Baby Chick Care Guide

Basic Baby Chick Care Guide

The care of baby chicks and other fowl

Congratulations on getting into the fun and entertaining world of poultry. Now that you have ordered your baby chicks it’s time to brush up on your baby chick care. Once the baby chicks arrive they are your responsibility to care for properly. Don’t worry this guide will make sure you have knowledge needed to take on the task. In it we will answer some common questions we get from first time customers.

The basics – What you will have to have in place before you get your chicks

Chicks have basic needs and these should be thought out before you get your chicks so that you are prepared when they come. Your chicks will need feed, water, heat, light and space. We will cover these in detail below so you understand fully why each one is important and how to make sure they are taken care of.At the gining of each section we will give you the essential info that you need to get started. Then we will give a little bit more in depth information below so that you can get the info you need when you need(like a chick finding food right away, when you need the info you need it now!)


What you need to know when you get your chicks-

    When you chicks arrive make sure you have a high protien chick starter. The chick starter that we have is an 18% protein mix. Usually a goodmix will be righ in that area.
    Make sure you spread food on you paper towel floor right away so the chicks instinctively peck at it. This ensures they get feed fast.
    Make sure you have a good chick feeder for you chicks. Low enough so that they can get into it and easy to clean.

Feed for baby chicks FAQ

Sourcing your Feed – Where do I get baby chick food?

A baby chick can consume a suprising amount of feed and it is important that they never run out of fresh feed. A group of 25 light breeed hens will consume about 75 pounds of feed in their first 6 weeks a group of 25 fast growing broilers can consume up to 130 pounds of feed in that same time frame. These volumes are not meant to scare you off of raising chickens as feed is not necessarily expensive this is meant to show you that it is important to know where you are going to get your feed. You need to have a source to find it consistently. We do sell feed on our website, however shipping 50 pounds of feed at a time isn’t necessarily the most economical thing to do. As you can imagine the cost of shipping can quickly eat up your chicken keeping budget. So sourcing your feed locally is going to be your best option.

Content of your Feed – What is Baby chick food?

Baby chicks need special feed because they are growing and have diffeerent requirements than full grown birds. Which leads to the question of So what is the difference between baby chick food and adult chicken food. The main difference is going to be the protien content of the feed however there are different vitamins and minerals as well. A baby chick needs about 18% protein to sustain their rapid growth make sure you get starter feed for your baby chicks and as stated in the paragraph above make sure you have a good source to get it. Make sure your feed is fresh. Feed that has sat around for a long time will gradually lose it’s essential viatamins and nutrients.

Medicated or Non Medicated, what is the diffence in baby chick feed?

Medicated feed includes medication to prevent coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is found in on the ground and in bird droppings(even birds that have not been exposed to the ground can transmit coccidiosis it is that common). Coccidiosis is a disease chickens get that causes paleness, lethargy, ruffled feathers, decreased appetite, and diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody. It is caused by various species of protozoa called Eimeria, which is a Parasite. The medication is usually specific for coccidiosis and won’t help treat or prevent other diseases. It is widespread and it is highly recommend that you protect your new born chicks from this parasite.

Birds with coccidiosis will have slower growth and/or poorer feed conversion, but you might not notice these things if you don’t have other flocks for comparison. Many people would rather limit the chance of a problem, and choose to use medicated feed. Most birds will become immune to coccidiosis after a couple of months, and then medicated feed is no longer required. If you haven’t had a problem in the past, and you are able to keep the litter dry, you can probably get by without the coccidiostat.

Medicated feed makes management a little easier, since it helps limit the risk of your chickens getting sick. There are treatments available for coccidiosis, if you take the chance and then find out they have it. These are usually applied in the birds’ water and many chicken keepers like to keep a antibiotic on hand to treat their birds just in case they develop a problem.

Actually Feeding your Baby Chicks – How do I feed baby chicks?

This is a great question and needs to be addressed as your feeding strategy will change as your chicks grow. So let’s talk about how to feed your baby chicks right away when they are either hatched or when they arrive to you. When the birds are first taken out of the box or incubator and put in their brooder your main goal is to get them eating as fast as possible. Most baby chick loss can be easily avoided by getting them food and water right away. One easy way to accomplish this goal is to spread the feed directly on top of the paper towels that you are using on the floor of your brooder. These paper towels should be changed as often as needed, when they get dirty or at a minimum daily. The chicks are usually curious and will start pecking at the feed right away. This will get them to start eating quickly. Now the most amount of time that you will want to use this trick is 3 days. However, we suggest you only do this until the chicks figure out where their feeder is at and start using it. It is better for the chicks to use their feeder since it promotes sanitary behavior and better health for your chicks.

This brings up another great point which is what is a good baby chick feeder. A good baby chick feeder will keep the feed clean, be easy to fill and be low enough for the baby chicks to eat from. We recomend either having a feeder that is large enough for all of your baby chicks to access or if you are using a smaller baby chick feeder place two in the brooder. This is important because you want to be certain that all of the baby chicks have access to the food. Even baby chicks can start to establish a pecking order and can try to keep the weaker chicks away from the food.

How long Do I feed them Chick Starter?

As mentioned earlier baby chick food is different than adult bird food. So that brings up the question of: When do I switch to from baby chick feed to adult bird feed? The answer to that can either be found on your baby chick feed label and below we have listed some general guidlines. But the reason to switch is simple. As a bird grows it starts to stabalize and doesn’t need the large amounts of protien required to build all of the muscle and feathers. They also start to have different nutrient requirements. For instance in a layer you will need to have a higher level of calcium in the feed. This will help the bird to develop the shells of the eggs. If you didn’t switch to a layer ration for your birds they would develop health problems. These problems would show up as different health symptoms. In the case of a lack of calcium the eggs can have soft shells or very thin shells. Not only can the eggs change but a lack of calcium can bring unwanted behavior such as eating thier own egg shells to get more cacium. This calium example is an example of just one of the many nutrients that are required to maintain a healthy flock and feeds sold by feed lots have been specifically formulated to contain all nutients essential to a bird’s health.

Layers should be fed a “starter / grower” till approximately 18-20 weeks of age. Then switch to a layer mix.
Broilers should be fed a “starter / grower” till approximately 4-6 weeks of age. Then switch to a finisher till butcher.

Pellets, Mash or Crumbles? What’s the difference in poultry feeds?

Pellets are concentrates of high quality grain ingredients with vitamins and minerals added. This is the preferred way to feed birds because there is less feed wastage and the birds tend to eat less, due to the nutrient packed pellet versus picking at a crumble or mash.
“Crumbles” are pellets that are “broken/crushed” making it easier for poultry to eat. This is best for day old baby chicks becasue of the ease of eating it. Also, many feed stores only carry crumbles.
Mash is made of feedstuffs (corn, soybean meal, wheat, vitamins, etc.) that are smashed to make a meal. This isn’t found everywhere and can be hard to get your birds to eat it. Think of this as something like the leftovers in a bag of crumbles. Some recomend using a little water to mix this up and serve to your birds but be careful after mixing this with water it can then get moldy.

Here is an ecample of the three types of poultry feed discussed.


What you need to know when you get your chicks-

    You need to provide fresh clean water for your chicks
    As soon as the chicks get in make sure you dip their beaks into the water to show them where it is at
    Make sure the container or drinking area is not large enough for the birds to jump in. They can catch cold and die.
    Make sure your waterer is easy to clean. You will be cleaning it often. Baby chicks make a mess out of the waterer quickly.

Water for baby chicks FAQ

What do baby chicks drink?

This is a simple one they drink water. However, simple it might be it doesn’t mean that it is not important. This is one of the most important pieces for successfully raising baby chicks. If you are not providing fresh and clean water for your birds. They can die or get diseased. So how do you provide fresh and clean water for you rbaby chicks. It’s easy just get some chick waterers that are easy to clean and commit to making sure that you keep the water full and keep the waterers clean.

What do baby chicks drink?

This is a simple one they drink water! However, simple it might be it doesn’t mean that it is not important. This is one of the most important pieces for successfully raising baby chicks. If you are not providing fresh and clean water for your birds, they can die or get diseased. So how do you provide fresh and clean water for your baby chicks. It’s easy just get some chick waterers that are easy to clean and commit to making sure that you keep the water full and keep the waterers clean.

What are the best baby chick waterers?

We suggest using waterers with very small openings right away and then gradually get larger as the birds get bigger. For example if you get the one of the baby chick watering kits you will get 1 No Drown base and 1 baby chick base. The no drown base works great for the baby chicks for right when they are fresh hatched. This is because it has small openings and the chicks can’t get into the water and either drown or just get wet and catch a chill. Then when they start getting a little bit older you switch to the base that is a little larger. This larger base will give your chicks more room to get to the water and then also give them more space so more chicks can get to the water at the same time.

These waterers are also all made of plastic, which is easy to clean. Clean feeders and waterers are great for bird health. The easier they are to clean the better. Many sites or people will just recommend taking the larger waterers and then putting marbles in them so the birds don’t get wet or drown. I feel that this is poor advice. How many times are you going to want to clean the marbles? How do you clean marbles? I feel like using marbles not only makes it hard to clean it also sets you up for a bad experience. Using easy to clean properly sized waterers is much more time effiecient and user freindly way to care for your birds.

What temperature of water should I give my baby chicks?

When your chicks arrive you should give them room temperature water or a little above room temperature. If you are feeding your chicks cold water it can make them cold. Think of feeding a baby you give them warm milk so it is easier for them to digest. The same goes for baby chicks, you want to give them warm water so that they do not have to work their bodys to warm up the water that they are drinking.

Should I mix vitamins or electrolytes with the baby chick water to help them out?

We suggest mixing in a vitamin electrolyte mix when the chicks arrive. It helps them to get a good start and grow up strong. If you do not have any vitamin and electrolyte mix to give your chicks mix in sugar. This can give your chicks a much needed boost after a long trip. Mix in 3 Tbls. of table sugar to each quart of water for extra energy.

Heat for Baby Chicks

What you need to know when you get your chicks-

    Your chicks need to be dept at 95 degrees for the first week. You then drop the temperature by five degrees every week after that until you are at 70 degrees they shoudln’t need heat after that.
    So with that time frame you will need to keep your chicks under heat for 4-6 weeks. This allows them enough time to grow feathers and get large enought to maintain their own body heat.

Heat for baby chicks FAQ

What temperature do we need to keep our baby chicks at?

Your chicks need to be dept at 95 degrees for the first week. You then drop the temperature by five degrees every week after that until you are at 70 degrees they shoudln’t need heat after that. This allows the birds enough time to feather out(grow feathers) and grow large enough to regulate their own body heat. This is also a reminder from the feed section of our FAQ. The birds need that high protien feed because they are growing feathers and mass. If you aren’t giving them the proper feed they can never feather out or grow into the birds that can regulate their own temp.

How do I keep my chicks warm?

To keep you baby chicks warm you would use a brooder. The technical definition of a brooder is a heated space desigened for baby chicks or pigs. There are a few common to keep your chicks warm on a small scale, 250W light bulb, an electric heating element or with a radiant heater. Here are a couple of notes on how each of these work.

Heat Lamp

A heat lamp is probably the most common heat source used for brooding chicks. They are very easy to use and also very simple to understand. Electricity heats up an filament causing the element to give off not only just light but also heat. This is a trusted method of brooding chicks and many people have used it for years. However there can be some downsides to using a heat lamp to brood baby chicks. The first downside is that it uses a lot more energy. You can feel this energy in the heat that the unit gives off into the surrounding air. A 250W light bulb can heat a large area. Where on the other hand, a radiant heat brooder will not heat the air but only the objects underneath it(more on this in the next section).

So what does this meant to you… Here are the energy numbers put into real numbers at the time of writing this. The first example is using a 250W bulb for the whole entire brooding period. This is 6 weeks, or 42 days of continuous power usage. There are some assumptions made here. The first is the cost of power. Right now it is at $0.12 per kilowatt hour. This is the national average at the time of writing this. The seccond assumption is that you will be continuously using your heat source for 42 days or 6 weeks. This would be the 6 weeks you need to raise your chicks so this isn’t much of an assumption.

Here is a link to an energy cost calculator. You would just need to type in the correct information to get the cost for your brooder.

What is a baby chick brooder?

How long do I need to keep my baby chicks in a brooder?

our chicks need to be dept at 95 degrees for the first week. You then drop the temperature by five degrees every week after that until you are at 70 degrees they shoudln’t need heat after that.

With that rule in mind we built the time table below to illustrate.

    Week 1 – 95 Degrees
    Week 2 – 90 Degrees
    Week 3 – 85 Degrees
    Week 4 – 80 Degrees
    Week 5 – 75 Degrees
    Week 6 – 70 Degrees
    Week 7 – 65 Degrees

As you can see by the table, at 6 weeks your birds would be at the required 70 degrees. This is when it is safe to take your birds out of your brooder and let them loose in your coop. Now keep in mind that you would still not want a drafty coop as drafts can chill even fully grown birds. Also, if you were releasing these birds into the cold of winter you may want to provide some heat a bit longer or just let them feather and grow so that they can better regulate their own body temperature.

It’s really warm outside, do I still need to have them under a heat source and for how long?

Even if you live in an area where the temperature is very warm we still advise monitoring the temperature and using a brooder. The birds need constant temperatures. This means even if it is 95 degrees during the heat of the day the night temperatures will usually be below the 95 degrees necessary for the birds. A great brooder for warm weather brooding is the Sweeter Heater or the Eco Glow from brinsea. These work great because they do not generate a lot of unecessary environmental warmth but still provide a warm place for the birds to go when they need the warmth.

Am I required to have a thermometer in the brooding area ?

We always advise using a thermometer when you are brooding your baby chicks. This is the only way that you can get accurate results time and time again. It is also the easiest diagnostic tool when there are problems during the first weeks of having your new baby chicks. You can describe to the phone operator or the friend you know what the chicks behavior looks like till you are blue in the face… However 95 degrees is 95 degrees, there is no arguing or room for interpretation. Then you have at least ruled out temperature as an issue and you can continue your dianosis of the issue.

Why is there a minimum order on baby chicks ?

This question may seem out of place?!? Aren’t we talking about brooders and heat? Well this relates to brooders and baby chick temperature. We have minimum orders on the baby chicks because the birds need to be able to keep each other warm. This is done throught their body heat. So we want to send a minimum number of birds per box so that the baby birds can keep each other warm!