Here are a few guidelines to help you successfully raise day old chicks through to maturity.
Chicks must be kept warm by using a light, an ordinary desk lamp with a 60 watt bulb works just fine. Use a box that is big enough so there are warm and cool ends. Baby chicks must remain under a light until approximately 3 weeks old then you can start weaning them off the light by having it turned on during the night and off during the day. Do this for a week then you can leave the light off permanently but still keeping them indoors. At this point you can start putting your chicks outside during the day and bringing them inside at night. Your chicks can start staying outside permanently when they are about 5 weeks old. In winter you will have to keep the chicks indoors until they are about 6-8 weeks or until they are fully feathered. Chicks are susceptible to drafts so you need to make sure they have place that is warm and cosy. If you have a committed broody hen, you can introduce up to a week old chicks to her and she may do the keeping warm job for you.
Clean water must always be available for your chicks. You must keep checking the water throughout the day as chicks are very messy and always kick their bedding into the water. To help avoid this we recommend you put something under the container of water to keep it off the ground but at the same time keeping it low enough the chicks can still drink from it.
Young chicks are prone to coccidiosis which causes diarrhoea and death. It is best if you only feed your baby chickens a medicated chick starter crumble as this allows them to build immunity against coccidiosis. The chicks must stay on this until they are about 6-8 weeks old then they go onto another medicated food called chick grower crumble. Keep feeding them this grower crumble for another 6-8 weeks. When they are 16 weeks old you can feed them normal laying mash. The medicated feed you give them in the beginning provides them with all the correct amount of protein they need. The calcium level of layer feed is too high for growing babies so you need to keep the chicks separate from layers til they are about 16 weeks old and then they should be able to look after themselves with the larger chickens. DO NOT feed medicated chick food to adult birds laying eggs for human consumption.
Chicks grow very quickly but like all birds, are very susceptible to sickness. If your chicks are doing bloody poos you need to get medication for them for coccidiosis ASAP or they can pass very quickly.
If you are concerned about your baby chicks’ behaviour or health consult your veterinarian..