Raising baby chickens can be a rewarding experience but there are certain guidelines one must follow in order for those babies to prosper. Living conditions, including temperature and safety, are important to their survival, as well as feeding and watering is determinate on their future health and growth.
Housing Needs When Raising Baby Chickens
When raising baby chickens, they can be kept in the house for the first few weeks in a cardboard box lined with newspaper or cedar chips. Hang a light bulb or heat lamp to keep them warm, They can also be kept in a separate area of the coop with enough space to be warm but not overheated. Too much heat can cause sanitation problems, suffocation, and, cannibalism, Make sure there are no square corners that the chickens can get stuck or hurt in also. I keep my new chickens in a galvanized feeder trough that I purchased from Rural King.
Around day five or six until about three weeks of age, the chickens can be moved to a chicken tractor, which allows the chickens to scratch up the dirt and fertilizes the soil. A chicken tractor is a portable cage on wheels or skids. See Choosing Chicken Housing for Your New Chickens for an explanation of how the chicken tractor works.
Raising baby chickens is less stressful if you adjust the space available in their housing as they grow. From one day to three or four weeks of age, the chickens will only need about half of a square foot of space per chicken. From four to twelve weeks of age, you should increase the size of one square foot per month. Full-grown chickens should have on average about three to four square feet per bird with four square feet preferred. Too little space cause overcrowding, it can never be too big.
During the first week of life use heat lamps with 250-watt brooder bulbs in them. These are readily available at your local feed store. The temperature should remain steady at about 95°. Make sure the lamp is at least 17 inches off the floor of the brooder. Also, be sure that the brooder stays draft-free. Decrease the temperature in the brooder by 5° every week until the temperature reaches 70°, which is usually around three weeks. If you hang a heat lamp above the brooder, it can be raised each week to allow less heat in the brooder. Temperature is one of the most important factors when raising baby chickens yourself.
Moving the Chickens Outside
When raising baby chickens should remain inside until they form scapular feathers, which are the feathers on top of the wings on the back. These feathers insulate the bird from the sun, cold, and wetness. You should also wait until the night temperature averages 60° and above. Pick a day with no threat of rain before allowing them outside for the first time.
Move the feeding and watering devices already in use to the yard. Keep them undercover, dry, and in the same spot until your chickens are older. This will keep cleanup easier than having multiple spots to clean. Make sure the pen is predator-proof. Lastly, don’t mix different batches of chickens together.
There are many predators of the chicken to watch out for when you start raising baby chickens, depending on what area you live in. Providing a safe and healthy environment for your new chickens helps establish a healthy, safe flock.
Make sure their area is in a location where you can closely monitor them. I can see my chickens from my living room window. Provide fencing all the way around the area, including the roof. Predators can be devastating to a flock of chickens.
Seven most common predators to chickens
- Dogs and cats
- Hawks and owls
Now you know how to establish a safe environment for your chickens to grow up in that is predator-proof. It allows them to have the room required to grow at a healthy pace. You may want to read Adult Chickens on Your Homestead or Common Ailments in Chickens. These provide information on feeding and caring for your chicken’s health.
For some great information on raising baby chickens and their care read Raising Baby Chicks: How To Keep Them Healthy Naturally from Purposefully Simple.
Read Next: Common Ailments in Chickens