New to chickens - a few questions

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by CluckerCam, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. CluckerCam

    CluckerCam In the Brooder

    Feb 1, 2013
    Pensacola, FL
    I've been wanting to have chickens for some time now, I've been giving it a lot of thought and the more I thought about it, the more resolute I became towards raising chickens. I wanted to get them mostly for having fresh eggs and also to teach my daughters how to raise and care for animals that is not a dog or a cat.

    Last weekend, I stopped in at a local feed store and they had a bunch of Rhode Island Red chicks, at $3 each, they were easier for me to get then ordering some off the Internet and having to meet minimum orders and pay for shipping. I didn't think to ask how old they were or if they knew when they hatched, but I'm assuming they were only a few days old, couldn't have been more than a week at most. I brought 5 chicks home with me, along with a brooder lamp, a bale of wood shavings and a bag of starter feed. In the last week, I swear the chicks have more than doubled in size.

    I've been reading through posts on here, but I've not yet found my answers, it doesn't help that I've been distracted by all the interesting topics..

    1. How long do I need to keep the brooder lamp for them? Last night, the chicks slept in the opposite side of the cage from where the lamp was. They were all in one great pile that looked warm and comfy. I'm wondering if that elect to not sleep under the lamp, they don't need it or it is putting enough heat out that they don't have to sleep directly under it anymore.
    2. How old do the chicks need to be before they are moved outside? Currently I have them in a dog cage, where they fit nicely, however they are growing fast and at their rate of growth, they may get too big for the dog cage I have them in.
    3. At this age, is it OK to feed them other things than the starter feed? My 4 year old decided to share her cake with them the other day and I've also read that chickens like all sorts of food from leafy greens to of course insects. This brings up my next question..
    4. If they eat anything other than the starter feed, which I understand dissolves without the chicks needing any grit in their diets, what do I need to give them for grit? Would some clean sandbox sand be good? Do they need small pebbles, is there a preferred grit source I should give them?
    5. Do I need to let them outside, even if it's just for a short period at a time?

    I guess this is where I whip out my wallet and start showing off pics of my new family members. ;)

    The ride home.. It seemed to have scared the crap out of some of them.

    Their first night home.

    Hungry! There is one chick that insists on jumping into the food and scratching around. It emptied nearly an entire bucket of feed in the first week. All the rest seem happy to scratch and eat the food off the floor.

    Here's my attempt to keep the chicks from scratching in the food..

    They can still jump up on it, but it should be harder to scratch. If they stand on the floor they can easily feed.

    Also, being the geek that I am, I figured friends and family may want to see the chicks as they grow. I set up a streaming webcam which is visible at Who doesn't like to watch chicks on a webcam?


    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013

  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Welcome to the dark side!

    Chicks need supplemental heat until they're feathered out, about 6 weeks old. Supplemental heat means they need access to a warm area, but the entire brooder shouldn't be that warm. They need enough space they can get to an area of ambient temp. Chicks can easily be cooked if they can't get out from under the heat! From your description, sounds like they may need more space or you need to move the heat lamp farther away from them. Rule of thumb is the temp directly under the light should be around 95degrees. I never check, I just go by how the chicks act. If they sleep sprawled out not directly under the light, temp is good. If they huddle right under the light, it's too cool. If they bunch up away from the light, chances are they don't have enough space to cool off.

    As they feather out, you can move the heat lamp farther and farther from the floor of the brooder.

    You're in Florida, so your birds can probably go out by 5ish weeks, 6 at the most. Actually, they could go outside now with supplemental heat in a draft free enclosure.

    Yep, you can feed them treats. If they were raised out and about by a momma hen, they'd be trying all kinds of things! Chicks are like lots of other babies, they like to taste everything!

    Sand works fine for grit. You can also buy grit from the feed store, it's usually ground granite.

    You don't need to take them outside, but you can. I think exposure to cooler temps helps them feather out faster and makes for healthier chicks.

    Enjoy your new babies!
  3. CluckerCam

    CluckerCam In the Brooder

    Feb 1, 2013
    Pensacola, FL
    Thanks for the info!

    I had a hunch about the lamp and that they may need to be able to get away from it better so I raised the lamp about 8 inches up earlier this afternoon when I was cleaning the cage.

    I also read on a thread here that you can take a clump of grass, roots intact and they'll both eat the grass and also the dirt from around the roots, getting grit in their systems that way too. So, I dug up a small clump of grass and put it in the cage with them. I tried hunting down some bugs for them, but it seems to be a bit cool for them yet. We've had such an incredibly warm winter here (we normally get at least 3 weeks where it drops into the teens) and the mosquitoes haven't been killed off, but the other bugs are still not about yet. Well, except the other night we did get one of those giant cocroaches that are all over here in Florida. They ocassionally crawl in through our dog door, but since it was larger than the chick's heads, I didn't think they'd be able to handle it yet..
  4. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Crowing

    I don't know that I would rely on the clumps of grass/soil as a source of their grit, it might be sufficient or it might not depending on your soil. If they are eating much besides their starter I'd get them some chick grit from the feed store and offer it in a dish. Just to be on the safe side and make sure they get what they need. If they are getting soil keep an eye on them too in case they come down with coccidiosis. It's a good thing for them to have some exposure to the soil, it helps them build immunity, but sometimes it gets out of hand before they have good immunity and needs to be treated.
  5. Pinky Macgyver

    Pinky Macgyver Songster

    Dec 31, 2012
    Love that you put up a stream :)

  6. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    I'd limit the soil as well right now, it can host a lot of bad things. You haven't had the temps cold enough to kill what could be in the soil. Not too much grass at once, not until they've gotten enough grit. They can eat too much and get an impacted crop or sour crop.

    When they get about 4 weeks old, and have outgrown the starter brooder, I switch the housing totally. I have a dog whelping box, sort of like a dog crate, but square. Provides 9 sq ft. The base is about 7 inches high, and I fill the bottom two inches with play sand. Acts as bedding, grit, a surface to scratch in, easy to clean with a screen style strainer, and they learn to dust bathe. I put a stick in one corner, to learn to roost, jump, and it gives them something to do. I place the heat in the center, and raise it as needed.

    That's when I start bringing in other foods too. Giving them things larger than their head... what the mom hen does is give it a pinch to hinder it, then give it to the chicks. It wouldn't take long for one of those roaches to be gone. I do it with crickets that can be found in the old basement. At first they're afraid of it. I do that thing a mom hen does to get them to eat, I "peck" with a finger and say "Chick chick chick" in baby talk. They get it, as terrible as it is for chicken speak. They learn that when I do that, it's food, and nothing to be afraid of. Later on, it gets them to try other things you bring out. Watermelon, head of cabbage or lettuce, banana. I've found that when I train the chicks with the "eat it" noise, they'll do it as adults too. If you don't teach them that what you're bringing really is food, you get these funny, quizzical looks from them, as if you're trying to poison them or something.

    With big things, one chick will get brave, grab it and run. The rest give chase. It's hilarious.

    Aren't they fun though? Usually, after the first batch is all grown, you can't resist getting chicks again.
  7. nok13

    nok13 Songster

    Dec 8, 2012
    i htought i was the only one that built a habitat for babies... some of mine are so big now that i am thinking i will place an old chair frame w/o the pillows and stuff, for them to roost on as some are getting brave and venturing in to the rest of my living room, although they see the dogs and they hp back in to their 'coop', the closed off corner of the lving room... the entire house smells like chicken coop...

    ive introduced soil from our hens in to the indoor coop/brooder, it collects chicken **** much better, they dust bathe, dig, peck, eat... and i am introducing other foods now, even though some chicks are practically 8 weeks old and one is actually three days old. they males are already doing their thai boxing stances and backing down, but husband is reluctant to move them to the faraway coop because, in all truth, it is much colder there as the floors are cement and screened walls and w have no way of heating... luckily the worst of our winter is over... so hopefully we will start moving the chicks outside soon...
    some are already getting adult feathering but husband loves keeping all his pets warm (he suffers from heat, and i, from cold, but he insists that the chickens need constant heat).
    he comes from an area where having chickens in side your house is par for the course...

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