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Raising Baby Chicks

Spring is in full swing here on the Homestead! It’s the most wonderful time, in my opinion. Spring means many things on our place. Starting the garden, flowers in bloom, and raising baby chicks! I get so excited to have babies on the Homestead. It feels like a new beginning, in a sense. Today, I want to share with you our recommendations and tips for raising healthy, happy chicks!

In a perfect world, the momma hens would raise all the little chicks, but, we have found that this method doesn’t always work out. Either a hen will go broody and decide she changed her mind or none of the hens go broody at all. A couple of years ago, we purchased an incubator to make sure we always get a couple of clutches of chicks.

We have had great success with this and will continue using it for the foreseeable future. The exception is when a hen truly goes broody and decides to stick with it.

We raise our chicks for meat and to replace old hens as egg layers. So, it is very important to us that we keep a good number of chickens on the homestead.

You definitely do not have to incubate the eggs! Head over to your local farm store, Tractor Supply, Rural King, etc…and pick up as many little chicks are you wish! Just keep the following recommendations in mind before you leave the store!

I want to give you a few tips and recommendations on raising little chicks that will ensure they become healthy happy little chickens!

The first thing to know is that baby chicks need heat. We use heat lamps for this and have for years with no ill effects. Knowing when to raise or lower the heat lamp is as easy as watching the little chicks and their behavior. If they are huddling together under the lamp, lower it a bit. If they are trying to get as far away as possible from the lamp or panting, raise it a bit. Happy chicks will be spread around the brooder box and just appear comfortable.

The second thing to know is you will need a high sided brooder box. We just use the Tuff bins you can buy at Walmart. If your brooder is too shallow, the chicks will soon be able to leap out! They will be living in this box for about 6 weeks, so they will have wings before they move outside.

Third, you will need to have a waterer and a feeder. Tractor Supply has all of these supplies available. As far as feed, get chick starter/grower. This will be their feed for about 4-5 months.

The fourth thing to know is that you will need bedding for the brooder box. We prefer straw over chips, but, it’s a personal preference. This bedding will need to be changed at least once a week. Keeping a tidy and clean brooder box is important for the health of the chicks.

The fifth and maybe the most important, is making sure you have their “forever” home prepared before you bring them home! We made the mistake of buying chicks before building the coop. We were in a rush for sure! You can buy ready made coops at Tractor Supply or Rural King.

One extra tip: Once the chicks are 2-3 weeks old, if the outside temperature allows (meaning it is at least 80 degrees) take your chicks outside. We have a tiny little enclosure just for the chicks to get used to being outside. It encourages them to learn to dig in the dirt and scratch. It is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen watching them act like big chickens, ha ha!

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