UC News > Chickens 101: Welcoming Your Chicks Home

Chickens 101: Welcoming Your Chicks Home

Oct 06, 2020

Congratulations! Backyard chickens are now a part of your family. Your happy, healthy flock starts today. Now that your chicks are home, the main elements they need are warmth, water, and feed.

Warmth: Ensure the heat lamp or radiant heater you set up yesterday is working properly. Use a thermometer to confirm the brooder temperature is 95° F at chick level. Watch chicks closely for the first few hours to make sure the heat lamp isn’t too close or too far away. If chicks gather around the perimeter, they’re too hot. If they huddle under the heat lamp, they’re too cold.

Water: Without a mother hen to teach chicks to drink, it’s a good idea for you to show them. Dip each chick’s beak into the water that you set up yesterday. Monitor the group to confirm all chicks are drinking within the first couple of hours. 

Feed: Provide a complete feed with at least 18 percent protein to provide the necessary amino acids to support early growth. The feed should also include prebiotics and probiotics for immune health and vitamins and minerals to support bone health.

  • For organic chicks: Purina® Organic Starter-Grower
  • For layer chicks that have been vaccinated for coccidiosis: Purina® Non-medicated Start & Grow® feed
  • For layer chicks that have not been vaccinated for coccidiosis or if you are unsure whether they were vaccinated: Purina® Medicated Start & Grow® feed
  • For meat birds and mixed flocks: Purina® Flock Raiser® crumbles, Purina® Duck Feed or Purina® Meat Bird Feed.

Place multiple feeders with starter-grower feed in the brooder. During the first few days, you can also place clean egg flats, shallow pans, or simple squares of paper with feed in or on them to provide more options for the chicks to find feed. These extra feeders can be removed once the birds have learned to eat from the regular feeders (usually within a day or two).

Consistent lighting: Provide 18–22 hours of light for the first week. Reduce the day length to 12 hours of light until the birds are 10 weeks old. Add 15 minutes of light each week thereafter until a 16-hour day length is achieved. This will prepare the birds for egg-laying. Use one 25-watt bulb for every 100 square feet (10’ x 10’) of floor space.

Bird handling: Build a bond with your chicks by gently holding and petting them each day. Spending time together can imprint chicks and help them form family-friendly personalities. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling the chicks.

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