How to Prepare for Chicks

By Chicken Pets on
How to Prepare for Chicks

Welcome to the exciting journey of raising backyard chickens! In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the steps necessary to prepare for the arrival of your baby chicks, ensuring their health and happiness from day one.

How to Prepare for Chicks

Preparing for chicks involves setting up a brooder with adequate warmth, clean bedding, and a safe environment. Additionally, gather essential supplies such as a heat lamp, chick feed, waterer, and feeder to ensure proper care and nutrition for your growing chicks.

Setting Up a Cozy Brooder

A brooder is essentially a chick’s first home – a warm and protected space where they can live and grow for their first few weeks outside the egg. When setting up a brooder, consider the following factors:


Select a draft-free area that is safe from pets and even small children, with stable temperature and easy access for cleaning and monitoring. Ideal locations can include a garage, shed, or any indoor spare room.


As the chicks grow, they will need more space, so it’s crucial to choose a brooder size that accommodates this growth. A good rule of thumb is to provide at least 2 square feet per chick. A large plastic container, kiddie pool, or even a custom-built wooden brooder can work for this purpose.


The right bedding keeps your chicks dry, clean, and comfortable. Popular bedding options include pine shavings, paper towels, or even shredded newspaper. Avoid using hardwood shavings or sawdust, as they can cause respiratory issues in chicks.

Heat Source

Keeping the chicks warm is fundamental for their overall well-being. A heat lamp or heat plate should be placed above the brooder, creating a temperature gradient with the warmest area at around 95°F for the first week. Gradually decrease the temperature by 5°F each week until the chicks are ready to move to their outside coop.

Gathering the Essentials

Before your baby chicks arrive, make sure you have all the necessary supplies available for meeting their basic needs:

  • Heat Lamp: A red or white bulb to place above the brooder, providing the required warmth. Ensure the lamp is secured to prevent any possible fire hazards or accidents.
  • Thermometer: Essential for keeping an eye on the brooder temperature and adjusting the heat source accordingly.
  • Waterer: A shallow, chick-friendly waterer that keeps the water clean and prevents the chicks from drowning. Clean and refill the waterer daily to maintain hygiene.
  • Feeder: A designated chick feeder should hold enough feed for all the chicks, keeping their food clean and accessible.
  • Chick Feed: A balanced starter feed, higher in protein than a regular layer feed, is necessary for your chicks’ healthy growth.
  • Bedding Material: Accumulate enough bedding material to last for the chicks’ first few weeks in the brooder. Change bedding regularly and ensure it remains dry.

Feeding Your Baby Chicks

Feeding your chicks a nutritious diet is fundamental for their growth and development. During their first weeks of life, chicks should be fed a high-quality starter feed.

Starter Feed

The key to a healthy diet for chicks is choosing the right starter feed. These feeds come in different forms like crumbles, mash, or pellets, and contain between 18-22% protein to support rapid growth. Choose a non-medicated starter feed if you want to avoid medication or antibiotics in your chicks’ diet.

Food Transition

After about six to eight weeks, switch your chicks from starter feed to grower feed, which has around 14-18% protein content. At around 16-20 weeks of age, the chicks should transition to layer feed, containing around 15-18% protein, to support their egg production.

Treats and Supplements

Some treats can be introduced to your chicks’ diet after they reach two weeks of age, like mealworms or scrambled eggs, which provide an additional protein source. Always offer treats in moderation and ensure they make up no more than 10% of your chickens’ total daily intake.

During growth, chicks may need supplements, such as grit, to help them digest their food. Sprinkle a small amount of grit into their feed, so proper digestion takes place.

Monitoring Your Chicks’ Health and Development

It’s important to keep an eye on the well-being and development of your chicks. Healthy chicks should be active, have bright eyes, clean vents, and be free of physical abnormalities.

Signs of Illness

Monitor your chicks daily for any signs of illness or distress, such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Pasty vent (accumulated feces blocking their vent)
  • Labored breathing or sneezing
  • Swollen eyes or nostrils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal posture or walking

If you observe any of these signs, consult a veterinarian or an experienced chicken keeper for guidance.

Predator Protection

Protecting your chicks from predators is crucial. Ensure the brooder is in a secure location and has a protective cover to prevent animals or curious pets from accessing the chicks. Consider installing hardware cloth or poultry netting if necessary to keep predators at bay.

Transitioning Chicks to the Coop

In about 5-7 weeks, your chicks should be ready to move to their outside coop, though it may take up to 10 weeks when outdoor temperatures are cooler. Ensure that the coop is well-equipped to accommodate your growing flock.

Coop Size

The coop should be large enough to provide at least 3-4 square feet of indoor space per bird. Remember, overcrowding can lead to stress, illness, and other issues within the flock.

Nesting Boxes and Roosting Bars

Equip your coop with nesting boxes where hens can lay their eggs comfortably, along with roosting bars for your chickens to perch and sleep. Provide one nesting box for every three to four hens and stagger roosting bars at different heights and across the coop to promote harmony among the flock.

Outdoor Run

An outdoor run allows your chickens to roam, scratch, and explore safely. A good rule of thumb is to offer at least 8-10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken. Use hardware cloth or poultry netting to secure the run, keeping predators away from your flock.

Offering Socialization and Enrichment

Chickens are social animals and benefit from interactions with their flockmates and human handlers. Engage with your chickens in a calm and positive manner, rewarding them with occasional treats, so they get used to your presence and touch.

Enrichment Activities

Offering enrichment activities can help prevent boredom and encourage natural behaviors, such as scratching and foraging. Some examples of enrichment include:

  • Dusting stations or sandboxes for dust bathing
  • “Peck toys,” like hanging cabbage or lettuce for mental stimulation
  • Logs or branches for perching or hiding

As you get ready to welcome your fluffy, peeping babies to their new home, use this guide to ensure you are properly equipped and informed. With proper care and attention, your backyard chicks will soon grow into healthy, happy layers and become a delightful addition to your family.

Caring for Special Needs Chicks

Sometimes, you may encounter chicks that require special care and attention, such as those with disabilities or illnesses. With dedication and determination, you can still help these chicks thrive in your backyard flock.

Assisting Chicks with Mobility Issues

Some chicks may have mobility issues, like splayed leg or curled toes, which can often be treated with simple tools and a bit of creativity. For instance, making tiny splints or slings can help correct these issues and enable the chicks to move more easily. Consult with a veterinarian or more experienced chicken-keeper for guidance.

Feeding Challenged Chicks

Chicks that struggle to eat on their own due to physical limitations may require hand-feeding or additional nutritional support. Special feeding techniques, like tube feeding, can help ensure that these chicks receive the necessary nutrients for their growth and development. Consult a veterinarian for guidance if you are unsure about how to feed a special needs chick.

Integration into the Flock

Monitor the interactions between your special needs chicks and your existing flock closely. Some chicks may need extra time and attention to successfully integrate with their flockmates. Encourage gentle interactions among your chickens and intervene if necessary to prevent bullying or injury.

Managing Your Flock’s Daily Routine

Maintaining a consistent daily routine is essential to ensure a healthy and harmonious flock. A well-organized routine will make it easier for you to manage your chickens’ needs and address any issues that arise.

Feeding and Watering

Establish a daily routine for feeding and watering your chickens in the morning and late afternoon or evening. Keeping a consistent schedule helps your chickens know when to expect food and water, which reduces stress within the flock.

Cleaning the Coop

Clean your coop regularly to reduce the risk of disease and improve the living conditions for your chickens. Daily cleaning tasks include removing soiled bedding, replenishing nesting material, and ensuring food and water stations are clean. Perform a larger, more thorough cleaning every few weeks to maintain a healthy environment.

Observing Your Flock

Take some time each day to observe your chickens’ behaviors and monitor their general health. By keeping a close eye on your flock, you can quickly identify and address any new health concerns or behavioral issues that arise.

Locking Up at Night

Establish a routine for securing your chickens in their coop at night to keep them safe from predators. Ensure that all doors, windows, and vents are properly secured, and double-check that all chickens are inside before closing up for the night.

Involving the Whole Family

Raising backyard chickens can be a rewarding, educational, and fun experience for the entire family. Encourage your children or other family members to be actively involved in caring for your chickens by assigning age-appropriate tasks and sharing knowledge about the care and maintenance of your flock.

Teaching Children about Chicken Care

Use your flock as an opportunity to teach your kids about responsibility and respect for animals. Assign tasks like feeding, watering, and collecting eggs, while educating them about chicken behavior, breeds, and the natural history of chickens.

Bonding through Shared Experiences

Invite your family to participate in chicken-related activities together, like joining local chicken clubs, attending poultry shows or educational workshops. Sharing these experiences can strengthen family bonds while enriching your knowledge of raising backyard chickens.

By providing a supportive and nurturing environment, and involving your family in the process, you can ensure a bright and healthy future for your backyard flock – full of countless opportunities for bonding, learning, and growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about preparing for chicks and raising backyard chickens. We’ve provided concise yet informative answers to help you along your chicken-raising journey.

1. When can baby chicks be moved outdoors?

Generally, chicks can be moved to their outdoor coop when they are around 5-7 weeks old. However, it may take up to 10 weeks in colder weather. The chicks should be fully feathered before transitioning to their outdoor living space.

2. How can I keep my chicks warm without a heat lamp?

You can use alternative heating options such as a radiant heat plate, a heating pad, or a brooder heater to keep your chicks warm. Ensure you’re maintaining the appropriate temperature for their age, adjusting as necessary.

3. How long do chicks need a heat lamp?

Chicks typically require a heat lamp for about 5-7 weeks, or until they’re ready to move to their outdoor coop. The temperature under the heat lamp should be gradually reduced by 5°F each week during this period.

4. Can I mix different breeds of chickens in my backyard flock?

Yes, you can raise different chicken breeds together in your backyard flock. Just be aware of the temperament and size differences between breeds, and ensure they have enough space to coexist harmoniously.

5. What should I do if my baby chick is not eating or drinking?

If your baby chick isn’t eating or drinking, consult a veterinarian or experienced chicken keeper for guidance. You may need to encourage the chick by offering water droplets on a spoon or slowly dipping their beak in shallow water.

6. How do I know when to transition from chick starter feed to grower feed?

Chicks should be transitioned from starter feed to grower feed at around 6-8 weeks of age. This helps ensure that they continue to grow at a healthy pace without gaining excessive body fat.

7. How do I check if my baby chicks are healthy?

Healthy chicks should be active, have bright eyes, clean vents, and be free from physical abnormalities. Observe their behaviors and growth, checking for any signs of illness or distress.

8. What should I do if I’ve identified an unwell or injured chick?

If you have an unwell or injured chick, consult a veterinarian for professional advice and treatment options. Isolating the affected chick from the flock to avoid stress and prevent the spread of potential illnesses may be necessary.

9. How can I sex my chicks?

Sexing baby chicks can be tricky, and accuracy is not guaranteed. Veterinarians or professional poultry sexers can perform vent sexing or feather sexing on certain breeds. Alternatively, you may observe their combs, wattles, and behavior as they mature to help determine their gender.

10. What common predators should I watch out for?

Common predators to watch out for include raccoons, foxes, skunks, opossums, snakes, hawks, and even domesticated pets like cats and dogs. Ensure your brooder and coop are well-secured to protect your flock from potential harm.

11. Can I raise chicks without a brooder?

Raising chicks without a brooder can be challenging, as it is a controlled environment designed to keep chicks warm, secure, and comfortable during their critical first weeks of life. You may explore alternatives, like using a hen to raise chicks, though this depends on the broody or nurturing nature of the hen.

12. How often should I clean the brooder?

You should clean the brooder daily by removing soiled bedding and replacing it as necessary. Perform a more thorough cleaning every week to maintain a healthy and hygienic environment for your chicks.

13. Can I give my chicks tap water?

Yes, you can give your chicks tap water, provided it is clean and safe for human consumption. If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water, consider using a water filter or providing bottled or spring water for your chicks.

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