There are few farm animals in their baby stage that are more adorable than baby chickens. And unlike some animals they are completely worth the effort as they provide not only meat and eggs; but, pest control and entertainment. Good care of your chicks from the start will ensure you get the most value out of your flock. As with any agricultural venture, there are multiple ways to successfully raise chickens and you must find what methods best suit your situation.
Before you purchase or hatch your chicks you must have a habitat prepared for them. One of the most harmful dangers to new chicks is temperature and moisture. Chicks need to be kept in around 80 to 90 degree heat and they need to be dry. We put heat lamps over ours. You will know if they are too cold when they huddle up under the lamp. And you will know when they are too hot if they are all bunched up away from the lamp or if they are panting. If they are panting and lethargic they are in real danger of overheating. When your temperature is right the chicks will be running in all directions. When your chicks start to develop feathers you can begin to reduce the heat. Chicks need a good bedding under them to keep them dry. A layer of wood shavings or hay will soak up their droppings and mess, keeping them dry. You will need to change their bedding frequently depending on the size of the habitat versus the number of chicks.
Chicks need a lot of water to drink; but, not water on them. You will need a watering system that does not allow the chicks to accidentally submerge themselves or each other. It helps to think of these little guys as being exactly what they are…babies. If there is a puddle of water just about any baby will be drawn to it and in it if not stopped. To prevent pasty butt, a clogging of the waste vent, you can add a few tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar to a gallon of water.
Babies need baby food. Before you get your chicks you will want to purchase a feeder and chick starter. In a pinch you can feed your chicks out of a small bowl; however, a feeder will make the starter last longer. Chicks like all babies make messes and they will make messes in a bowl of food making you have to replenish it more often than you would with a chick feeder. If you are creative there are all kinds of ideas out there to make your own feeding and watering system; but, if you purchase it the price is fairly low. I like to sprinkle a little bit of grass and weeds around the habitat so my chicks begin to learn how to forage. We have pasture raised chickens which means that our chickens have the run of the entire farm so they forage all day for bugs and greens.
Holding babies and the desire to touch things that are soft make handling your chicks almost impossible to resist. In the first few weeks you should try not to handle the chicks too much and use great care not to drop them. Do talk to them though, especially when you feed them so they are trained to come when you feed them. Chicks will imprint on whoever raises them. Enjoy your babies, they will grow fast.
Some helpful websites:
http://www.backyardchickens.com/ : This site is full of information for all things chicken related.
https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/chickens.html : This is the hatchery that I order from.