How To Raise Baby Chicks—The First 60 Days Of Raising Baby Chickens

You're the proud owner of a little "fuzz-butt"... now what do you do to keep it warm, happy, and healthy?
By BYC Support · Jan 10, 2012 · Updated Aug 1, 2013 · ·
  1. BYC Support
    Raising Baby Chickens—The First 60 Days


    Getting and raising chicks is exciting and may even be a little nerve wrecking time for chicken owners. There are a few basic, but very important, things you can and should do to make this experience as hassle free and enjoyable as possible for yourself and the little ones. First off, let's start with the…

    The Brooder

    brooder.jpg brooder 2.jpg

    The chick's first home will be the brooder. (For brooder designs and ideas see our Incubators & Brooders section) The size of the brooder will depend on the number of chicks you have. Aim for at least 2.5 sq feet per chick, if possible, more is better. Overcrowding chicks can cause a host of problems and they will grow so fast, what seems very generous space-wise now will quickly get filled up!

    The bottom of the brooder should have a layer of clean litter (pine shavings or similar is ideal). Do NOT line the bottom with newspaper or similar. Newspaper is slippery underfoot and can cause foot and leg problems in the chicks as a result. For very small chicks paper towels over wood shavings is recommended. This will stop them pecking at and eating the shavings while they figure out what "food" is. The litter should be changed out every couple of days, and never allowed to remain damp—cleanliness is VERY important at this stage. Baby chicks are prone to a number of diseases, such as Coccidiosis, which thrives in a damp environment. This and other chick health problems can be avoided with proper sanitation.

    When the chick are around a month old, add a low roost about 4" off the floor of the brooder to encourage the chicks to start roosting. Don't put it directly under the heat lamp, it will be too warm there.

    index.jpg images.jpg

    Temperature in the Brooder

    The brooder can be heated by using a light bulb with a reflector, available at any hardware store. A 100-watt bulb is usually fine, though most people use an actual heat lamp. The temperature should be around 90*F degrees for the first week in the warmest part of the brooder and should be reduced by around 5 degrees each week thereafter, until the chicks have their feathers (5-8 weeks old). It's important that you provide warmer and cooler areas in the brooder, so the chicks can move around and regulate their body temperatures as they feel comfortable. A thermometer in the brooder is helpful, but you can tell if the temperature is right by how the chicks behave. If they are panting and/or huddling in corners farthest from the light, they are too hot. If they huddle together in a ball under the light, they are too cold. You can adjust the distance of the light (or change the wattage of the bulb) until it's right.

    It is important that you make sure you use the correct heat bulb for your brooder. Teflon coated bulbs can be fatal, as this member learned: Seven dead hens within 4 hours, not attacked. UPDATE: Teflon Poisoning!

    Food and Water for the Chicks

    chicks eating.jpg images.jpg

    Make sure you always have fresh, clean water available for your chicks. Place the waterer as far as possible away from the heat lamp, and if you are using a bowl, fill it with marbles or clean pebbles to help prevent the chicks from drowning or getting soaked if they accidentally fall in. Chicks are clumsy little things and landing in the water bowl is an inevitable part of growing up for them, with often fatal results.

    Even baby chicks will naturally scratch at their food, so a feeder that (more or less) keeps the food in one place is good. Again, cleanliness is important: the chicks will poop right into their own food, so you must clean and refill it often. Chicks start out with food called "crumbles", or "chick starter". It is specially formulated for their dietary needs and it comes as medicated or not. Medicated feed is usually medicated with a small amount of Amprolium drugs, which helps prevent Coccidiosis. Please note: you still need to be mindful of cleanliness in the brooder, even if you feed medicated starter. Like the flu jab, it's not a 100% prevention. Chick crumbles is a complete food—no other food is necessary. However, after the first week or two, you can give them small amounts of treats every day. Remember when feeding treats to offer the chicks grit to help them break down the new food. If you cannot find chick size grit, coarse sand works just as well. Here are some ideas for good treats for baby chicks. Though feeding treats is great fun, it should be regarded as candy to humans and fed in moderation.

    Play Time

    chicks out 1.jpg chicks out 2.jpg

    Chicks are insatiably curious—after the first week or two, they can be put outside for short periods of time if the temperature is high enough. They MUST be watched at this age, however. Chicks can move fast, squeeze into small spaces, and are helpless against a variety of predators, including the family dog or cat. They are also amazing escape artists, so make sure they are in a secure enclosure! If they have bonded to you, they are likely follow you around. Chickens become fond of their owners, some will come when you call them (and some won't!). Keep outside time short for the first few days, while the chicks get used to the idea, and gradually extend the time they spend outdoors as they grow up. This will eventually make the transition to the coop easier for you and them too.

    Keeping Chicks Healthy

    index5.jpg index6.jpg

    Chicks are prone to a condition called "pasty butt" where droppings stick to their vents and clog it up, making it impossible for them to relieve themselves. If left untreated this can kill them. Check your chicks' bottoms every few hours, especially during the first 2 weeks. If you find a pasty bottom carefully soak and remove the plug, pat the area and dry and apply a little vaseline or vegetable oil to the area. Organic ACV (apple cider vinegar) in their drink water is found to help prevent this condition. A ratio of 3–4 tablespoons to a gallon of water is recommended.

    For more on raising chicks see the Raising Baby Chicks section of the forum.

    Share This Article

Recent User Reviews

  1. Marie_123
    "Great overview!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 26, 2019
    Thanks for this...a good intro!
  2. mesalina87
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 16, 2019
    Thank you for the info.
  3. ZoomuKeeper
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 8, 2019
    A lot of good information here


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. Larry Rose
    I use "Ceramic Discs" as a heat source for my Brooder. I actually have 3 Brooders, and only use Discs. I have 2 @ 100 watts, and one @ 150 watts. No light to disturb the chicks and it works great. It says "Use for Reptiles''. But they work great in the Brooders. I also have a heat lamp to use for one week when they get to be 4 weeks old because that Brooder is on the floor. Then shut it off if weather permits. During cold weather, I can switch and use a higher wattage heat lamp as needed. I really like the "Discs". They work great.
  2. D-Bar-B
    I've been wondering if I can put them outside a chicks are 3 weeks old and very inquisitive. Thanks!
    1. Larry Rose
      Only if it is 75* or above, at 3 weeks old. And watch out for flying predators as well as any others. Do Not leave them alone until they get bigger and can fend for themselves a bit or you could lose them.
  3. gator51
    Big time thank you, learned a BUNCH
  4. Big f
    Good to know! :)
  5. woodmort
    I would add that it is possible to have chicks vaccinated for coccidiosis at the hatchery, it's relatively inexpensive and a good safety measure. But, if you do, don't feed medicated starter it negates the vaccine.
    1. robcam817
      Curious, why does feeding medicated starter negate the vaccine?
    2. woodmort
      A vaccinated chick is already immune so you're curing a disease when they already have immunity, like taking a flu shot when you already have the flu.
  6. syed kamran ali
    awesome information. thanks BYC
  7. Ricardo Kaka
  8. azygous
    This is a terrific article. It should help a lot of newbies.
      SparrowFlight likes this.
  9. wilsonbon
    I have four baby chicks. Two are 3 weeks old and two are two weeks old. The the three weekers are Delawares which when grown are pretty big. These two are getting on top of the warmer and pooping. When can I put them in a cage by themselves outside?
  10. samzoost
    I gave my chickies organic rolled oats, a local organic scrambled egg, and starter feed mixed together for their 1 week birthday and they went nutso over it!:)
  11. TLCMidMichigan
    I found treats to my 2 week old chicks that are live meal worms. The worms are from 1/2 to 3/4 inch long.
    I keep them in the refrigerator. Their in a cloth bag for storage. The chicks go crazy over them.
    I just added a dirt bath area in a smaller pan(12inches). Its been hot, so all vents are open.
      mudgrl92 likes this.
  12. TCFarm
    Great article. Thanks! I didn't know about the ACV for chicks! I use it abouT two days each week for my adult birds, as it helps absorb calcium and helps the gut flora too! Great stuff. :celebrate Kathy
      Hushabyefarm, mudgrl92 and Tweedygirl like this.
  13. NewbieGigi
    This such helpful information. I love this site so much
      Dillychick and AUTZ like this.
  14. AUTZ
    We sometimes use puppy pee pads in brooder. Less mess (dust), not slick so protects their legs & just about as cheap as anything else we've tried... Easier to clean up & change out also...especially when they are big enough to graduate to kiddie pool brooder containment! :)
    1. ihvpower
      Ha! I use puppy pads too, they're great!
  15. lovemypolish
    I am in love with this site!!
  16. Farmer_White
    I love yall's site. My wife and I have learned so much from here. Thanks for the knowledge.
  17. izzyduck
    How many chicks should i start with?
      HippieChic71 likes this.
    1. HippieChic71
      I'm new, and will get my first chicks on the 6th of March. I am starting with 12. Just in case we lose some. Good luck!
      d7armstrong likes this.
    2. Aji Dulce
      I just got my 10 chicks yesterday. Good luck, they are so fun.
      TLHloveschicks likes this.
    3. ihvpower
      You could start with 2 but eventually, you'll end up with 15 or so, they're so addictive!
      tamdeva, ChooksNQuilts and pam thomas like this.
    At what age could i remove my baby chicks from they mother and how long will she take before she begins laying again
      Rstine and Chickitita like this.
  19. Pecka
    grat. with pasty butt is a big bugger. i dont have none chickens but i wanna start a farm thx for sayin sometim. grat again.
    love, pecka
  20. BaJa
    good info
  21. SilverHair
    I have 2 barred rocks I got on 14 nov 2015, thinking about moving them outside, got a chicken tractor I can use with lamp installed in an old dog house, I don't want to risk hurting the girls they are number 7 & 8 that I have, any thoughts would help,
  22. Libertyrose03
    Great ideas!
  23. ninjawesome
    Thanks so much!
  24. pooh731
    Hey you guys have helped me by letting me know What chickens I have and if I have a hen or rooster. I was wondering if I took a picture of the chicks I want to buy. Could you guys tell me if I got a hen or a rooster and if they are Americana or if they are Welsummers as soon I post the picture.
  25. Crzy Chi Lady
    Crzy Chi Lady Today at 7:38 amI made a bottle nipple feeder for the chicks and a bucket nipple feeder for my big girls. Yes it's true they knock them over and poop in the open kind.
      BirdieChickenLady likes this.
  26. Crzy Chi Lady
    I made a bottle nipple feeder for the chicks and a bucket nipple feeder for my big girls. Yes it's true they knock them over and poop in the open kind.
  27. countrydreamer8
    Hello I have purchased 6 Buff Orpingtons which were born on March 18th and I picked them up on the 20th. I guess 've rushed things a bit because I put up a little roost [4"] off the floor about a week after I got them and it only took maybe 2 days to hop on it was so exciting. This past Saturday I just put up a little bigger roost which is 12" off the ground and that same day 1 little dare devil flew right up there! Their feathers are coming in really fast but I still see some little fuzzy fur underneath them but they certainly love to run around spreading their wings and stretching their legs. Today I noticed one of my chicks rubbing the floor like she was taking a dust bath or something. Am I supposed to have something in their area for them to take dust/dirt baths. When do I start the DEarth that I heard so much about. How warm does it have to be before they can go outside for a few minutes?
    1. ellend
      Be careful with DE: It can get deep into lungs and cause severe problems.
  28. Crzy Chi Lady
    Thank you for this info. Just discovered my heat bulb is dead. Had to use a camp light and some foil around the chick pen. Seems to be working so far.
  29. rocks3flowers
    I was told to add a little suger to the water. they are being sent in the mail and the sugers to help them can I add suger and oac organic apple cider vinager?
      ccpetals likes this.
  30. Sandy Drews
    How old do chicks have to be to move them into the big coop?
      Almar likes this.
  31. foghornleghorn9
    I use a large clear plastic storage bin so the babies can see me and see their surroundings. I attached some hardware cloth to some scrap lumber for a completely open air top. This allows me to use the heat lamp without worrying about melting the lid or possibly creating a fire. Inexpensive, effective and very, very easy to clean.
      Stone Hill and Elmochook like this.
  32. HorseMadWhovian
    Can they imprint on each other?
  33. PiecesofAmber
    I just got my newest babies today! I got 3 Americaunas, 8 Red Rangers, 2 Cornish X, 1 Cuckoo Maran, 1 Pearl White Leghorn, 1 Brown Leghorn, and my freebie, a Turken! They arrived from McMurray healthy, active, and adorable!!!
      ihvpower likes this.
  34. Nutcase
    Great article
  35. karlyla
    one of my chicks have hatched but i dont know how is fluffy but i checks the day before and im shore there was no chicks. does anyone have any piccy's of 1 hour old chicks and 1 day old chicks? i found out in the morning, they were fluffy, would they be hours or day old?
    complicating i know. :)
      Smeecl likes this.
  36. LoveNewChicks
    how high should the brooder wall be?
    ours (for our 1 weekers) is 1 foot, is that to short?
      BirdieChickenLady likes this.
    1. ellend
      Keep a lid on it! One foot is really pretty short.
  37. tamdeva
    Just got my 4 new chicks today! 2 Ameracuanas and 2 Polish. So cute! Their brooder is a cardboard box, with a clamp on light 60 watts. It is in my I put Hay in the bottom, so if they eat it, its OK, it will not hurt them. Shavings and newspaper or shredded paper could hurt them. The feed store gives it free, you just get the stuff on the ground that falls off the stack of hay! Recycle! I am thinking my box is to small already.......but it is only day one. But I am in love. All are named but one.....still searching for the perfect name. Ya, my DH thinks I have lost it!
      mumofsix likes this.
  38. Seemsfamiliar
    Ducks will become ill if given medicated chicken feed. Grit is not a good idea and crushed oyster shells should be offered only when the hens are older.
    What kind of bedding do you reccomend the most?
  40. GreenGirlGrammy
    For lining the floor of the brooder, do not use straw or wood shavings at first. They get it down their throats. Just invest in a good roll of paper towels. It's not slippery like newspaper, which can cause leg injury. To change the paper towels I just start rolling at one end and the chicks just hop over to the bare bottom. Then I do the same thing to replace it. Just roll it out and they hop back over to the paper side. I change it at least twice a day .They love to jump in the water dish and then go make mud in the feed dish. The secret to keeping the floor dryer is to set the water up on a little block of wood to help keep them from running around in the water. Same goes for the feed.
  41. ellyn
    Just bought my third set of 5 sweet, thanks for the reminders of chick care.
  42. myhenhouse
    My babies are 13 days old (31 of 13 different breeds) I've given them a little green grass to play with.... and they have had hard boiled egg yolk a few times ~ they all are happy fun playing kidz ~ feathers are coming out nicely and it's fun trying to figure out who is who.... we leave the window open in the mud room during the day for fresh air as their brooder is tall enough to keep out drafts and now week two we lowered the temp to 88.... this is my first attempt in raising chickens and so far loving every minute... can't wait to have our hen house complete , fenced in and waiting for the little ones to be big enough to occupy ...... until then we have chirping 24/7 through out our home :)
  43. chook master
    Great summery! Great informative information!
  44. Chikyn
    I wish that I was the chick's 'mama'.... But soon enough they will recognize me as their caretaker!
  45. bruceha2000
    "When the chicks are a month old, add a low roost"
    Um, our chicks were brooded in a bathtub in an unused bathroom. The went out to the COOP in the barn with 2' and 4' high roosts at a month old. The were hanging out on the edge of the tub (and sometimes on the floor OUTSIDE the tub) at LEAST a week before. They had a little roost just off the bottom of the tub at 1 week and another about a foot up starting at about 2 weeks. They grow FAST. Give them a roost a WHOLE lot earlier than 1 month old.
      BirdieChickenLady likes this.
  46. RedJungleFowl
    i have a question so should we use medicated feed or not.
  47. BuffBeck
    I am so greatful someone finally went ahead and made one of these! This summary is really complete, and well written. I read the other one and like that one to! Thanks sooooo much from all the newbie hatchers! :)
  48. iron chicken
    using the hamster waterers is a good idea as they are simmilar to nipple waterers
      lil lilspud and Jan in the Pines like this.
  49. Chickenfan4life
    Great article. Very helpful.
  50. Lady Ressler
    Great article on raising baby chicks. Do you need to take the chicks from momma if it is really cold out 30 degrees or a lot less? I'am in ND and I just found one of my hens in the nesting box on the ground. I asked my husband how long she had been in there since he has been taking care of the chickens for me this week and said, "Yeah, she has been in there all week." I waas gonna let her hatch them but I didn't know if I was creating mor woek for myself in these cold temps. Should I let her carry through and will she raise them on her own" Or should I break her broodyness and wait till spring?
      BirdieChickenLady likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: