Read along as I raise a batch of spring chicks!
Note: I realized that the tittle might be confusing since the term ''raising chicks naturally''
usually refers to raising chicks the old fashion way with a mother hen. In this case it refers
to artificially raising incubator chicks with more natural methods.
I will try to keep this page updated every day or so (hopefully), on my progress raising this batch
of chicks. Hopefully you will be able to pick up a few tips along the way.
These chicks hatched on 3-(22-23)-15, and are the 9th batch I've done in my incubator so far.
They are Easter Eggers, EE X Rhode Island Reds, EE X Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, and
EE X Wheaten Marans.
A few of the parents:
Day 1: Chicks are moved from the incubator into the brooder, a large rabbit cage, which I
prefer over a plastic tote, which has closed sides that prevent air flow and doesn't give the
chicks enough room if the heat lamp gets too hot. We are expecting some chilly weather here,
so I will keep them inside for a few days before moving them into the big out door brooder.
The first thing I give them is a starter tea, (Made from chickweed, dandelion, garlic, and a few
other herbs). This helps to get their immune systems off to a good start. Since the chicks are
only a day old they aren't really up to eating anything, so I won't give them any feed yet. I also
gave them some clumps of grass and weeds (with the roots) so they have something healthy
to peck at.
Day 2: I gave the chicks some yogurt to help get the digestive systems up to speed and for
probiotics. I also gave them some fermented feed, I started several days ago. They weren't
that interested in the feed yet, but they loved the yogurt. I'm also thawing out some liver for
them, which is high in vitamins and minerals that help make for strong, healthy chicks. It is
especially good for chicks that have leg problems. I make sure I talk and cluck to them so that
they become used to my voice. Already they run to the side of the brooder when ever they
hear me coming. :-D
You've got to love those fluffy beards!
Day 3: The chicks got their first venture outdoors today! I like to mimic broody hens as much
as possible since they are the the worlds best incubators and brooders. Broody hens usually
take their chicks off the nest on day 2 or 3 for a few hours. Since they are still very young the
chicks will only stay out for about 15 or 30 minutes, (depending on the weather) before coming
back to cluster under the warmth of their mother. I left my chicks out for about 15 minutes.
When they are ready to go back to the brooder they will start to cluster together. They seemed
to enjoy pecking around in the grass, and chasing gnats, but loading 21 chicks in and out of a
box is quite a task.
Day 4: The chicks weren't too happy about having a brooder cleaned today, but they really
enjoyed the organ meats I gave them, and commenced chasing each other around the brooder,
each one thinking the other had something better than they did. I also gave them some violet
flowers, which are high in vitamins A and C, and many other vitamins and minerals, which they
Day 8: The chicks had a very busy day today. I moved them to the large outdoor brooder where
they will have much more space. They are really enjoying the warm sunny weather. This afternoon
our neighbor came over and borrowed 4 chicks (with me going along to chaperon) for an Easter
photo shoot. I put them in a box where they quietly slept until ready to ''pose'' for the pictures.
Day 9: The chicks got their first dust bathe today, which they immediately commenced scratching
in. I also gave them some clumps of grass with the roots for them to peck at. Chicks that have
dirt to scratch and peck at have a lower chance of getting coccidioses, and have stronger immune
systems. Dust bathes also provide the chicks with hours of entertainment.
Day 10: Since it's been above 70F here, I have been turning the heat lamp off during the day.
Amazingly enough, the chicks spend most of their time in the unheated side of the brooder (my
brooder is split into two ''rooms'') Even on mornings when the temperature is in the low 50F's
and 60F's! Observing mother hens and their chicks has convinced me that baby chicks do not
need as much heat as we are often told. I have seen many a mother hen out scratching with her
chicks on 20F and 30F degree mornings, and even one hen and her 2 week old chick out eating
on a 5F degree morning! Don't get me wrong, chicks do need to be kept warm, but they don't
need to roast under the heat lamp, all the time. Chicks out with a mother hen, would go out and
scratch for an hour or two, and than come and warm up before going out to eat and scratch again.
As they get older, the time spent out eating and scratching will increase. Chicks that are kept in
a heated brooder all the time have far less tolerance to cold temps, and often are poor winter
layers. Since my birds are kept out on pasture, in open coops all winter, cold tolerant birds are
very important to me.
Day 11: The chicks have been enjoying lots of healthy treats lately. One of the easiest ways to
tame chicks and get them used to you, is with treats. Even the most skittish chicks get brave
when the treats come out. Here are a few healthy ''treats'' for chicks of all ages:
Liver (cooked or raw)
Violet Flowers (one of my chicks favorites)
Kale and Collards
Go here for more healthy greens for your flock: Spring Greens for Your Flock (and-you!)
Day 14: Weather permitting, I have been putting the chicks out in a chicken tractor during the
day, which the love. The chicks have all their wing feathers now, and many of them are getting
tail feathers as well.
Day 18: While putting the chicks back in the brooder today, I took a good look at their combs,
feathers, legs, etc. I'm pretty sure I have 7 pullets, and 14 roosters. Yes you read that right.
Most hatches come out roughly 50/50, but not always. This is actually a good thing for me right
now, since I already have to may pullets, so I'd rather have the cockerels, which will be raised
Day 21: Chicks are now 3 weeks old, and are no longer needing the heat lamp. Outdoor
temperatures are between 70F and 40F. I'm hoping to get them out of the brooder and into
their own chicken tractor as soon as the rainy spell is over, where they will stay until old enough
to move into net fencing.
Day 23: Chicks are over three weeks old, and growing very fast, all but one that is. One of the
chicks is about half the size as the others. It hatched a day late, and has always been weaker
than the others. Most big time poultry people prefer to cull chicks like this, but I like to give
them a chance.
Day 24: Some much over due photos:
Click to enlarge
They are entering the gangly teenage stage!
Day 26: The chicks have been moved out into a chicken tractor. They are doing very well,
even though we have had a few cold nights. They are beside themselves to be out on the
grass, and are scratching to their hearts content.
Day 28: We have had a bunch of nasty thunderstorms lately. The chicks have done very
well though, but we had one that was especially bad. I ran out as soon as I could after the
storm, concerned about the chicks, but they were all fine, though it looked like someone had
dumped several buckets of water on them. I put them in the brooder for the night, because
the temperature had dropped off substantially and I was concerned about them getting to
chilled since they were all ready wet.
Day 32: Chicks are now over a month old and growing fast. They are friendly and enjoy
sitting in my lap, and pecking at anything that's shiny. They cheap loudly at night until
''mama hen'' (me) puts them to bed at night. They are eating lots of fermented feed and
free ranging during the day.
2 Days Old:
3 1/2 Weeks Old:
5 Weeks Old: