Raising Chicks

How do you get started in raising chickens? Buying a flock ready to lay is one way, but raising them from chicks is another. This gives you a larger choice of breed as well as making it convenient for you to start this project at your schedule.

Kids love a project such as this, and the chicks imprint on the humans, becoming part of the family and making them much more docile and easier to handle. Raising chicks is simple as long as you fulfill a few of their requirements: hens have been doing it for thousands of years. You can raise them inside or outside, using inexpensive equipment.

Mail-order Chicks

Several-day-old baby Barred Rock chicksYou can actually start with fertilized eggs and watch your chicks hatch, but it is much easier to start with young chicks. These can be bought at the local feed store or from an Internet supplier. The ones on the left were ordered from CaliforniaHatchery.com, and were one of many varieties they have available.

They arrived in this nice cozy box, along with a heating pad since in was early March. The babies had hatched over the weekend, were put on an airplane on Monday night and flown halfway across the country. We followed the package's tracking information as it was processed through several USPS sorting facilities, and were notified that we could pick it up at the local post office on Wednesday afternoon. Our contact information was on the outside of the box, but we had also alerted the post office that there would be chicks arriving, giving them a backup telephone number.

We had a warm space ready for our well-traveled new friends. In this case it was inside the home, in a large aquarium. We had placed a regular 100-watt bulb above one end. Huddling together under the lamp would have indicated they were too cold, but they scattered throughout the enclosure and were able to find their own comfort zone. We had placed a loose-fitting cover over their brooding enclosure to hold the heat, but, more importantly, to keep out the drafts. We could have kept them outside, doing that requires a brooder box and heat lamps. Heat lamps are designed to be used only outside, using them in the house may either cook your babies or set the house on fire.

Week One

During their first week the chicks like to be at 90°F. This first week is a bit critical for your new charges. Here's the important stuff they need; warmth, no drafts, water, food, and someone to check on them every few hours. The chicks will be excited as they explore their new home. If one of them appears listless or confused, that's your cue to act. 

Next: Housing the chickens