How to Properly Take Care of Baby Chickens

By Christy Bagasao

A flock of chickens can be raised in a relatively small space for a relatively low price, making them a popular choice for the backyard farmer. While newly hatched chicks are delicate, the chicken raising process itself is not very difficult. With a few supplies and attention to the most pressing needs of a young flock, a hearty supply of chickens can be brought to adulthood successfully and used either for meat, eggs or the fun of owning a flock of chickens.

Provide a draft-free home for the chicks, allowing at least 6 square inches per chick after hatching. After they achieve their full size, they should have anywhere from 1 to 3 square feet each, depending on the size of the breed.

Supply bedding such as sawdust or wood shavings. Clean the bedding regularly to keep it warm and dry. Make sure the floor is not slippery since this could cause fatal injuries to newly hatched chicks.

Establish a heat source such as an overhead lamp. Set the heat lamp at 95 degrees F. day and night, and lower the temperature 5 degrees F. each week until the chickens are at room temperature. Provide areas where the chicks can escape the heat if it is too hot. The behavior of the chicks will indicate their comfort level. If they are too cold, they will huddle under the lamp. If they are too hot, they will try to avoid it.

Set up a feeder and watering unit that will allow all chicks to feed simultaneously. This would require 1 1/2 to 4 inches per chick. To teach the chicks to eat, spread newspaper on the floor and sprinkle starter feed on top of it.

Light the chick habitat 24 hours a day the first week, reducing the intensity of the light until it is just bright enough to read by the second week. After the first week reduce the number of light hours to 16 each day. After week 10, reduce the number of light hours to 12 per day.

Feed the chicks a nutrient-rich starter feed. Make it available for free-range eating at all times. Do not feed the chicks adult chicken food. Switch to grower food at nine weeks and a laying mix at 20 weeks. Maintain a constant supply of fresh, room temperature water. Check the water to be sure the heating element has not made it too hot for the chicks.

Isolate the chick flock as much as possible from other birds to prevent disease. If a chick becomes sick, isolate it and contact an avian veterinarian.

Prevent drafts and keep predators at bay at all times to provide the chicks a safe and healthy environment in which to grow.