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

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    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.

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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  1. bufforpingtons
    if brooded by hen should they stay with the hen or in a cage.
  2. Judy
    Chicks hatched by a hen can generally be raised by the hen, if her mothering instinct is good. They can even be raised in with a flock of adults. A good mama will protect the chicks, and when she is through "mothering," (usually 4-6 weeks) the chicks will stay together but can stay in with the flock. Watch behaviors, though, if you try this, to be sure attacks on young chicks are warded off, or don't get serious (draw blood) after mama returns to the flock.
    At what hight should the tempeture be mesured?
  4. snooptwomey
    at the height of the chicks, approx 3" off the ground or so is working for me just fine
  5. Dooner
    I have a broody bantam that is trying to hatch a golf ball. I want to order 3-4 regular size fertilized eggs for her to sit on. I plan to seperate her into the garage where i have a small hutch. It is cold in wisconsin. Once hatched, can i leave her with the chicks in the garage and at what age or size should i put her back outside with my others?
  6. stardust1
    I have 5 chicks that are all 5 days old. I was wondering when they will be able to eat things other than feed?
  7. chirpchirpchook
    great info
    really helped
  8. Canimia
    Can you use fine mesh hardware cloth for the flooring of the brooder?
  9. chirpchirpchook
    my chicks follow me around alot
    its very cute
  10. ncleora
    The lamp needs to be left on always, right?
  11. Trudi
    Can I put alfalfa hay down in the bottom of a brooder? My chicks are hatching today. I have a rubber maid tub, but wanted to put something down besides newspaper. Hay is the only thing I have on hand.
  12. overflow farms
    We have a large flock of 36 chicks and a number of them are injured from extreme pecking. We have separated the injured ones out and also the bullies. What else can we do? The chicks are 3 weeks old.
  13. chloechickens01
    Nice information. Can really help my new flock out!
  14. chicklover71
    wow this is a good summery
  15. graphicgranny
    I am planning on getting about 15 chicks in a month or so and would like to know if I can build a cage in the unheated chicken coop with a red light for their heat. I only have 4 full sized Wyandottes and was hoping this method would let them be better aquainted when it is time to let them out of the cage.b Would this work?
  16. Pollock Hill 20
    Thanks this was helfpful for us new owners, which we got the Rooster from a friend,about 6 weeks ago, after getting 5 pullets hen from the local flea market, 1-hen has died, and the others or sickly, we got the antibotic from our local feed store, and they seem to be getting better, Feb. 3,2012, we got 8 baby chicks, they were born Feb.1,2012, this is the our girls, as what Polly, my wife calls them, she has each one name, thx again for the information, on raising our chicks, which is 26 days old today, and other ideas, or information we can find, plz let us know.
  17. tinamommy727
    I have unmedicated feed because I have two pekin ducks in the brooder with the baby chicks, is this okay?
  18. pikeechickee
    I bought a couple of those water bottles like you hang in a hamster cage. We took some of clear plastic storage things you can get at Walmart(or where ever...)the bigger ones. And cut a big square out of the lid, then covered it with screen..chicken wire would have been a better choice. Then we cut a hole in the side of the container just big enough to poke the hamster waterer nozzle through. You have to anchor it to hold it up on the outside. I think we used that thin electric fencing wire (We use that stuff for everything) We were not sure the chicks would figure out the water, and kept a very close eye to make sure they were drinking, and they were, they were all just fine, about a year old now. With the hamster waterer thingy, they can't poop in their water or knock it over. I could not keep water for them enough, and clean. After fighting with it for a while we gave this a try. The bottles are inexpensive, we just used the smaller ones, though they do have some bigger for rabbits. They might be to big for baby chicks as you wouldn't want them to get a nose full. The small ones worked fine for us.
    I am new at chickens though, was using the hamster water bottle a bad idea and we just got lucky it went ok?
      Cleburneslim likes this.
  19. graphicgranny
    Great idea! Last year I was forever changieing the water because of the poop. I'm going to try this!
  20. mates5
    I have used the rodent water bottle for chicks of all kinds including quail and its worked well. I offer the big hens the regular waterer though due to the large amount of "water gulping" they do.
  21. Jordi36
    This was very helpful! My lil baby chicks follow me wherever I go! They also love to go outside and play on a warm spring day!
  22. therisingers
    I'm curious about the water bottle idea, too. The water is SO dirty all the time and I have rabbits and fill those all the time and they are MUCH cleaner. Good idea it sounds like to ME. Thanks!
  23. Ritag
    Love the pasty butt of chick gently for 10 minutes! And then carefully snipping off the turd still attached to the furry down. You would think I was performing brain surgery the way my four year old was watching over my shoulder. I shouldn't be surprised though...he calls them his chicks! :)
      KindVonDerMond likes this.
  24. Pollock Hill 20
    Well this is March 23, 2012, and we now have 20 hens, and 2- Roosters, when the babies are old enough we will put 10-hens in one pen, with the game ROOSTER, (Clayton), then the other 10 hens will go in a seprate pen with that Americana Rooster, whose name is Budwiser, Not sure at this time who goes where do to we got 4-new babbies today that will a week old tomorrow, We have 4-that we don't know there birthday, but we got them the last weekend in January, and was told they were 14 to 17 weeks old, then the 8- that we know was born Feb.1,2012, then we got 4 new babies,March 7th, and then today we got 4 more that was born March 17, ten days later, it's been interesting to see the different breeds, and watch the babies grow, and how much they change, and how they go thru the picking order,each one of my 20 hens are name, thx for the information for a new BYC owners, Tony and Polly
  25. gotpotbellypig
    that helps sooooo much! we are gettin baby chicks this spring so this article was just what i needed.
  26. jldrigge
    When is it OK to put my chicks in with with my other hen. They are about 5 to 6 week old now.
  27. GreenGirlGrammy
    The easiest way to raise chicks is the natural way. The mother hen keeps them just the right temp, and knows when they are getting cool and calls them back under her wings. On the 2nd day I put out the chick starter feed, and water jar. The mother has her scratch feed. They are kept in a little side fence off the main chicken yard. Inside the fence is their little stable floored with hay. After about 2 to 3 weeks they are having a great time with Mom in their own little yard. All the while the other adults in the main yard are watching, listening, getting signals from Mom...and pretty soon, in about 6 or 7 weeks, the merge happens under my constant watch. If there is just too much agression, I know they need a little more time in their own yard. But most of the time, the other chickens just go about their own business, and the Mother hen keeps everyone at a distance. It's a trial and error process, but eventually everything gets back to normal.
  28. Haruna
    Thanks alot to these posts of my seniors, as i'am enthusias i was very happy with these.
  29. Cindyearl
    How do I Feed the cornich cross chicks.. I herd they gorge so much that they have heart attacks and so ons... I need all the enfo I can get about cornish X raising.. With out to many deaths... I've lost 4 so far out of 30.. They will be a week old.. monday... <3
  30. woofwoofchick
    I have to disagree with the pine shavings part of this posting. Pine ( and cedar) shavings are toxic to animals... especially if you have them in an aquarium type enclosure where there is no air flow. Any type of fine shavings or saw dust is also very bad. It's not at all good for their respiratory system.
    News paper or Aspen bedding is best for chickens (as well as other pets)
  31. StamperChickens
    stardust1, there is not much they can eat at five days other than the normal chick start food... my chicks have enjoyed a bit of their food mixed with water. They like it much better than just the normal dry food but that is pretty much the only other thing i feed them till they are old enough to go outside and forage in the yard.
  32. kitten6566
    Really helpful. i didnt know about the disease they can get if they dont have medicated feed.
  33. Silkie75
    Are medicated crumbles the best choice?
  34. ginnylea
    I need to ask a question. I have a hen that only hatched out one egg last Thur. She has been a pretty good Mama but I think she is ready to go back to the pen with the older girls. So I thought that maybe I should try and fine at least one more baby to put with mine so it won't get lonely and put a heat lamp on them. Do you think this would be a good ideal or not. Iam at a lost plus Iam very new at this. Any help would be greatfullly accepted. Thank you
  35. emilysrad
    pikeechickee, our chickens also drink from nipples like a hamster waterer. It's just a convenience that you train your chickens to do. I agree, it's so much better than having to clean their water constantly!
  36. AnimalLover123
    I am trying to convince my parents into letting me rear a chick for agricultural day at school so we want a cheap way to take care of these guys. My parents don't think it's practical since we have a dog...Any ideas on keeping away dogs and making sure these chicks get the best start to life possible?
  37. countrygirl57
    I picked up my chicks last week, from the co-op country store. I have 8 Barred Rocks & 4 Rhode Island reds. The co-op thought they were only a day or 2 old. I think they may be older. Their wings have feathered out & Their little tails also. They are very active & constantly try to fly out when I play with them. Any suggestions re age?
  38. blue feather
    hi my hen cotton eye joe is hatching we baught 13 eggs from a chicken breeder she is due to hatch them on monday 9/7/12 i was just wondering if when she is ready to return to the rest of the flock [we have 3 roosters] would the other hens and roosters hurt them
  39. ChickenGurl101
    Can you get a shot for your chicks to help prevent the diseases?
    I've raised chicks by the method in the article and now am raising them by silkie hens. I really recommend letting a hen raise them if at all possible. Soon after hatching I transfer the hen and chicks to a pet kennel (locks up very tight at night against predadors) that has a bottom of play sand. I provide them with water either in a shallow dish or chick waterer with jar and with chick food. Within a day or 2 the momma has them out eating and drinking and at about 3 to 5 days old she will have them running all over the yard. The four Silkie roosters help her finding food for the babies and sheltering them under their wings when they are tired or cold. The mommas do not tolerate other hens or older chicks but there is no problem with the roosters, so they are fully intergrated into the flock practically from day one. Before I kept them separated and getting them together with the flock wasn't so easy. Also with this method the babies seem very healthy and cold tolerant. Yesterday was around 60 degrees and raining yet the babies were out in it and fine. I have an incubator but from now on will just use the silkie hens as long as I can
      Cleburneslim likes this.
  41. AndreaDavis
    My baby chick, (days old isnt chirping. Opens his mouth like he' is but nothing! And dropping its head! Help!
  42. craftydrae
    when can they eat regular paultry feed??
  43. lizthenewbie
    This is where we are right now: we have two in an incubator, we've three in a brooder box but of these 3 only one is 5 days old. The other two are 2 wks old. We got the two older ones to help the baby to socialize with other chickens. It's not working real great. The older ones, even though they're small, can't take the heat that the little one needs are therefore, they are on one end of the box and little baby is once again all by himself. We lined the bottom of the brooder box with newspaper topped with papertowels. I change out the papertowels every day. We put marbles in the waterer so the little baby won't accidently drown. They drink between the marbles. This works well. I'm going to start introducing the two older ones to the outside this Saturday, for a little while. Then its back to the brooder box. Not sure this helped one single person but you never know - maybe. Thanks!
  44. dunkeldog
    Any suggestions- my silkie just hatched 3 babies. I am totally clueless on how to care for them. I plan on leaving them with her- she is a great mom. What do I need to feed them? Will chick starter be fine? Is it ok for the hen to eat the starter also?
  45. GabbysGarden
    To clarify, please. The silkie, which I understand is great at brooding, just hatched a chick. She is capable of giving the chick all that it needs and we will not need to provide a different food/water source for the chick. Chick is in a raised nesting box, food is suspended from the ceiling in main coop, as well as water. There are 11 other chickens in the coop. Thanks for any help, this is our first chick hatched by it momma.
  46. iceym pets
  47. 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.
  48. Chickenfan4life
    Great article. Very helpful.
  49. iron chicken
    using the hamster waterers is a good idea as they are simmilar to nipple waterers
  50. 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! :)

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