Raising baby chicks at home is one of my family’s favorite homestead activities. Everyone loves the adorable little balls of fluff and even my kids enjoy helping raise them. If you’d like to get started raising baby chicks, here’s everything you need to know about baby chick supplies, bedding for baby chicks, a chicken feeding guide, and care tips. Plus there’s an exciting giveaway at the end!!
*This post is sponsored by Scratch and Peck Organic Chicken Feed. All opinions are mine. #organicfromday1*
Beginner’s Guide to Raising Baby Chicks for Your Backyard Homestead
What a reward backyard chickens are! Not only are they hilarious and entertaining, but they also provide you with a delicious supply of the freshest, most delicious farm fresh eggs you’ve ever tasted. If you’ve ever had an organic egg from a free-range chicken, you know there is absolutely no comparison to its store bought counterpart. You will love taking a little more control of your food supply when you start keeping chickens on your backyard homestead. Here’s how to raise them from baby chicks!
First, Gather your Baby Chick Supplies!
You don’t need a ton of baby chick supplies, but there are a few things you will need before bringing your baby chicks home:
- Brooder Box
- Bedding for baby chicks
- Heat lamp & heat light bulb
- Feeder & Waterer
- Organic chick starter feed
- Optional: thermometer & mesh wire for a lid
Brooder Box Set Up
Before your chicks come home, you’ll need to set up a brooder box. You can use wooden boxes or plastic totes. As tempting as it is, cardboard is NOT a good choice. It it will absorb all the moisture, fall apart, and stink. I generally start my chicks in a large plastic tote and then move to them to a bigger wooden box as they grow. And they grow FAST! You will be shocked by how quickly they grow.
Make sure your brooder box is big enough for them to move around in. Sadly, chicks can be trampled to death by each other if they’re over-crowded. I also recommend that you keep the brooder box in your house or garage in the beginning so you can keep a better eye on them. A good way to set up your brooder is the put the heat lamp on one side of the brooder (instead of in the middle) and your food and water on the other side. That way the chicks can be as close or far from the lamp as needed and they can regulate their own temperatures. See the picture above for how I set up my brooder boxes.
Heat Lamp For the Brooder Box
Along with the brooder box, you’ll need a heat lamp and an infrared light bulb. Baby chicks need a lot of heat until either the weather is hot, or they’ve lost their chick down and grown their feathers (usually around 6 weeks of age). I sometimes use an old camera tripod to hang the light. In the first week, the brooder temperature needs to be between 90-95 degrees for the baby chicks.
You can buy a thermometer if you’d like, but you’ll be able to tell if your chicks are too hot or too cold by their behavior. If they are all huddled together and chirping loudly, they’re too cold. When they’re spread apart and look like they’re panting, they’re too hot. If you notice that your chicks are too hot or too cold, adjust the light higher or lower to change the temperature in the brooder box.
Bedding for Baby Chicks
Make sure to have bedding in the brooder box. Pine shavings work best, but shredded paper is also an option. Do not use cedar shavings. They are not good for chickens! Every couple days clean out the bedding by moving the baby chicks to one side of the brooder box, scooping out the old bedding (it’s great for your garden!), and putting fresh bedding down.
Chick Feeding Guide – Organic from Day 1
Before you bring your chicks home, get a chicken feeder and waterer like the ones pictured above. You can find them at your local farm supply store or order them online. You’ll also need baby chicken food called chick starter! Think of chick starter as a special baby food for chicks. It’s higher in protein than food for grown chickens and it’s formulated with nutrients the chicks will need to grow strong and healthy. Make sure your baby chicks have access to chick starter food and clean water at all times.
Feed your baby chicks the chick starter food until they are around eight weeks old. I highly recommend Scratch and Peck’s Naturally Free Organic Starter for the first eight weeks. It’s a special blend of cracked organic grains, organic flax meal, wild caught fish meal, and necessary vitamins and minerals and it’s a really nice organic chicken starter option. Click here to see where you can buy it locally. If you can’t find it in your area, you can buy it online and have it mailed directly to your house for free! It’s also available on Amazon Prime and Chewy.com.
If you prioritize organic food for your family, you’ll also want to make sure your chickens eat organic food as well. Scratch and Peck Feeds is a Certified B Corp that sells Certified Organic, Project Non-GMO Verified, Animal Welfare Approved feeds. Scratch and Peck’s mission is to “make honest, wholesome organic animal feed products with the most heartfelt regard for our planet and fellow living creatures.”
Not only does Scratch and Peck sell organic chick starter, but they also have Naturally Free Organic Grower, Naturally Free Organic Layer, Cluckin’ Good Grubs (my chickens love these!), Organic Pig Grower, Organic Turkey Grower, Organic Goat Feed, and more! Click here to learn more!
Care Tips for Baby Chicks
The day you get your chicks, gently dip each chick’s beak in the water so they know where it is. You might have to re-fill or clean out their water dish several times a day as they get bigger. They often knock a lot of bedding in the water by scratching around in the brooder. It’s a good idea to put the waterer on a brick or elevate it in some way to keep it cleaner. Just make sure the chicks can reach it. It’s also important to use a waterer specifically for chicks as they can drown if the water is too deep. Adding a little apple cider vinegar to their water is also a really great way to help keep them healthy with natural remedies.
Another thing you need to be mindful of is dried poo on the the baby chicken butts. Make sure you keep a close eye out for this, and when you see it, you will need to get it off. A gentle way to clean dried chicken poo is to use a wet towel to loosen it instead of yanking it off. Dried chicken poo can cause blockage and is dangerous for baby chicks. Make sure you get that dried on poo off your fluffy little chicken butts. 🙂
And that’s really all there is too it! Set your chicken area up before you get your chicks, keep them warm, feed them high quality organic feed from day one, and enjoy them. Your baby chicks will grow up into hilarious egg-laying chickens and provide you with fresh eggs and hours of entertainment.