Everything You Need to Know About Getting Baby Chicks

If you have stepped into a Tractor Supply or Rural King store lately, you’ve likely heard the alluring sound of the baby chicks. The little tennis ball-sized fuzzy babies chirp to lure you into taking them home with you, and it’s hard to resist! This is the post for you, in the event you are unable to resist taking a few baby chicks home with you. Today I’m detailing everything you need to know to get started owning chickens!

Everything you need to know about getting baby chicks


Prepare a Predator-Safe Coop

I am normally a big fan of committing to something and figuring out the details later, but this is not the time to do that! Don’t buy baby chicks until you have a predator-safe coop. Baby chicks grow unbelievably fast and will need a safe coop to move into within less than a month. Therefore, you’ll want to prepare the chickens’ forever home first.

Everyone likes the taste of chicken, and therefore your chicks will have many predators that could come after them. Raccoons, opossums, weasels, mink, hawks, eagles, coyotes, dogs, and foxes are just a few of the animals that will try to get your chickens. Here are a few tips on preparing a safe environment for your birds, whether you build a coop or buy one:

  • Prevent predators from digging under your coop by burying hardware cloth. Alternately, you could surround your coop with pavers, like we did.
  • A solid chicken coop should be constructed of hardware cloth rather than chicken wire. Raccoons will reach into chicken wire to kill a chicken, and you don’t want that!
  • If your chicken run is separate from your coop, be sure to enclose the top of the run. Hawks can easily fly into a run to snatch one of your birds.
My frenchie, Louis, checking out the baby chickens


Create a Safe Nursery

You will also need a safe place to house the baby chicks for the first month of their lives. First, you’ll need an enclosure. This can be a large metal or plastic container. I used an old Rubbermaid tote that had lost its lid. Avoid using cardboard as this can create a fire hazard. You’ll also want some type of bedding, avoiding cedar as it is toxic to chickens. I used pine shavings, but hemp is also a good choice. I placed some newspaper under the pine shavings for easy cleanup.

Next, your babies will need something to keep them warm. A heat lamp could work, like what you would use for a reptile. Just be sure not to keep it too close to the baby chicks, as they can get easily burnt. I used a brooding plate and absolutely loved it. It mimics the way a mother hen keeps her chicks warm by letting them go underneath her. The brooding plate I used is adjustable and can be raised as the babies get larger. You can find the exact one I used here.

You’ll also need a food and water dispenser. Baby chicks are not brilliant and are very prone to fatal accidents if proper precautions aren’t taken. Therefore, you don’t want to just leave out a bowl full of water so there are not drowning accidents. These are the food and water dispensers I used.


What to Feed Baby Chicks

I recommend a high quality chick crumble for the first 4-6 weeks of life. Do not use an adult crumble, as an adult laying hen has different nutritional requirements from a baby. Make sure your chicks have unlimited water. I also recommend a powdered electrolyte formulated for young chickens for the first two weeks. This powder can be added to your babies’ water and helps boost immunity.

When your chickens are around four weeks old, begin weaning them off the chick crumble and onto the adult crumble or pellet. Add a little more adult food each day and a little less chick crumble. By the time they are six weeks old, they should be transitioned to a good quality layer pellet or crumble. Wait until this time to begin introducing them to kitchen scraps and treats.


Flying the Coop

When your chicks are around three weeks old, they’ll have enough feathers to give them the urge to fly. This means they can easily get out of their enclosure. If your temperature is above 65 degrees at night and your chicks are mostly feathered, you can move them into their new coop. I recommend waiting a few weeks to free range them, if you intend to do so.

If you are trying to integrate new chicks with older chickens, wait until your chicks are full grown and only under close supervision. Chickens have a pecking order and the older chickens could try to harm the young chickens. Try getting them used to each other with a divider between them for several hours or days, and sneak the new chickens in at night while the older hens are roosting.

To wrap up, here is a general list of items you’ll need:

  • Chicken coop- get this early because your chicks will grow fast!
  • Chicken nursery- this can be a large plastic or metal container
  • Heat lamp and/or brooding plate
  • Food/watering vessels
  • Chick crumble
  • Bedding
  • OPTIONAL: electrolyte powder and chicken grit

Getting baby chicks is such a fun and rewarding experience. I hope that your family enjoys getting these productive new family members as much as we did!

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