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Raising Chickens: Basics

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

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Chick season has arrived! That means the promise of warm weather is just around the corner.

Tis the season to walk into your local feed store and see the irresistible fluffy little dinosaurs chirping at you to take them home. The temptation is real! But, before you pick out the perfect little chick or chicks, make sure you're prepared to help them grow and thrive.

These little adorable fluffs will need to be in a brooder until they reach approximately 6-10 weeks old before they can move into their coop, depending on the weather. So, have your space inside or a temperature controlled area ready.

Here's a few essentials that you will need before you bring your layers of gold home.

  • Coop & Run- You'll see many people suggesting to set-up your coop and run before getting your chicks. I wholeheartedly agree. Take it from me, the one who didn't heed their advice. Those weeks you think you have will go by quick!

The coop can be simple or extravagant. Your chickens won't mind either way as long as it's safe, draft proof, predator proof and large enough to fit your flock. Same goes for the run. Unless you pasture raise your chickens, they will need plenty of outdoor space. For your run, Hardware cloth should cover the enclosure and be buried underground (18" down and 12" out) to protect your flock from predators. There're pre-made coops available online, at your local feed store or you can be adventurous and build your own.

  • Brooder- This will be their home until they're fully feathered and ready to move to the coop. You'll want to make sure they have enough space as they grow, room for food, heater, safe from family pets and little humans. There's many options and it's best to research what's best for you, your space and quantity of chicks.

I personally used a pop up brooder, that allowed for easy access from top and sides. I was able to house 12 chicks with plenty of room.

Pullet, lays green egs
Dottie (Olive Egger)

It was also easily cleanable and movable to take outside to let them explore and acclimate to their upcoming move to the coop especially when the weather was nice. This leads into the next important must have; the heating source.

Heating Source- Chicks raised on the farm have mother hen tucking them under and keeping them warm. If you're without mama hen, heat is a must have. Without regulating their body temperature, your chicks will not survive. "Newly hatched chicks need to be maintained at 95°F for the first week of their lives. After the first week, chicks can tolerate temperatures 5°F cooler for each week until they are four weeks old." I kept two heating elements on hand if one should stop working, and it did come in handy when I had to isolate one of our chicks.

The first brooder I bought was Brinsea Ecoglow, it worked well, the legs were easily adjustable and it came with a plastic top protector. The other was made by Producers Pride, which I ended up liking and using the most. The larger plate allowed for all of the chicks to fit under comfortably and the legs were easily adjustable as they grew. It didn't have the plastic top, but I used press'n seal wrap to cover the top and it made for easy clean-up.

Many people still use the heat lamp however, after a friends home caught fire and many other horror stories, I opted with the safer route.

Quick Note: We do not recommended adding a heating source to the coop. Your chickens should be fully feathered and the coop should already be draft and moisture free, by adding a heating source this could be a fire hazard and also cause a drastic drop in temperature if you should lose power. Your chickens would not have time to acclimate to new temperatures and potentially cause death. Chickens are little heaters with body temperatures ranging from 105°F and 107°F (40.6° and 41.7°C), and roost snuggling gives additional warmth.

  • Water & Food- Essentials for life is to have clean water and proper food. Water should be raised up to avoid waste and bedding contaminating the water. Chicks are cute and super messy! I used Rent a Coop Waterer with the versatile nipple. Super simple to train your chicks by tapping their beak to the nipple immediately when placing in the brooder, then scoot them under the brooder to get warm. Chicks follow by example and learn quickly. Choosing grower food will be dependent on whether or not your chicks have been been vaccinated for coccidiosis and/or Mareks, and need non-medicated food or if they have not then medicated food will be needed. Be sure to obtain this information when buying you chicks. Food containers such as squirrel proof bird feeders work great to keep contaminants out and not having to refill as often. Basic chick feeders work well, too. As your chicks grow into pullets and eventually full size hens/roosters, their appetite grows even faster. You'll need to upgrade their food/water containers.

  • Medical Supplies- You'll want to be prepared at all times. Have a poultry vet chosen ahead of time in case of an emergency. Keep a first-aid kit with essentials ready and stocked. In the unfortunate event when your chicken is suffering and not able to survive, it's best to be prepared on how to handle the situation humanely. Search for local farms in your area that offer chicken raising classes.

  • Extras- These are just for you! Once your chickens have their essentials they're good to go. Decorate, add lights, signs, flowers, etc.

Easter Egger Hen that lays blue eggs
Amelia (Easter Egger)

Word of advise...those flowers you plant outside of your run, will get dug out and eaten in no time.

Have fun and enjoy every moment growing together!


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