Raising Chickens: Chicks

Everyone loves the thought of raising chickens, with all of those fresh eggs right in your backyard. I know we sure did love the thought so we took our first steps towards raising a backyard flock of our own.

We really wanted to raise our chickens from babies so we went out to our local feed store and bought some baby chicks. Rhode Island Reds were our breed of choice since they are high performance layers and a friendly breed.
** I decided to only get five babies because I have never raised chickens before and wanted to be sure I could keep watch over them individually to ensure they remained healthy.

In addition to the chicks, we also bought them some food (of course), a brooder lamp (to keep them warm), some pine shavings for their box bedding, and of course a feeder and water container.

First day home with the babies.

The main problem I have struggled with is the brooder lamp. The purpose of the lamp is to keep them warm until their adult feathers come in fully. As they grow their adult feathers, the warmth from the lamp (beginning around 95 degrees Fahrenheit) should be reduced about 5 degrees each week until they are comfortable in the ambient temperature of their environment. Since we don’t have a thermometer to tell the temp of their box, I have just been observing their behaviors to determine if they have enough warmth from the lamp.

How to tell?
– Chicks are active, evenly dispersed in brooder area, and chirping softly when they are happy and healthy.
– If they are too hot in the brooder you will notice them panting and crowded away from the lamp.
– If they are too cold in the brooder you will notice them huddled as close as they can be to the heat source and they will show less activity in attempts to huddle up and keep warm.

If they stay too hot for too long they will become dehydrated and lethargic.

Other than my issue with the brooder lamp, they have been super easy to raise. Just make sure they have plenty of food so they can eat as much as they please (they will eat quite a bit for how small they are) and ensure they have fresh, clean water at about lukewarm temp (you don’t want to give them cold water while you are trying to keep them warm!) I have read some people saying to warm their brooder area before placing them in it. We didn’t do that (it gets pretty hot where we live so the ride home was not super cold for them), but that is at your discretion how you choose to transfer them into their brooder box.

The coolest part of it all is watching them grow, seeing their adult feathers start coming in, and developing their curiosity of their environment. We actually had to retire their first brooder box because they started becoming curious and began trying to jump out of their box! So I went to the store and bought them a bigger, deeper box to accommodate their growth and curiosity. The upgrade also gave me some extra room for their play area I had gotten for them. This particular thing I got was to help them develop their leg strength and roosting instincts. You can see it in the picture below.

New brooder box complete with playground.

Overall it has been quite an experience raising these little ones. We still have some growing before they can go outside and be in their coop that we are building for them. But, until then, our main goal is to ensure they are healthy and to bond with them as much as possible while they are young.

We have started hand feeding them a little bit to strengthen the bond between us and the chicks. They definitely have warmed up to us more since we have been hand feeding them. Young chicks will always be skittish at first: however, the sooner you can begin the bonding process the sooner they will be trusting and comfortable around you.

In the midst of all of this learning, I did read somewhere that chickens can recognize up to about 100 individual faces. With that being said, I believe that anyone exposed to you chickens should also try to bond with them so that they will trust your friends and/or family that they will be exposed to in the future. No one wants their chickens attacking people that they are close to! (Well unless you are raising guard chickens, lol! Just kidding!)

Stay tuned for more progress to come. They are growing so fast!

Happy Homesteading!

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