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?
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    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. Farmer_White
    I love yall's site. My wife and I have learned so much from here. Thanks for the knowledge.
  2. 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
  3. BaJa
    good info
  4. 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,
  5. Libertyrose03
    Great ideas!
  6. ninjawesome
    Thanks so much!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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?
  11. 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.
  12. Sandy Drews
    How old do chicks have to be to move them into the big coop?
  13. HorseMadWhovian
    Can they imprint on each other?
  14. 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!!!
  15. Nutcase
    Great article
  16. 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. :)
  17. LoveNewChicks
    how high should the brooder wall be?
    ours (for our 1 weekers) is 1 foot, is that to short?
  18. 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!
  19. 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?
  21. ellyn
    Just bought my third set of 5 sweet, thanks for the reminders of chick care.
  22. 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 :)
  23. chook master
    Great summery! Great informative information!
  24. Chikyn
    I wish that I was the chick's 'mama'.... But soon enough they will recognize me as their caretaker!
  25. 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.
  26. RedJungleFowl
    i have a question so should we use medicated feed or not.
  27. 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! :)
  28. iron chicken
    using the hamster waterers is a good idea as they are simmilar to nipple waterers
  29. Chickenfan4life
    Great article. Very helpful.
  30. 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?
  31. iceym pets
  32. 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.
  33. 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?
  34. 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!
  35. craftydrae
    when can they eat regular paultry feed??
  36. AndreaDavis
    My baby chick, (days old isnt chirping. Opens his mouth like he' is but nothing! And dropping its head! Help!
    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
  38. ChickenGurl101
    Can you get a shot for your chicks to help prevent the diseases?
  39. 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
  40. 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?
  41. 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?
  42. 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!
  43. 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
  44. Silkie75
    Are medicated crumbles the best choice?
  45. kitten6566
    Really helpful. i didnt know about the disease they can get if they dont have medicated feed.
  46. 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.
  47. 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)
  48. 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
  49. Haruna
    Thanks alot to these posts of my seniors, as i'am enthusias i was very happy with these.
  50. 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.

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