How to Care for Newly Hatched Baby Chicks
Learn how to care for baby chicks before you pick up the box of chirping peeps from your post office or feed store. Raising baby chickens is not difficult, but it does require attention to detail, a few hours' work when you first receive the new chicks, and daily efforts to ensure your chicks have the best start.
- Box or plastic containers
- Wood shavings or straw
- Heat lamp
- Chick feed
your chicks' anticipated arrival, prepare their new home.
Day-old chicks will need a brooder set up, which is easy to to put
together with common household items, and can be made even more
functional with purchased equipment. Temperature is one of the most
important factors to consider with new baby chickens, as they like it
warm – about 95 degrees F for the first week – and keeping them cozy is
important for their health and survival. Keep a thermometer in the cage
to monitor temperature when baby chicks are young.
Depending on the number of peeps you are buying or hatching, you'll need one or more containers, such as plastic bins or cardboard boxes, to house the little fowl. Each chick should have about ½ square foot of space. About 12 square feet is necessary for 25 birds.
Line the bottom of your brooder with newspaper, and cover the paper with the bedding (cedar chips or straw works well). Attach a heat lamp (a 250-watt light bulb with metal shade is great) about 18 inches from the bottom of the box. The area directly under the lamp will be warmest; chicks will move in and out of this area as they need to in order to maintain ideal body temperatures. Make sure the cage is draft-free; use cardboard as necessary to keep drafts out of the chicks' brooder box.
Place chick feed and a chick waterer outside the heat lamp area within the box. For the first two months, use a commercial chick starter feed to nourish the baby chickens.
When your day-old chicks arrive, make a sugar-water solution from a quart of water plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Dip each bird's beak into this water, and then use it to fill the waterer in their new home. If your chicks had an especially long or draining trip, this will give them the energy boost they need. Scatter chick feed on the paper by the feed tray or dish, so the chicks will find it as they peck at the newsprint.
Ensure that chicks always have an ample supply of water and food. Water is crucial – never let them run out. If you will be gone during the day, buy a one-gallon waterer and fill it each day. As chicks get used to their chick feed, you can begin putting it just in the feeder and not scattered on the floor.
Change the newspaper frequently to ensure a clean environment for the chicks.
Each week, lower the temperature in the brooder box about 5 degrees, by raising the heat lamp or using a lower-watt bulb, until you get down to 70 degrees.
Transition the chicks to an outdoor environment beginning at about four weeks by opening windows during the day to get them used to the breezes and fluctuating temperatures.
When chickens are eight weeks old and the weather outside is mild, they can be moved to their outdoor home during the day and then left at night once the weather is warm. Ensure their safety by shutting the chicken coop at night to protect them from predators while they are young.
Go back to Raising Chickens or home to Egg Laying Chickens, or check out other chicken-related resources online:
Best Coop Plans:
How to Build a Chicken Coop - detailed plans and construction guide for making backyard coops.
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I've found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock's habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living - Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey's Guide - Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard - A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times." ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs." ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs." ~ French Proverb