Chicks need to be kept WARM, DRY and DRAFT-FREE. Do not keep your newly hatched chicks under an air vent or in a drafty/windy area. Do not get your chicks wet. Don’t give them a bath. It’s best to keep chicks in an enclosure with solid sides rather than open wire to minimize drafts for the first couple weeks. A clear plastic bin works great for newly hatched chicks.
Use a red or black incandescent or halogen bulb for HEAT, and place the fixture at one end of the chick’s enclosure. Place a thermometer under the bulb and adjust the height up or down to achieve approx. 105 degrees directly under the light. Check the temperature on the opposite “cool” end of the enclosure – an ideal temp there would be 85-90 degrees, for an average of 95 degrees in the center of the enclosure. Adjust your enclosure size or bulb wattage accordingly, but don’t give them too much space at first or they’ll get lost. Your chicks will run back and forth to warm up and cool down as needed. Keep food & water in the center. Simulate natural sun cycles by turning on bright lights during the day and off at night, but do not turn off the heat light.
Keep fresh, clean WATER available at all times using a dish designed for baby chicks. Don’t use a regular bowl – chickens have a really hard time figuring out water. They will fall in and can drown, even in shallow water. I add approx 2 teaspoons of sugar to 1 quart of water for the first week to give the chicks a little electrolyte boost. You will need to dip each chick’s beak in the water to show them what it is – just be careful not to dip them far enough to get water in their nose. Watch the chicks carefully for the first few days to make sure each chick is drinking on its own. Some may need to be reminded where the water is at and will need you to dip their beak in again.
FEED a chick starter in ground mash format. Chick crumbles may not be small enough for newly hatched bantam chicks to eat, so you may need to run the crumbles through the blender or food processor to grind them up into smaller pieces for the first week or two. Place the food in a shallow dish or on a plate and show the chicks how to eat by “pecking” the food with your index finger. Once they get the hang of it, you can begin using a chick feeder dish. Offer them treats of diced leafy lettuce (like romaine) after the first week. Introduce one new fruit or veggie at a time every few days as treats. Chicks love diced grapes, cherries, cucumber, zucchini, strawberries and squash.
Paper towels are recommended for BEDDING for the first 3-5 days until your chicks learn where and what their food is. Change them several times a day to keep your chicks clean. If they start to tear and eat the paper towels, it’s time to change to something else. I recommend using hay or straw as these are edible and will not harm your chicks if they swallow them. DO NOT USE SAND. It can cause an impaction if swallowed. DO NOT USE NEWSPAPER. Slippery surfaces can cause leg problems in developing chicks. I do not recommend wire floors.
Check over each chick twice a day to ensure they look BRIGHT-EYED and are eating and drinking well. Slow or lethargic chicks need immediate attention. Chick vitamins & electrolytes are often helpful for slow chicks. Remind slow chicks where the water is at, and make sure you see them eating and drinking on their own.
Check their VENTS (backside) twice a day to ensure they are not “pasty.” Poop can often get stuck to their fluffy backsides and pastes their vent closed. If this is not removed by you, your chick will die. If you see a clump stuck to them, use warm water on the end of a q-tip to gently wash off and unclog their backside. Avoid getting your chick wet. If water won’t remove the clump, try a little olive oil, but be sure to clean that off well with a soft dry cloth.
Chicken POOP comes in a variety of “normal” colors and consistencies. Watch for foamy, yellowish poop. This is a sign of cocci infection, which is quite common as it’s transmitted by wild birds. Consider using medicated feed for the first month to prevent cocci until your chicks are older and strong enough to fight it off on their own.
When HANDLING your chicks, scoop them up gently with your hands under their bellies. Picking them up from below makes them feel more secure and relaxed than grabbing them from the top, like a predator would.
If you are unable to keep your chicks for any reason, you can contact me for assistance finding good homes for them. Use caution when rehoming roosters – cock fighting is still a big problem in our area.