Baby Chick Primer

Baby Chicks

If you have thought about having some chickens in your backyard or keeping the baby chicks that you give to your little one for Easter, then this article will help you prepare for your new adventure.


David Proctor

 Urban Farmer/Rancher

Preparing For Baby Chicks

by David Proctor

March 16, 2023

Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine    Published Weekly 

After deciding on a breed and who you are going to buy your chicks from, you will need to set up a brooder for your baby chick’s arrival. 

A brooder can be nothing more than a box with a cover over the top or you can get intricate with your chick’s new home.  

I think it is best to keep it simple and inexpensive.

Now that you have your box ready the main thing that the chicks will need is adequate heat, water, food source, and space as they grow.

Baby Chick

You will want to be able to keep the chicks at a 95-degree temperature at about 2” off the floor of the brooder. 

Be sure to have a heat lamp or heat source that is securely hung above the chicks. 

Do not use a heating pad because they cannot get away from the heat source. 

If the chicks stay huddled together, they are too cold. 

If they are all pressed up against the walls of the brooder, they are too hot. 

If they are spread out then the temperature is just right. 

Try to drop the temperature by about five degrees per week till you reach ambient temperature. 

This is so the chicks will start to develop feathering and can warm themselves.

Use a red bulb in your heat lamp, so they do not have to look at an intense bright light and this will help keep them from picking feathers out. 

Remember, heat lamps are made to produce heat, be sure to have them secured so the chicks are comfortable and no fires are started from the heat source being too close to the bedding.

Use an 85-watt heat lamp for warmer areas, in colder areas you may need to use a 125 or 250-watt heat lamp bulb. 

There are heaters made specifically for this purpose you may want to invest in.

The next thing that you will need to plan for is adequate space.  

A box that is big enough to keep the chicks warm but also gives them room to move around will make for healthier living quarters. 

The chicks will grow quickly so be prepared to move them into a larger living area as they mature.

A rule of thumb is half a square foot of space per chick for the first two weeks of growth. 

Yellow Baby Chick

You may want to use a plastic tote that is large enough to accommodate your chicks and then move them to a larger plastic tote as they grow. 

Eventually, you will want to build a chicken coop.  

You can get an idea for a design from my Volume 1 Issue 9 Backyard Chicken Primer.

One of the most important things to provide is a supply of food and water.  

You can start your chicks on a commercial chick starter or just make your own chick food from cooked eggs and food scraps. 

It is very important to have a clean water source for the chicks.  

You may need to change it several times a day to keep it clean. 

Place small stones or marbles in the watering dish or even place rubber bands around it so they are able to stand on top and get to the water but not fall in.

Next is to be sure they have clean bedding so they do not get health problems from ammonia that is given off from the manure.

Baby Chicks

Pine shavings can be used along with newspapers so the bedding can be kept clean. 

Clean bedding, clean water, warm safe surroundings, and plenty of space will allow your chicks to grow and avoid problems with diseases and ailments that occur when conditions are not as they should be for your baby chicks.

Never use cedar shavings since cedar gives off oils that can be toxic to chickens.

Take time to just sit and watch them scratch, peck, and eat.

Try interacting with the chicks, slowly.  

You will find that at first, they may try to get away from you but after they know you, they will almost expect you to pick them up and hold them.  

Check It Out!

The Baby Chickens Are Here 5:05

Quick Tip

  • Many sources say that you can’t keep a flock of mixed ages. We never had a problem with older chickens picking on younger ones or vice versa. Our hens raised their chicks happily in the flock. Most picking is the result of overcrowding. Give your chickens lots of space.
  • Young chicks need to be close to water and food at all times. Spread a 4-inch layer of pine shavings on the floor, then lay several layers of newspaper over that. Scatter lots of chick feed on the paper and also have feeding troughs filled in the pen. Remove a layer of paper every day, and by the time the last layer is gone, the chicks will have found the feeding trough.
  • Always use red bulbs; injury doesn’t show under red light. Under white light, any bloody spot immediately attracts pecking. Chicks will cheerfully and efficiently peck each other to death.
  • Block corners of the pen with cardboard to make wider angles that are harder for chicks to pack up in. (You could also make a circular pen.) This prevents suffocation.
  • Ensure that waterers are shallow and cleaned daily to avoid having chicks drown. My hatchery recommends one gallon-size waterer for every hundred chicks. I always had two or three, even for fewer chicks, so that they wouldn’t crowd.
    • With pullets, I used one waterer for every six to eight chickens and a feed trough long enough to accommodate all of them at once.


The Backyard Chicken Bible: The Complete Guide to Raising Chickens: Eric Lofgren: 0035313662287: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2023

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