Tips for bringing baby chicks home

Bringing home new baby chicks is exciting, so make sure you’re properly prepared for their arrival.

Chicks require a warm brood, fresh water and starter feed. Image courtesy of MSU Extension.
Chicks require a warm brood, fresh water and starter feed. Image courtesy of MSU Extension.

For many of us, spring signals a time of rebirth and new adventures. Many people will be adding to their homesteads by purchasing baby chicks from their local farm store or another source. Chicks are delicate creatures and require some tender, loving care during the first few weeks of life. Here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to help you be prepared to provide the best start you can to your new additions.

Bringing your chicks home:

  • Have a brooder, a first home, for your baby chicks that is warm, draft-free and has about 0.5 to 1 square foot of space per chick.
  • Prepare your brooder with 3-4 inches of bedding that is absorbent- and odor-free. Tip: Pinewood shavings or chopped straw work best.
  • Use a heat lamp to keep temperatures between 92-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep heat lamps securely fastened to prevent them from falling and lighting the bedding on fire. Observe how close the chicks are to the lamp. It may be too cold if the chicks are huddled together under the heat lamp, or it may be too warm if they are as far away from the lamp as possible.  

Caring for your chicks:

  • Clean, fresh water should be provided daily away from the heat lamp. Clean out the waterer to remove bedding or manure that the chicks might get in the water. Tip: Use a shallow waterer.
  • Provide fresh chick starter feed that protects against coccidiosis near the water.
  • Decrease the temperature 5 F each week until it reaches a minimum of 55 F.
  • Change and refresh your chicks’ bedding daily. Tip: Dedicate one pair of shoes for this task.
  • Remind visitors that your chicks are VERY fragile!
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling chicks to protect yourself from contacting Salmonella.

Remember to observe your chicks and their environment daily, if not several times per day, to make sure they are healthy, comfortable and have adequate feed and water.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science Programs, please visit the Michigan 4-H Animal Science page.

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