Raising Chickens For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Raising chickens means taking care of them from the time they’re little puff balls with feet. To start your chicks off right so that they grow into healthy adults, make use of the following tips:
Brooder: Confine the chicks in a brooder with solid sides about 18 inches high to keep out drafts. Make sure the brooder is near a heat source, probably a heat lamp. Give each chick 6 square inches of floor space and put the brooder somewhere dry and safe from predators.
Brooder floor: Cover the floor of the brooder with pine shavings or other absorbent bedding. Do not use cedar shavings or kitty litter. Do not use newspaper. For the first two days only, cover the litter with paper towels or a piece of old cloth to keep chicks from eating the litter until they find the food.
Temperature: For the first week chicks must be kept at 95° F at all times. Drop the temperature 5 degrees a week until you reach the surrounding room temperature outside the brooder or 60° F.
Feed: Use baby chick starter feed for all chicks except meat bird chicks, which need meat bird starter feed. For the first day or two, sprinkle feed on a white paper plate or some white paper towels to make it easy to find. Also have feed available in feed dishes.
Water: Baby chicks need water in a shallow, narrow container so they can’t drown. Dip their beaks into the water gently as you put them into to the brooder so they know where it is. Always have water available.
Handling: Don’t handle baby chicks too much. It stresses them, makes them grow poorly, and may kill them.
Troubleshooting: Contented chicks are fairly quiet, spread out over the brooder eating, drinking, and sleeping. If chicks are peeping loudly and continuously, something is wrong (they're probably too cold). If they are against the brooder walls spread out and panting they are too hot.