They’re the easiest farm animal, so it’s a great place to start when you’re transitioning into homesteading or a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Plus, who doesn’t love fresh eggs? You need to be prepared for raising chicks, the first 6 weeks of raising chicks can be easy with the right tools and knowledge.
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The First 6 Weeks of Raising Chicks – Guide For Beginners
Brooding chickens is not hard. It is messy. It's not overly pleasant, the mess and the cleaning that is. But the chicks, are so adorable. They grow really fast too, and in no time at all, they'll be moving out to the coop.
What you need for raising chicks for the first six weeks:
- a brooder
- heat lamp or heating plate
- chick feed – we use medicated
- bedding – we use pine shavings
- vitamins and electrolytes – optional
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Setting Up A Brooder
Bedding and Feeding
It is very important to use bedding that will prevent your chicks from slipping and getting slayed legs. We use a couple of inches of pine shavings. They'll quickly start scratching away like adult chickens too.
I prefer to hang my chick feed and waterer, just barely off the ground, off the shavings. It helps to keep food waste and wet shavings down when they make a mess. Because that is what chicks do. We raise them as the chicks grow.
Some like to use vitamins and electrolytes in their chick water when they are in the brooder. I do not often do this. I will if the chicks have trouble hatching but it is very rare.
But it is important to use warm, room-temperature, water. You don't want to shock warm little bodies with cold water.
Make sure they always have access to food and water.
Keeping Your Chicks Warm
Pick your heating source. A heat lamp or a heating plate. Heating plates I have been told by friends can be hard to clean and get gross but you have more control over the temperature as the heat is in one place.
A thermometer to watch the temperature of your brooder. Watch where the temperature piece is, sometimes chicks like to lay on it and make you panic that the temperature of your brooder is way too hot.
The best advice I got when I started with chicks was that it is not as stressful and difficult as it sounds. Chicks are easy to read.
If they’re huddled up together under the lamp, they’re too cold. If they’re trying to stay as far away from the heat as they can, they’re too warm.
You’ll be able to tell when your chicks are completely content because they’ll be active and spread out.
Handling Your Chicks
Don't be afraid to handle and cuddle with your chicks. You want them to be used to you, to come to you when you need them to once they are outside.
My kids do daily cuddles with each and every chick we hatch whether we are keeping them for ourselves or selling them. We have cuddly Stardand chickens and Coturnix quail that run to me and hop in my hands.