We recently added six chicks to our homestead and since that time I’ve realized that they’re pretty easy to care for.
While the list of needed supplies is not long, there are a few things that you should have on hand when you bring your chicks home.
Maybe you’ve been carefully planning for an addition of chicks to your home…or maybe you just lost all self control and bought 15 chicks on a quick trip to the local feed store when all you needed was potting soil… hey, it happens!
This chick supply list will help you prepare your home for the fluffy little hatchlings no matter what got you into this feathery situation.
This is just a container to house your little chicks until they can move out to a coop.
- Cardboard box
- Plastic tub
- Kiddie pool
- Stock tank
- Large dog crate
Tip: Adding a covering to the brooder is not required, but I do recommend it for a few reasons. First, protection against predators like cats. Second, chicks can jump! We did not cover our brooder in the beginning, but soon one chick discovered that she could jump on the waterer and escape. We covered the top of our brooder with wire to avoid any more rouge chicks in our mudroom! Just make sure your cover is ventilated (a window screen, wire, etc.).
Once you have a brooder picked out, it’s time to add bedding. Just spread the bedding about 1 inch thick all around the bottom of the brooder.
- Cedar shavings
- Pine shavings
- Poultry bedding
Chicks make a mess really quickly, so you’ll probably want to replace the soiled bedding with fresh every 2 to 3 days.
Tip: I don’t remove all the bedding each time I clean the brooder. I just pick out the spots that are wet or very soiled and add a new layer of bedding to the whole brooder.
Chicks require some source of heat since they do not have their mothers to provide it for them.
- Heat lamp (inexpensive but a major fire hazard)
- Heat plate (expensive but less of a fire hazard)
DISCLAIMER: heat lamps are a major fire hazard, so be very careful with the way you set yours up. Dropping an extremely hot lamp into dry bedding is a recipe for disaster. You can make them more safe by purchasing one with a front guard, clamp it into place, and use a wire or chain to provide an extra securing line in case the main one gives out. Don’t skip these steps!
Tip: The chicks are too hot if they are crowded along the walls of the brooder. This may mean that you need to raise the heat source a bit to give them a little relief. The chicks are too cold if they are huddled together and as close to the heat as possible. This may mean you should lower the heat source or add more heat.
Chicks are quite active and grow rapidly, so providing them with lots of water is essential to their wellbeing.
I do not recommend using an open container for water since this allows them to make a mess by walking all in it and could even risk drowning.
Instead I suggest using a waterer such as this. It continues to fill as the chicks drink, prevents them from walking in it too much, and keeps the water a little more clean and fresh.
Tip: Our chicks seem to fill the waterer with bedding quite often, so I suggest setting the waterer on a block of wood to keep it a bit cleaner. This doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it does help! I usually change the water once a day.
Tip: Sometimes chicks just can’t seem to find the water source. You can introduce them to the waterer by gently placing their beaks in the water. This automatically shows them that water is available.
Food and a Feeder
Food is another essential to strong and healthy chicks. Feed stores often sell something called a chick starter feed that contains the nutrients that chicks need for early development.
I recommend supplying them with this type of feed for the first 8-10 weeks before transitioning to a more advanced feed designed for layers or meat chickens.
You can also purchase one of these a feeder to keep the chicks from walking all over the food and making a mess.
The feeder we purchased is like a long plastic trough with holes on the top. I must say that I’m not overly pleased with it. It is difficult to open and the chicks get so much bedding packed into it! I usually have to clean it out 2 or 3 times per day.
I think this design would be a bit nicer, easier to open and close, and cleaner. I’d like to try something similar to this next time!
Tip: Chicks love to scratch around in the bedding (looking for bugs and grubs!) and this results in some of it getting into the feed trough. I usually clean out the feeder every morning. Sometimes I can simply remove the bedding and leave the remaining food. This depends on how messy it is and how much food is left in the feeder. If it is completely full of bedding and there’s not much food left I’ll dump it all and refill it with fresh food.
Extra Items to Consider
The items listed above are the necessities for raising chicks, but there are a few other things you may find helpful to have as well:
- Roost: you can add a little roost to your brooder by using a thick wire, stick, or dole rod. Just place the roost a few inches off the ground and watch the littles jump on and off!
- Electrolytes: some people recommend adding electrolytes to the chick’s water regardless of if they seem ill, but others say only use them as needed. Electrolytes can be very beneficial to a chick who seems particularly stressed or ill. You can also add electrolytes to the water if the whole flock seems to be under-the-weather. I encourage you to do a bit of research about this and decide which option seems best for your situation.