Raising Your Baby Chicks

Raising your baby chicks - A quick, short, instructional guide
By The Chickeneer · Feb 19, 2012 · Updated May 1, 2012 · ·
  1. The Chickeneer
    Raising your chicks ~step by step~

    Quick-Short Instructional Guide


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    The first important aspect in a chickens like is when it hatches. Hatching, is a great obstacle a developing chick faces to come into the world. It is a very tiresome and exhausting process. The chicks first pips a hole in the large end of the egg, then continues cracking it as they turn themselves around inside the egg. This part of the hatch is called zipping, and once it’s done, the chick now needs to push itself out of the egg, using all of the strength that he has got left in him. Once they are out, extremely exhausted, they fall asleep. They have overcome the first challenge in their little chicken lives.

    Step #1:Setting up the brooder
    Within four hours since they have hatched, the chick will be dry, fluffy, and ready to come out of the incubator, and into the brooder. But at least 48 hours prior to hatching, the brooder must be set up.



    If you don't already know, a brooder is a the place where the chicks will spends the first few weeks of their lives. The brooder is meant to mimic the mother hen, by keeping the chicks warm and secure.

    Basic Brooder Necessities: Optional but may be necessary:

    ~Brooder box ~Protective(wire)lamp cover/shield
    ~Bedding ~Brooder roof (absolutely necessary if outdoors)
    ~Heat lamp ~Automatic timer for the heat lamp

    The Heat Lamp
    While seting up the brooder, remember to hang the heat lamp by a chain, not the cord. If it is hung by the cord, it may unplug,and fall on a chick, trapping it and burning it to death(this can be avoided by having the wire cover). The falling heat lamp will also, lay on the ground and not be able to warm the brooder, potentially chilling & killing the chicks. The trapped heat from the lamp to the brooder floor, may also light fire to the bedding and lead to the whole brooder ablaze. So hang the heat lamp by a chain, or clip it securely to the brooder, so it won't fall and kill everybody.

    It is also advised to use a infrared bulb for the heat lamp. This will produce a nice red and warm glow, that will give the chicks enough light for them to see, and not blinding them with a bright white light. White light, may also overstimulate the birds, causing them to become restless and noisy. It can also lead them to start picking each other, then eventually cannibalism. The nice, calm red glow of an infrared bulb does not overstimulate the chicks, it's not too dark for them to see, and it's not too light for them to be rowdy, it's just right, and is used by many breeders to help prevent pecking and cannibalism in their newly hatched flock.

    Feeders and Waterers
    When placing the feeders and waterers in the brooder, it is best to distribute them around so the chicks have to exercise a bit to get what they need, but it should still be fairly close to the heat lamp. The waterers should be nearer to the heat lamp, because the chicks will not want to drink it cold, and cold water also discourages drinking. If the waterers are too close, or right beneath the heat lamp, the water will start to get slimy because of all the dust and litter that gets into it, and the chicks will not want to drink it. The feeders can pretty much go wherever, as long as they are not to far from where the heat lamp is.

    Additional tips on setup
    It is best to block of any corners in the brooder with a piece of cardboard, because chicks like to huddle together, and can suffocate each other if the can get into tight corners. It is also advised to put pebbles or marbles in the chick waterer. This is to prevent the chicks from drowning. Sawdust should not be used as bedding, for at least the first week, because young chicks cannot tell the difference between it, and food, and will eat it causing them to have things like pasty but etc.

    Step #2:Having Chicks in the Brooder

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    Teaching Them to Eat/Drink
    Once the baby chicks have dried, and are completely fluffy, you can then take them out of the incubator and place them in the brooder. Right before you set him down on the brooder floor, hold him in one hand, and take him to the waterer. With a finger on your other hand, dunk his little head in the water. This is to show him where the water is, and how to drink it. Do this with every chick before placing them in the brooder. With the food, take them to the feeder, and "peck" at the food with your fingers, and they will get curious, and peck it, and learn to eat. Remember, they should only be fed chick starter, or chick mash. If you ever run out, you can also feed them crumbled up hard boiled egg.

    The Heat Lamp

    Right after you are done showing them how to eat/drink, place them directly under the heat lamp, so they know where the source of heat is. Make sure that you have left the heat lamp on a few hours before you put the chicks in, this is so the spot under the heat lamp has a chance to warm up, and the chicks can tell easily where the warm part of the brooder is.

    It is said, to higher the heat lamp so the temperature goes down 5 degrees per week, because, as the chicks grow, they will be needing less and less heat. But your best bet on how your chicks are doing temperature wise, is the chicks themselves. If you see the chicks huddled closely beneath the heat lamp cheeping loudly, it is too cold, and the heat lamp must be lowered closer to them. If the chicks are chicks make a circle around where the warm spot of the heat lamp is, like a doughnut, they are too hot. If they are all dispersed as far away from the heat lamp as they can go, and are pushing themselves against the wall of the brooder, panting, they are way too hot, and the heat lamp should be risen higher to lower the temperature immediately. If there are some chicks near to the heat lamp, and some wandering around, not piling on each other, and relatively quiet, the temperature is just right.

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    Step #3: Having The Chicks Outside
    Once the chicks are old enough, or at least fully feathered, it's time for you to move them outside. Some people like to have them in a tractor, until they are old enough to putt them with the older chickens. If you have a coop already built for them, put them in, but make sure that the chicken door that leads to the run is closed. They need to be locked in the coop for at least a week, so they know where to sleep and get used to the idea that the coop is their home, so when you do let them out, they will come into the coop at dusk to sleep without you having to herd them in.

    Integrating them With the Older Flock

    If you want to mix them in with the older hens, have the chicks in a little chicken tractor(or separate pen)just outside the older flocks run, when they are old enough to be outside. You can put your chicks outside when they are about 3 or 4 weeks old, but they still might need a heat lamp. So they will be in there, growing up beside your older flock, until they are two months old. The older flock will get used to the chicks presence there, and this will help them to get to know each other a little before you mix them in. Once the chicks are 2 months old, or stop making baby chick noises, you may put them in with the older flock at dusk by setting them on the roosts.

    Adding chickens to an already existing flock will trigger the reinstatement of the pecking order. The adolescent chicks will most likely not even put up a fight with the older chickens. Although the chicks will be very submissive, and run away when an older hen comes near, not being aggressive makes them easy to get along with the older hens over a period of time. Two months is kind of the sweet spot to integrate young chickens with the older flock. If the chicks are too small, the older chickens will kill them, and if the chicks are already full grown, the older chickens will kill them. They wont necessarily "kill" the full grown chicks, but they will fight a lot, and this sometimes results in death of a younger chicken. At two months old, they are not too vulnerable, and they are not to feisty, so fighting or death should not be a problem.

    However there are way to integrate them at a younger age, as long as you have the correct equipment and set up in place. See here: Integrating new birds at 4 weeks old.

    If you have any questions about any particular problem, just PM me and I'll be glad to help

    Raising Baby Chicks Forum Section

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    DavioSanchez and naparocks like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. ronott1
    "good article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 24, 2018
    The article needs to be updated to add brooder plates since they are becoming common in brooding chicks now
  2. The Farmers' Daughter
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 23, 2018
    This article is knowledgeable, but doesn't explore options such as MHP or brooding plates, various types of containers that can be used for the brooder. Sometimes the explanations fall short. An example would be: put marbles in the water otherwise they drown. Explaining that the water source needs to be shallow, so that in the event a chick falls in, the risk of drowning is reduced. A person completely new to chickens may not understand the reasoning behind statements like this.
  3. FeatheredFanatic
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 28, 2018
    Very informative to the new chicken owner or new to raising chicks.


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  1. bruceha2000
  2. Whittni
    The ending got pretty graphic but overall nice job.
  3. katita
    thank you for the information..my question is should i separate the zipping chicks from there mother and other hens? are they in danger of being eaten..and how can i separate them?...
  4. Mr Pilo
    Hello, I bought chicks three days ago and they were fine, now one of them is no wanting to eat and stays separate from the other three, is there anything I can do to help this baby chick?
  5. LongevityKitchn
    My chicks started hatching today. I will put them in the brooder hopefully tomorrow night when they are all hatched.
    Can someone answer these few questions?
    How thick of a layer do I make with the pine shavings on the floor of the brooder?
    How many hours a day is the heat lamp on each week?
    Has anyone taken a 2 or 3 weeks chick with them somewhere when the temp was right?
  6. aquaponics3712
    I have 6 week old chicks and almost all of them have their feathers. Some are almost fully feathered. But one only has a few wing feathers. Everything else is just fuzz. Why would this be?
  7. chickenmaster85
    vvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyy use full thank you
  8. The Chickeneer
    You can remove the heat lamp at around 6 weeks, or once they are completely feathered. Chick's poop will come out watery on occasion, but if they are sneezing as well, then you might have a small problem. Put a teaspoon of raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar in their quart waterer (or a tablespoon if it's a gallon waterer) and it will help regulate their systems, as well as perking them up and making them stop sneezing. Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural probiotic, dewormer and sevres for all kinds of other purposes too.
      Buddies Buddy likes this.
  9. Karamel Bunnie
    okay I have baby chicks and a couple of questions
    how many weeks once I get them from the supply store am I able to remove the heat lamp
    when my chickens poop sometimes if whole and sometimes its just wet is that normal because I read somewhere on this website that if it looks like that they could be sick but none of them are acting funny
    and also I hear them sneeze every once in a while but its not constant I dont see any wet substance dripping out there noses
    Thank you for any advice you can give me
  10. RangingChicks
    great article!
  11. DianaMallory
    Very helpful! Just wish I would have read this before my girls got so old. I have 11 golden comets and I want to add 5 more to my flock. I tried raised pullets what a disaster that was! Now I have 5 chicks coming in one week. Going to try it a little slower this time.
  12. bennett23
    this helped so much
  13. chicks are me
    good information, but what container works best for chicks???or does it matter???
  14. EggTooth
    I found this article very helpful, funny, straight-forward, and full of good information. I laughed out loud so much my husband had me read it to him. It isn't everyday I find someone as blunt and to the point as me, and I enjoyed it. Thanks in part to you, our six new little ladies are doing well!
  15. RIRedLover
    I have a quick question please. You all have been so helpful in answering my questions in helping me raise my baby Rhode Island Red chicks. They are now a month old. How long should I give them the electrolite powder in their water? I just moved them outside today. They are next to my older flock in their own pen. They have their own coop and are LOVING it! They have a lot more room and I have them locked in there for the week so they understand that the coop is their home and the heat lamp is out there also. I just don't know how long I should give them that suppliment in their water for. Can anyone tell me? Thank you all so much! You all are so great in helping those of us that are new at this! :)
  16. The Chickeneer
    Yes, paper towels or newspaper(shredded or not) is always good for bedding. You can buy a heat lamp at a feed store or a pet store. I bought mine at a hardware store, I think they also sell them at Walmart too. You can pretty much buy them anywhere.
  17. kpop900
    can I use paper towel as bedding. Where do I buy the heat lamp.
  18. kpop900
    thanks fricknfricassee
  19. fricknfricassee
    I am using a huge cardboard box for my brooder and it seems to be working out just fine. I am going to have
    to put some chicken wire or hardware cloth on the top soon for my older chicks that I bought over the weekend,
    because one of them is already flying up pretty high and I don't want him/her to get outside of the box and get
  20. kpop900
    can a cardboard box work as a brooder
  21. fricknfricassee
    This is all very good information. Thank You. I am wondering if shredded paper from my paper shredder would be O.K. to use the first week of getting the new chicks. I see where it isn't recommended to use shavings because the babies can't distinguish between them and their food, leading to "sticky butt". Anyone have any thoughts about this? Thanks!
  22. Daloorashens
    Have never tried brooding chicks before, always let the hens do it, so this was helpful... I also noticed a huge difference when we put a red light on the chicks rather than the white light, they were A LOT quieter and seem more content with the red light. I have to admit though, it seems kind of sad for them not to have a mom to hide under=)
  23. The Chickeneer
    2 months is the age when they can pretty much be integrated with anyone, so there should be no problem there. They might peck on the little ones, but it shouldn't be that big of a deal, they'l be all right. Good luck!
  24. penneypep
    How about mixing my "teenage" chicks with 2 month old ones ? I have 10 that will be 4 months and 2 that will be 2 months.
  25. Kelly Faulconer
    Thank you for the info!
  26. ConservativeRed
    Well, I don't know where now I get the idea that the chicks should be 3 months old. I have 3 older hens 2 sex links and one white leghorn. and 6 chicks that are 6 weeks old today. I live in SoutWest Idaho and the weathr is not bad right now. I have 2 Bramah's, 2 buff orpington's and 2 I believe plymouth rock's. All with in a day or two of the same age. We have what I calll our chicken condo. One side is for fee and where the chicks are now with pine shaving on the floor and a little door I cut in the side where they can go outside and play that is pened in with bird netting. At night I close the little door and they stay work inside and the heat lamp is on a timer that goes on at 10pm and off at 7am. I still have them on chick food but the lower protein type. For what ever reason when thy play they like to run up to each other and bump chests. Kinda funny to watch. They all seem to get along great with each other. I sure hope we don't have any serious issues when I introduce them to the older hens. I'd hate loosing any of them. I guess I will try the introduction thing mentioned at dusk when they are 8 weeks old. which will be two weeks from today.
  27. The Chickeneer
    I've gotten messages already of people dealing with their chicks. Don't be afraid to PM me guys. I'd much rather message you an answer, knowing all the details to your situation, instead of writing a paragraph right here. Have fun raising your chicks everybody!!
  28. Trying2getready
    Very helpful information! Thanks!
  29. AAJ
    Can I mix 5 month olds with 1 year olds?, even if their roosters?
  30. lizakn
    Great info! We have 12 chicks coming May 23rd...and I am reading & learning as much as I can!
  31. FowlmouthChick
    We have 3wk old Buff Orpingtons. Today we are going to pick up 2 more baby chicks, probably Dominiques. Will it be difficult to transition the new chicks in with the 3 week old chicks?
  32. The Red Rooster
    Thank you for all of the info!
  33. Esabella
    so i cacnt put my 2 day oldchick with others
  34. The Chickeneer
    I dont have any info about chicks with their mama on this article, but here's the other one that I wrote on broodies, It just didn't make the cut for the homepage that's all, hopefully it can be of some help to you. Have fun raising your chicks everybody!!
  35. Chicksandhorses
    I am getting my 1st batch of chicks on may the 16th and this will definetly help me alot! Thank you!!!
  36. artsy1
    why don't you have any info. on chicks that the mama hen has hatched out.................I have 8 little ones that just hatched today and plan on leaving them w. mama.
  37. Kay56
    Thanks for this...getting my chicks in a few days and needed to be prepared.
  38. kimmie6067
    This was very helpful. Getting my first ever chicks in May and am reading everything I get my hands on.
  39. fultzie
    you could try supriving them now together ..i mixed some at that age ..even though there 4 weeks old there still in the chick stage and should be ok..i had some month old chicks and put 6 day old together ..had no problems at all ..but if you do ..make sure you can watch them for at least hour or so ..
  40. twoscrambled
    I have 13 coronation sussex chicks that are 4 days old. These are my first chicks ever. Got the brooder going well everyone looks happy active healthy... however , i have 1 that has a small black round scab just under her vent. she seems to be losing her hair just below that area and it is thin on her stomach and the skin looks slightly dark, where everyone else is white and fluffy. She is acting completely like everyone else as of now , but i don't know if i should be worried... please share your widom with me.
  41. brock brocks
    I have 3 baby chicks that will be 1 month old when I get 10 day old chicks. I have sectioned off part of the coup for the new arrivals, but How long should I wait until I can mix them together?
  42. The Chickeneer
    Once they are 2 months old, they don't need the heat lamp at all. But you can start turning it off during the day, and put it on at night, once they are a moth or so old. At the feed stores right now, the days are so hot they lamps aren't even on anymore in the brooders. So it also depends on the type of weather you have right now.
  43. bullyrescue
    At what age can you take the heat lamp away?
  44. GalloFeliz
    good article
  45. BeulahBreezes
  46. bcmom
    Thank you for this information, esp. the infrared light. I was told that I could use a regular light bulb instead of the infrared light. Last night was our first night with new chicks and boy were they noisy. Now, I know why.
  47. SgtMule
    Very helpful!! I love this site. It has so many helpful people. Thank You!!

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