Group of 6 baby chicks on a table

Housing and raising baby chicks (part 1/3)

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We receive many questions about welcoming baby chicks : how to feed them, house them, care for them…

Here is a series of articles where I try my best to answer the most frequently asked questions.

The chicks might have hatched at your place or were bought when a few days old, they all have the same needs !

Housing : the brooder.

AB loves to stay in the feather duster, even to spend the night !

AB loves to stay in the feather duster, even to spend the night !

Chicks (without moms) will need a confortable place to rest and thrive. A closed space for their safety, protected from any draught.

=> Keep in mind that a chick normaly spends his two first days nicely tucked in his mom’s down.

It is therefore very important to try and reproduce the same living conditions for their well-being 🙂

There is no need to spend a fortune in a brooder, we prefer our homemade ones by far ! A big cardboard box, securely closed from underneath will be perfect. To make it easier to clean, I add a plastic bag on the bottom.

You can use many different things for bedding, depending on what you can find. Straw can be replaced by wood shavings for better footing. You can also use hay or anything with smaller fibers than straw. We use dust-free wood shavings and linseed straw. For cleaning and health purposes, it seems to me like the best option.

Heating : How to replace Mama hen ?

Chick sleeping in nice and cosy feather duster

Chick sleeping in nice and cosy feather duster

Naturally raised chicks won’t need anything, their mom takes care of everything ! When you artificially hatch your chicks or buy them a few days old, you will need to assist them. They cannot maintain the right body temperature on their own, they need an artificial heat source in order to survive.

The best option is a heating plate, easily adjustable depending on the chicks’ size and age. I highly recommend these heating plates, unlike heat bulbs, they do not light up. Chicks need to rest and sleep without any light !

=>  In nature, chicks follow the natural day and night cycle and sleep in the dark, under their moms.

You can also use ceramic lamps that don’t provide any light. With dusters that keep them cosy, chicks should appreciate. I say ‘should’ beacause I’ve never used those lamps before. I hang a feather duster in the box and chicks love to go underneath it.

Here’s a link to buy low-energy heating plates like the ones we use : 

Finding the right temperature

Be careful to always check the temperature and adjust the heat source’s height :

Temperatures for information only :

  • First week : 32°C (89,6°F)
  • Second week : 30°C (86°F)
  • Third week : 28°C (82,4°F)
  • Fourth week : 25°C (77°F)

The next weeks, keep a nice 22°C (71,2°F) until the chicks have enough feather to maintain the right body temperature. Depending on the breeds and time of year, this can go from 5 to 8 weeks.

VIDEO : Anka’s and friends’ brooder 🙂

Following soon, feeding chicks !

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