Last week, my dream came true. We got 11 little Rhode Island Red chicks! 😀 They are the sweetest little things, and the messiest too… Anyways, let’s cut to the chase–today I’m excited to share with you some tips on how to take care of your little babies.
Like all baby creatures, chicks need 4 essential things to survive and thrive. Love, food, water, and warmth. And presumably you don’t want them running all over your house (LOL 🙂 ), so you’ll need a brooder to keep them in too.
My chicks are currently living in a gigantic plastic storage tote with pine shavings in the bottom. You can also use stock tanks, kennels, or even a cardboard box (although probably not the best choice as it will get wet from the droppings; but I’m sure it would still work ok) as well. As to how big the brooder needs to be; a good rule of thumb is 1/2 sq. ft. per chick for the first 4 weeks of their life. They’ll need 3/4–1 sq. foot for the next few weeks after that, but they should probably be mostly feathered out and ready to move to the big girl coop by then.
Whatever you choose, you’ll want to throw some bedding down in the bottom–you can use shredded paper, sand, straw, or pine shavings.
I covered the top with a piece of chicken wire to keep our fluffy canine friend out…as well as unsupervised little children. A cover will also be useful if your chick’s home is shallow, as it will prevent them from jumping out.
Once you’ve got a brooder picked out, you’ll need a feeder, waterer, chick food, and chick grit (little pebbles to help them digest their food).
When you first get the chicks, you may want to wait to use the feeder for the first day and use a paper plate instead to make it a little easier for them.
Now there’s only one tangible staple remaining, and that is heat. But wait–don’t buy a heat lamp! I mean, you can certainly buy one if you want too, but there are alternative methods. Allow me to introduce you to my brother’s and my invention: Henny Penny 3.0 as I like to call it:
OK, so you’re probably wondering: “What in the world is that thing!?” Well my friends, it’s a metal coffee can filled with hot water, wrapped in a towel, with felt scraps draped over it. It’s basically a hen simulator. Every 8 hours or so, I boil some water in a tea kettle on the stove and refill the can. It stays warm all night long! And as you can see, the babies love it:
I was a bit worried my alternative heat source wouldn’t be enough…but the chicks are thriving! I am very pleasantly surprised. I also have their brooder positioned in front of a heater vent in our laundry room, so that’s probably helping too.
At night, after I refill their coffee can, I take a big piece of cardboard and divide the brooder in two so they have to stay near their heat source. If they’re left in the dark, chicks will sleep all night; so there’s no need to give them food overnight. I do like to put their waterer in with them though…just in case. I’m not sure if they actually need it or not, it just makes me feel better.
Speaking of water, I forgot to mention; when you first put your chicks into the brooder, it’s a good idea to dip their beak into the water to make them drink. This will help solidify in their mind exactly where the waterer is.
Now here’s where the love comes in…you’ll want to clean out the poop every so often (I do it about three times a day 🙂 ). This will help keep them healthy and happy. After the first couple days, you can elevate the waterer just a bit on a block of wood or something to help keep the water clean. I like to clean the feeder and waterer with a hot soapy water with a bit of vinegar in it once a week. And it doesn’t hurt to do a wash-down of the brooder every once in a while too (you can put them in a cardboard box while you’re washing).
And here’s where the really really deep love comes in. You’ll want to check their butts every once in a while to make sure they’re not clogged. I’ve heard it’s a common problem with chicks; I’ve only had it happen twice so far. If left uncared for, it can lead to death. To fix a chicken with a sticky butt, fill up a Dixie cup with lukewarm water, and gently stick the chick’s rear into it. Let it sit for a second, then take a paper towel and very gently try to wipe away the gunk. If it doesn’t come off, repeat the process until it does. Your baby will thank you! ❤ (And trust me, you’ll get used to it in no time. I really don’t find it disgusting at all anymore! 🙂 )
And that’s it folks! It really isn’t very hard; I’ve never taken care of chicks in my life before this and I’m doing just fine! I’m sure you’ll make a good mother. 😉
Happy homesteading! ❤