Here we have our generic chick care geared mostly toward chickens but can apply to most poultry. See also our more specific Duck and Goose Care, Guinea Care, Swan Care, and Peafowl Care.
Shopping List: Brooder Supplies: waterer, feeder, heat lamp reflector, heat bulb, pine shavings, electrolytes and vitamins, paper towels, thermometer, gro-gel, draft-free enclosure, chicken coop, and chick starter feed. For a beginner, we offer the chick starter kit which includes everything you need to get started.
At the Post Office: Promptly pick up your package and get your chicks into the prepared brooder as soon as possible.
Live Guarantee: We guarantee that your birds will be 100% alive AND well when they arrive at your post office. Please see our full policy, click HERE
Brooder Requirements: Each baby needs 0.5 square foot of floor space. The brooder must be sterile and draft-free. The brooder needs to be big enough so that the chicks can get away from the heat source.
Temperature: A thermometer is a baby chick’s best friend. Start your chicks off at 99 degrees for the first three hours. Then 95 degrees the first week. Reduce by 5 degrees each week until they are fully feathered out. This is typically at 6 weeks and 70 degrees.
Water: As soon as you get your chicks into the brooder, immediately dip their beaks in water to teach them how to drink. Birds need to have access to drinking water at all times. Give a 1 gallon chick waterer for each 50 chicks. Initially, water levels should be minimal to avoid drowning. Clean marbles in the dish will help. Warm water for the first few hours may be beneficial. On the third day, you may include vitamin or electrolyte powder in the water.
Feed: For chicks, feed poultry starter crumbles for the first 8 weeks of age. From 9 to 16 weeks, use a grower ration. At 17 weeks, switch to layer pellets. We recommend going to a local feed store. Purchase a commercially available feed with the appropriate levels of protein for your bird type and age.
- Cornish Cross Broilers: Offer free choice chick starter for the first 5 days. After that, make feed available 12 hours on and 12 hours off for proper growth. Chick starter is appropriate for the first 5 weeks. Switch to broiler or grower feed from 5 weeks to butcher.
- Game Birds: Includes turkeys, guineas, pheasants, chukars, quail, peafowl. Gamebird feed is the most appropriate. A non-medicated chicken feed may be used if gamebird feed is not available.
- Ducks and Geese: non-medicated waterfowl feed is best, medicated may be used if non-medicated is not available.
Litter: The best option for bedding material is 2 inches of large size kiln dried pine shavings. Use paper towels above the shavings for the first few days. Do not use sawdust or cedar shavings. Bedding must be changed regularly and kept clean and dry.
Pasty Butts: Sometimes stress can cause a condition called pasty butt. This is an accumulation of loose stool around the vent, which can harden and lead to blockage. The inability for the chick to poop can cause toxicity within the chick, which can lead to death. Use warm, damp paper towel to remove the stuck and dried poop. Take special care to avoid getting the chick too wet during this process, and return to the heat as soon as possible.
Picking: Sometimes chicks will peck the head, feet, or bodies of their brooder mates. This can be a sign of overcrowding, boredom, or overheating. Chicks can peck each other to death if the problem is not addressed promptly. A red light or non-light heat source can alleviate the problem.
Transitioning young birds into existing flock: Once your chicks are 3-4 months, it is time to introduce them to your existing flock. Divide off your run for a few days so they may get accustomed to each other through a fence. There will be some pecking as a new “pecking order” is established. This is normal and should cease in a couple of days. Mix the flock at night to make the transition easier.
Coop and Run Considerations: For standard size chickens, we recommend 2.5-4 square feet per bird inside the coop. The run should provide 10 square feet of space per bird. If they are not allowed a run, then the coop should be 12 square feet per bird. Bantams require half the space. Roosts should be spaced at least 12” apart, 18” off the ground, 18” away from the wall. 8” of roost space for bantams, 10” for standards. Provide 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space. 1 nest box per 5 hens.
Safe Handling of Poultry: After handling poultry, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Do not let young children, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch live poultry. Do not snuggle or kiss your birds. You can get Salmonella from touching live fowl. Your birds can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean. Regularly clean your poultry equipment.