You went to tractor supply to get dog food and they had baby chicks. Of course, you had your kids with you and some how you managed to get talked into a couple of chicks. How does this happen?! The good news is, it’s not rocket science to brood chickens. But for someone who has never raised day old chicks? It sure seems like it. In this post I’m going to go over the basics of how to brood chicks inside, what we use, and other tips and tricks I’ve learned. At the bottom of the post is my list so click the “jump to recipe” at the top of the post.
What Do You Need?
This is going to depend on how many babies you get. But you need a place to put them, a waterer, feeder, medicated chick feed, a heat lamp with red light and bedding. That’s really it. You don’t HAVE to use medicated chick starter but I do recommend it for baby chicks. It helps prevent coccidia in your flock and that my friends is huge. Coccidia and other parasites are the number one killer of all baby animals on all homesteads, except maybe predator’s.
When it comes to a place to put them, it really doesn’t have to be fancy. We use a plastic tote when we have to brood a smaller batch of chickens. There are 25 in here and this will only last about a week, maybe two. Once they have out grown this, *fingers crossed* they will go into the new chicken coop. You can read about our experiment with a metal chicken coop here . But they will stay here until it’s a “problem” and then they will be moved elsewhere. Usually if you are only brooding a couple up to maybe 6, this tote should be fine.
We put this tote in our living room for a couple of different reasons. Our other chickens like to come up onto the deck. Since having the chicks, the other chickens have been jumping up on the mini fridge out front to look through the window. This is going to help when the time comes to integrate everyone into the new coop. The other chickens know that we are brooding chickens in here. George and one of black stars have taken to keeping an eye on them.
While you are brooding chickens, you want to try and maintain their temperatures around 90-95*. At this age, they are simply too little to regulate their own temperatures well. Every week you decrease their temps by moving the light higher and higher. If you notice your chicks staying away from the heat lamp or panting, move the heat lamp up because it’s probably too warm for them. Another thing you can buy to help gauge the heat is a Temp gun. These things are amazing for so many things beyond a chicken brooder.
The other reason we brood chickens in the living room is so they get used to us and our noise. We are hoping that being around us will socialize them better and we will be able to handle them more. There is also the added bonus of photo ops like this one.
This is the first time for us using a red light for heat. Since we have reptiles, we have an abundance of CHE (ceramic heat emitters) and we used those for our first two batches. Unfortunately, we had a couple issues with our meat chicks pecking each other. After doing some research I found out that chickens are attracted to red things and they are cannibals. They will peck each other and then once they see the blood, they will kill that chick. So we got this red light and we already had the lamp with caging. But the new one is so far so good. We got ours from Tractor Supply and love it.
When it comes to feeders and waterers, it comes down to size. When they are little, you don’t need a ton of feed and water but you do want to make sure that they don’t run out. You can find the feeder shown in the picture here. However, when that one breaks we will be switching to this one because the one we have takes up a lot of space and can really only be used for chicks. I like our waterer and we will continue to use it for chicks. When the ducks come, they will need a different waterer because they like to play in it.
Tips and Tricks
So you’ve got your set up, got all the things. Now what? Love on those babies! Seriously. If you want happy chicks that will run up to you, love on them. Let your kids play with them. Socialize them to the point where they are excited to see you. We didn’t do that with our first batch and it’s hard to get them to come to us. Our meat chicks however, loved us. They would come running when you came outside and they would follow you around because they associated us with food.
If you have older children, around five or so, make this their chore. Giving kids an animal helps teach them responsibility, empathy, and kindness in a way that human to human interaction just doesn’t do.
Chicks will get what is called pasty butt. It’s a thing. The best thing you can do to combat this is apple cider vinegar in their drinking water. I do about a tablespoon in each time we fill up our 5 Qt waterer. You can absolutely do more but I wouldn’t do much less. If your chick does end up with pasty butt simply take a warm wet rag and GENTLY wipe it off. If you are too rough you can damage their vent and that is fatal.
Feeding Your Chicks
Chicks only need the medicated feed for the first bag. Again this depends on how many chicks you have and what size bag. We buy a 50lb bag for 50 chicks. If you only have 5? Get the 5lb bag. Just use common sense on how much your chicks need. Feeding them more isn’t going to hurt them but not enough could.
What do you feed them after that first bag? Just regular chick feed. You do want about 20-24% protein until they are mostly grown, about 4wks-2months. Also make sure that it is crumbles for a while and once they get most of their feathers, you can switch to a pellet. After that we switch our laying hens to a layer feed. This keeps them from growing too fast but also have different nutrients for healthy chickens and eggs.
How long do you brood chickens? About 3 weeks. Once they are fully feathered, they can go outside into their coop or to free range. If it’s cold out, make sure to bring the heat lamp with them for nights. If it’s warm, make sure they have plenty of water.
Buying List For Brooding Chicks
- 1 Brooder Box
- 1 Clamp Lamp
- 1 Red light
- 1 bag Pine shavings
- 1 bag Medicated chick feed
- 1 waterer
- 1 feeder
That’s about it! If you have any questions about how to brood chickens feel free to comment below. Feel free to share this on your social media and like us as well!