Caring for baby chicks isn’t difficult, but I get asked a lot how to care for baby chicks. I get asked so often that I figured it was time to create a post for people to refer to when they are uncertain.
If you have a hen that sat on a clutch of eggs and hatched them for you, then you are in luck! There really isn’t much more that you need to do other than make sure that they are safe from other chickens or predators. But many of us like to watch eggs hatch in an incubator, and when you do that there really isn’t a mama hen to take care of everything for you. So how do you care for a baby chick that doesn’t have a mama hen?
Once a chick is born, it will need to stay in the incubator for about 24 hours in order to make sure that it has completely dried out. Fluffy butts are a good sign! Once a chick is ready to go into a brooder box, which is where they will have to stay until they no longer need a heat source, then there are a few things you need to know:
- Make sure your brooder box is large enough to allow the baby chicks to get into and out of the heat from your heat source. Baby chickens are pretty good about regulating their own body temperature, but you have to give them proper spacing and ventilation to do so. Please do not use a plastic tote or a cardboard box as this can lead to stressing your chicks out and causing them to die.
- Place a heat source on one side of the brooder box that keeps the temperature 95 degrees in that one spot. My favorite heat source to use is a red heat lamp, but use it with caution. It can get super hot and cause a fire if you aren’t careful. You can find what I use here. You need a reflector and the red bulb. Make sure you also have a thermometer such as this one at the bottom of your brooder box beneath the heat. To adjust your temp, just raise or lower the heat lamp until it reaches 95 degrees.
- Food and water should be available in the brooder box as well. I highly suggest a high quality, medicated chick starter food such as this one. Some people never give their chicks medicated food. I guess it is just a matter of preference. Personally I always start out my chicks on medicated food to help prevent them from contracting any illnesses while they are so so little.
- Water should be clean and fresh DAILY. You can also add a poultry electrolytes and vitamins to their water. We do this with all of our baby chicks in order to give them their best chance at starting out in life.
- Once your baby chicks are fully feathered and no longer need a heat source, you can remove them from the brooder box and place them in their coop. If you are adding these juvenile chicks in with your larger chickens, be sure to make sure that they aren’t picking on the babies. Depending on your older chickens, juvenile chicks may need to go into a transition coop until they get a little bigger and can defend themselves from the other hens.
- Baby chicks should continue getting fed a chick starter/grower food that is around 18% protein until they begin laying eggs. Once they lay their first egg, you can switch them to a layer pellet food.
We occasionally offer some hatching eggs to the public. Due to the nature of the egg, we obviously can’t guarantee them for anything. But here are a few tips and tricks if you are planning to purchase any hatching eggs from us:
- Do not leave your eggs unattended in a hot or cold car or other environment. They need to stay at room temperature as much as possible.
- Store the eggs in a carton with the small end of the egg pointing down for 24 to 48 hours before placing into the incubator. This allows the air inside the egg to settle and the air pocket to float to the top of the egg.
- If you are using an incubator to hatch your eggs, make sure you set it up and let it reach the desired temp for at least 24 hours prior to placing the eggs inside.
- We prefer incubators that have an automatic egg turner, but if your does not have one, be sure to turn the eggs over at least three times a day.
- It takes approximately 21 days for an egg to hatch, so once you place your eggs in the incubator, go ahead and write it in your calendar so that you can remember. You will need to take out the automatic egg turner at least four days prior to their expected hatch date.
- Once your eggs hatch, use the guidelines above to care for your new baby chicks.
If you have any questions about taking care of or handling baby chick or hatching eggs, comment below!