I am so delighted to share all the information I have learned on how to raise baby chicks. Whether you are dreaming of fresh eggs, learning to be more self-reliant, looking for a great pet or wanting your own home-grown chickens for meat, just about anyone can raise chickens.
I love my chickens. But growing up I was terrified of them. The drive for learning how to be self-reliant and the desire for fresh eggs helped me to overcome my fears. I live in the city and only am allowed a couple of chickens, so I brought home 4 chirping little baby chicks this past spring. After learning how to raise baby chicks and watching them grow, I can say they are the most enjoyable pets I have ever raised. They are super easy to care for, can be very loving, inexpensive to feed plus you get super delicious fresh eggs from them too.
How To Raise Baby Chicks
You will need a few supplies and items to care for baby chicks. Here are the supplies you need.
A brooder box or bin to keep them in. You can use a stock tank, swimming pool, your bathtub or even an old kids swimming pool. I used a plastic tote for my chicks since I already had them hanging around my garage. Some people use a cardboard box as well, but I don’t recommend it.
A Heat Lamp + Heat Bulb. When you buy your heat bulb try to get the red light heat bulb. Chickens will peck each other to death if they see blood, so the red light will make everything red thus avoiding any pecking injuries. You could also use a white heat lamp as well and just keep a good eye out for them. Consider also keeping a backup heat lamp just in case one burns out.
A Thermometer – You will be using a heat lamp with a reflector, which you can find usually at the feed stores or even hardware stores. The temperature needs to be around 90 degrees for the first week, then can be reduced by 5 degrees each week until the chicks have their feathers in (usually around 6-8 weeks). Watch your chicks carefully though as they will show you if they are too hot or cold. If they are huddling in the corner farthest away from the light they are too hot, and if they are huddled in a ball under the light they are too cold. Just keep an eye on how they are reacting. Use the thermometer to get your heat lamp at the right height for the temperature needed. You can find these at your local Walmart or any hardware store for around $1.00.
Some sort of bedding. Pine shavings are what I use, but you can also use pine pellets, straw or other soft materials. Avoid cedar shavings and newspaper shreds as they are not great for chicks. Baby chicks do poop a lot so be prepared to be changing this often.
Feed – get chick starter feed from feed supply stores. This is all your chicks will need to eat. If you want to start giving them treats or bugs, wait until they are one to two weeks old first, and start some chick grit at the same time. I think the first thing I treated my chicks to when they turned a week old was a single shred of cheese, they loved it.
A Waterer and a Feeder – I used these little plastic ones you can find at feed stores for a couple of bucks each. Make sure and change out their water every day as they often poop and kick shavings in them.
Netting or chicken wire to put above your brooder box. Little chicks will fly up within a few days usually to get out, so put netting over the top to keep them from escaping. You can use a little piece of chicken wire or fine hardware mesh that covers it.
The big Chicken Coop they will be using when they are older. It’s best to get this figured out early so they are not giant chickens in a little bin while you are trying quickly & frantically to build a coop for them.
Where to get baby chicks
I called the feed store in my town to see when they have their “chick days.” Turns out most feed stores have a day where they will get in a huge lot of baby chicks where you can choose to pick up just a few or a large lot of chicks. Some even offer free deals where if you buy the feed you will be able to get a free chick. Make sure when you call you ask what breeds of chicks they will be getting in. Do some research on the kind of chickens you want to raise – whether for meat or for laying, fancy or bantam, temperments and more.
I had my kids go online and google pictures of which breed of chicken they would like to raise. They chose by color pretty much. We went down to our local feed store on “chick day” where they each brought home the kind of chick they wanted. Going the feed store was perfect for us since we are only able to have a small amount of chicks and we were able to get a variety of chicks. It was so much fun and the kids had a blast (read about it here).
You can also order your chicks or hatching eggs online. Make sure and watch because most online chicken companies will require a minimum chicken order. If you only need a few chicks consider splitting a batch with a friend. Here are some places you can order baby chicks online:
- Cackle Hatchery – minimum 15-20 chicks
- Freedom Ranger Hatchery – Small, family-owned hatchery supplying slow-growing broiler chickens to small farms and organic, free-range, and pastured poultry operations. They offer the Freedom Ranger chicken breed, which is a heritage breed.
- Ideal Poultry – minimum 25 chicks
- J.M. Hatchery – minimum 25 chicks
- Meyer Hatchery – low minimum order of just 3 chicks
- Murry Mcmurry Hatchery – very popular place that many people I have talked to order from.
- My Pet Chicken – you can order as few as 3 chicks with mix breeds – great for city folks like me!
- Privett Hatchery – minimum 25 chicks
- Welp Hatchery – minimum 25 chicks
Caring for your baby chicks at Home
Whether you just came back from the post office or the feed store with your new baby chicks in hand, make sure all you have their nice little brooding box all ready to go. Make sure you have read all about how to raise baby chicks so you are prepared.
The first thing you need to do is dip their little beaks into their waterer for a second so they knew where the water is.
Then they will chirp around, eat their feed, poop and sleep. They will just be running one minute and then drop like they are dead the next.
The drop-dead-look is normal, it’s just how they sleep. They are so adorable.
If you find your chicks are constantly kicking their pine shavings into your waterer, add a book covered in a ziplock bag or a weight underneath. It helps a little. But still check the waterer often for poop and shavings. Wash it in soap & water periodically also to keep them healthy.
Chicken Poop & Pasty Butt
Keep an eye out for a condition called Pasty Butt with baby chicks during the first week. If the chicks get their poop stuck to their bums, it can seal it up and will kill them if they can’t go. So if you start seeing any poop stuck you gotta wash it off. Only one of our 4 chicks had this. Sorry if you are grossed out by this, but farming ain’t all flowers and fresh milk.
Oh yeah, I am making you look at a chicken’s butt. Tee hee..
So when your chick gets Pasty Butt you just need to take a warm wash cloth and wash the poop off gently. No picking it off, it can hurt them. We had our baby chick sit in some warm water (in a bowl) and gently washed it off.
Problem is when they have wet feathers, the others will peck at them so you will want to separate them until dry. My son held our chick with a wash cloth until she was dry. He loves doing things like that.
How often do you change their pine shavings? It all depends on your preference. I had my chicks in the house and once I could smell it I would be changing it. This was usually every 3-4 days. During the first two weeks it seemed like their poop was out of control, but as they got older their poop changed to a different consistency and I was able to change it once a week.
I spent around $50-$60 for all the supplies I needed for my baby chicks including feed and bedding for 2 months. But the real expense can come with the big chicken coop you need to buy or build. If you are super thrifty you can use scrap wood, pallets or other materials and create for a really low cost. I will update this post after my chickens are a year old so we can really see how much it costs to raise them.
We have LOVED having baby chicks. They are very entertaining. Just for fun try scratching your finger to the bottom of the pine shavings bin and see if they copy you (its so cute seeing them learn to scratch for the first time.) After a few weeks we offered them a few treats (you can buy freeze dried worms and they go nuts…). But our favorite thing is when they just fall asleep in our hands, it is the sweetest thing ever.
Good luck on raising your baby chicks! And let me know if you have any questions.
Comments & Reviews
Hi kerrie first time chick owner.. I have 4 chicks that are 1 week old one of them cherps more then the others and sometimes it’s loud was just wondering should I be concerned?
Nope, chickens have different personalities! That one is just a noisy one, haha!
John Cspine says
Heat lamps are no longer the safest or best heating method. Please recommend the flat plate brooder warmers, these are completely safe, wont start fires, and you can create more healthy light levels. I had trouble posting a reply above, to the person losing chicks to pasty butt..please don’t give chicks a bunch of “extra treats,” they get super excited if you feed them their starter by hand, but more importantly, oats are not good especially for chicks! They can’t digest beta glucan found in oats, it messes up the consistency of their poo..wait till their older and more sturdy before treats. Treats really just dilute the proper nutrition of the starter..check Gail Damerow’s books for health And Brooding instruction..!
Is it hard to take care of them as adults? I help my friends raise some because they went to see family, but i never did it when they were adults.
Just poop cleanup on the regular and feeding and watering. Not too bad.
ChloE c says
My chick is always hiding in the corner of the box. At the corner, the temperature is only 80° Is that normal?
Yeah, that’s probably normal, just keep an eye on that chick. It’s probably just scared but when it gets colder heads to the heat.
Ana Babin says
My friend had baby chics in her yard and she ended up selling them to a petting zoo
I am so happy I found you! This article and comments are wonderful! We are getting our new babies ( first time mom-of chicks..lol) Saturday. We are thinking on 4 also. What size tote did you have your babies in? Thanks…
Just regular bins around 3ft x 2ft size.
Are these good pets for responsible kids?
Yes they are!
I am having trouble with my baby chicks. The poop seems normal, but continue to have pasty butt and I clean daily. But, keep losing them each night. I have lost 10 in the last 2 days. I have them in a water trought and have plenty of room for them and have a heat lamp on them but, don’t understand what I am doing wrong. They live a lil over a week then i start losing them. Could use some advice if anyone has any. I give them oats from time to time as a treat and they have fresh water daily and food.
Karen Kimbler says
Get some hydro hen. Its a powder sold at like tractor supply and other places give of the day and regular water of the night for a week. Then switch to only water and monitor your babies.
Put a thermometer on the wall of their space. If you’re using a metal trough it might be too cold, even with a heat lamp
No oats! No oats! Chick starter! They can’t digest oats..it makes sludgy poo!
The Champions says
Can i keep my 3 chicks warm by using a regular lamp with three bulbs and lay a wash cloth over them. They seem happy and all snuggled together sleeping.
Hi, I am a first time chick owner and I am very nervous. My chicks are huddled sleeping but I read this may mean they are too cold I am using a 250 wt red light lamp pretty close to their cage.. i must know are they comfortable?
Yeah if they are huddled sleeping and they are new chicks they may need more warmth. Use a thermometer and make sure its warm enough if you can. If not lower the heat lamp a little more.
Is the outside temperature around 90 degreees? Do you check with a thermometer regularly? The fact that they sleep huddled together is fine but make sure they are not disturbed too much in the first two weeks.
How high is the lamp from the brooder bottom? Not too close may be less than one foot depending on the bottom temperature, that should be well isolated with a few layers of sturdy paper, sand to keep it down or and wood shavings
Hope this helps
Temperature should be around 80 F .
I’m in solar and can’t keep a light on all night unless it’s LED.
How do I keep them warm enough ?
Night is my only temp change at an average of 70 degrees now.
I will try warm water bottles.
I’ll be up all night doing that I imagine. But have to leave for work for 6 -7 hrs so… oh no!
All my neighbors have cats ,so babysitters not an option.
Maybe some handwarmers? Gosh, I’m not sure what else you can use!
Water has an incredibly high heat capacity. Therefore, it can be used to store heat and release it slowly overnight. 5 gallons of water will take over 24 hours to cool to room temperature from boiling! Any vessel that can hold lots of water can be used to output heat overnight, just take care that not too much heat it’s getting output; this can be moderated by wrapping the vessel in cloth. Ideally you also create an igloo around the vessel so the heat gets trapped inside, allowing the little ones to stay nice and cozy while allowing a little airflow!
I would recommend buying a couple nalgene bottles (they can safely handle the heat, are tough, and portable, and lifetime warranty), fill them 90% full with boiling water, and put the cap on tight. They’ll output heat for several hours. Nalgene bottles and boiling water is a trick that backpackers use when they are unsure if the temperature will drop below the rating on their sleeping bag.
Farm stores have a heat plate for baby chicks, it’s like a platform with 4 short legs that they can snuggle under and enjoy the heat on their backs. The one I have only uses 40 watts. Surely your solar setup can handle that?
When our power went out we put boiling water in quart size mason jars and put each jar in one of my husbands long socks. The chicks huddled up to it when the rest of the brooder started to get cold. You may have to change it out in the middle of the night though
We currently have one 7 year old Rhode Island Red hen and two 6 year old guinea males who share the same coop and run. I have 8 Rhode Island Red pullet chicks coming this week and plan on keeping the brooder in the house until they are old enough for the coop. At what age can I safely introduce the new birds to the coop and run with the older birds?
You would need to make sure the chicks are feathered in and ready to be outside (usually by 4-5 weeks) for sure. And then after that you could fence off a smaller area so that the chicks and the older hens could get to know the chicks safely for a few days first and then introduce them carefully and watch to protect them from getting pecked too much. Some pecking will be normal as pecking orders are established, but you don’t want to have them draw blood and you want the smaller chicks to always have somewhere they can hide to be protected if necessary.
Donna Sensinger says
Hello we just got 8 baby chicks tonight. And we have them in a add on room that has no air conditioning or heating. When we had the heat lamp on they were all in the very corner. The room stays pretty hot right now. So do you think they are getting to hot and I shouldn’t use the heat lamp?? ? .. PLEASE HELP
Yes if they are too hot, and hiding in the corner, lift that lamp up higher. It’s probably too low and too hot.
My baby chicks have very loose stools. Is that normal? I’m not sure how old they are we got them from Tractor Supply. They are just starting to grow little black feathers on their wings.
Yep that is normal! Sometimes the poo is looser and other times a little thicker. But loose is normal.
Sharon Lee says
Hi, I ordered 15 different breed chicks from Hoover Hatchery much like you did. Then a farm lady nearby had 10 chicks hatch out, also mixed breeds. I went and got the 1-5 day old chicks and brought them home. When the Hoover chicks arrive, they will be a month younger and much smaller. I assume you keep each batch separate because of the difference in size. Did you do that? How long did you keep them separate? How long does it take for them to become the same size? What would you recommend to unite them all into one flock? Thanks for your help.
Hi, if you have a big enough bin, I’d just put a little safety mesh see-through fence in between them so they can still see each other, but no one gets hurt. Then after about a week you can try to lift that and watch and see if they are all okay together or not. If not, put the fence back up a few more days and try again! 🙂
Hi I just got 10 adorable baby chicks and one of them I’m pretty worried about cause he/she has shredded wings and he/she is al
Hi, the wings are shredded? Or are they just growing in?
Hi how long till it grows into a big chicken I ordered just cus I wanted cute chicks and not big chickens around my garden
Well, Hanna, they get bigger and bigger every month. They are fully grown around 9-10 months, maybe sooner. Chicks are cute but will grow out of that cute stage rather quickly, and you’ll have the ugly teenage stage chickens around 6-12 weeks! Haha!
I just got 2 baby chicks and I was wondering if i keep the heat lamp on at night or do i turn it off because my house tends to be a little cold and i don’t want them to be cold and be able to sleep well.
Hi, yes keep that heat lamp on all day and all night. They need that warmth all the time!
Aamnah Ilyas says
Hi, I recently wanted to purchase chicks but I was wondering if you need to get non slip mats to put under the pine shaving.
Hi, I’ve never used non-slip mats under the pine shavings, they aren’t needed!
Jenny Barefoot says
Love this! Very helpful ?
Ily Beard says
Hi! Thank you for all the info. So helpful. We got 4 baby chicks today. I hope you can help me with just a couple questions. I am worried about salmonella on the chicks and in the coop..I know wash hands but how much should I worry about this. Also, what bottom do I put in the coop? Some says sand, and some say pellets of some sort.
Hi, great question. For sure some chicks might carry salmonella, so you and the kids should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching the chicks – or use hand sanitizer. We like to use a small washcloth when we hold our chicks (not only does it help keep them warm, but protects your clothes if they poop, ) Tell the kids not to kiss them, not to let their beaks tough their mouths and always wash hands well after holding and petting them. We’ve never had a problem ourselves with it, just remind after they put them away to wash up. For the bottom of the coop I really like the newer pellets -they last longer and help keep the smell down longer. But you can use whatever you like, and change it when it gets really smelly and poopy.
how do you keep the kids from kissing them? after you have them home and wipe them down still not ok?
Well, they are constantly stepping in their own poop so they can get rather dirty… so even after washing them down when you get them home they can still get dirty again. I’ve personally never had an issue with my kids getting sick and they do snuggle them and stuff (I’m sure mine have kissed on them too), but it is the warning of the USDA to not kiss on them just in case.
Ellen K Grillo says
Hi there, how will I know when to get them onto a bigger box/bin before going outside? They look cramped in there?
They shouldn’t go outside unless it’s really hot all day/night until about 6 weeks. But you can put them in a bigger box inside until then!