How to Raise Baby Chickens

Hatching and raising baby chicks, or as they are often referred to as chicks or baby chickens, can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for individuals and families alike. This is especially true if the chicks are backyard chickens, a popular choice for many budding poultry keepers. We’ve had our share of wonderful, and sometimes sad, experiences that have taught us so much about life and the responsibilities of caring for animals. Following crucial advice and ensuring the right conditions such as temperatures, proper feeding and a suitable container for their brooder, we’ve successfully nurtured our chicks into healthy pullets.

If you decide to buy chicks and start raising chickens, you’ll want to make sure that you and your family are ready for the everyday care and attention they need. Arranging a feeder and waterer for the birds and ensuring there is someone to feed and watch over your flock when you travel a lot, is very important. If your job keeps you away from home for long periods of time and your schedule is erratic, you may have to put off starting your flock until a better time comes in your life.

That being said, raising chickens has a way of grounding you in an unstable world. They bring you closer to the land, your food source, and a calmer way of life. Watching chickens can lower your stress levels, and many people find that feeding, interacting with, and caring for these backyard chickens eases loneliness.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps of raising healthy and happy baby chicks, male or female, starting from using pine shavings in their brooder to guidance in choosing the best waterer and feeder for their needs.

Researching and Choosing Chickens

Chicken studying in office

Selecting Suitable Breeds

Before diving into chick rearing, it’s crucial to research and choose chicken breeds that align with your goals. Whether you’re looking to keep more baby chickens or aiming for hardy pullets, consider factors such as temperament, egg-laying capabilities, and adaptability to your local climate. Also, are you raising chickens for eggs or for their meat? The answer will help determine what breed of chick you purchase.

Here are a few examples of well-known chicken breeds, their temperaments, and egg-laying abilities. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but most of these breeds will be available from local and national breeders.

baby chicks in bin to purchase

Rhode Island Red (RIR):

  • Temperament: Rhode Island Reds are known for their friendly and docile nature. They tend to be easy to handle, making them suitable for families or beginners in poultry keeping.
  • Egg-laying: Recognized for their exceptional egg-laying capabilities, Rhode Island Reds consistently produce brown eggs. If a primary goal is a steady supply of eggs, RIR is a reliable choice.


  • Temperament: Leghorns are generally more independent and active. They may be less inclined to interact closely with humans but are highly efficient foragers, which can be beneficial for free-range setups.
  • Egg-laying: Leghorns excel in egg production, laying large white eggs. If high egg yield is a priority and the chickens will have ample space to forage, Leghorns are a suitable option.


  • Temperament: Orpingtons are known for their calm and gentle demeanor, making them excellent choices for those seeking friendly and easy-to-handle chickens.
  • Egg-laying: While not as prolific as some other breeds, Orpingtons lay brown eggs and are valued for their consistent, steady production. They are a good choice for a balanced combination of eggs and temperament.


  • Temperament: Sussex chickens are known for their friendly and sociable nature. They often get along well with other flock members, making them suitable for mixed flocks.
  • Egg-laying: Sussex hens are reliable layers of large brown eggs. They are a good choice for those seeking a balance between social interaction and egg production.


  • Temperament: Ameraucanas are known for their calm and docile behavior. They are often friendly, making them suitable for families or individuals looking for personable chickens.
  • Egg-laying: Ameraucanas are famous for their colorful eggs, ranging from blue to green. While they may not lay as frequently as some other breeds, their unique egg colors add an appealing aspect to the flock.

Consider your specific preferences and goals when selecting breeds, taking into account factors like the size of your backyard, desired egg production, and the level of interaction you want with your chickens. This careful consideration during the selection process will contribute to a more successful and enjoyable experience in raising baby chicks.

Choosing the Right Brooder

boy and chicken brooder with chicks

When selecting a brooder for your baby chicks, several practical considerations can make a significant difference in their well-being.  Invest in a brooder that is built to last. Consider the long-term use and durability of the materials, as a well-constructed brooder can be reused for future batches of chicks or even for other small animals. Here are some specifics and guidelines you should follow.

Material and Durability:

Opt for a brooder that provides at least 1/2 square foot of space per chick. This ensures they have enough room to move around comfortably. Adequate ventilation is crucial to maintain fresh air and regulate temperature. Look for brooders with adjustable vents or windows that can be opened or closed as needed.

Heat Source:

Consider brooders made of durable materials such as plastic or wood–although we’ve used a cardboard box in a pinch. It worked fine for the first two weeks, but then the chicks outgrew it, and we had to find something bigger. Ensure that the materials are easy to clean and sanitize. A plastic brooder, for instance, can be wiped down, preventing the buildup of bacteria and ensuring a hygienic environment for the chicks.

Accessibility for Cleaning:

Choose a brooder that accommodates a reliable heat source, such as a heat lamp or heating pad. Ensure that the heat source is adjustable, allowing you to regulate the temperature based on the chicks’ age. Some brooders come with integrated heat sources, providing a convenient and efficient setup.

Security Features:

Look for brooders with features that facilitate easy cleaning. A brooder with removable panels or trays can simplify the cleaning process. This is particularly important as keeping the brooder clean is essential for the chicks’ health and well-being.

Adjustable Height:

Prioritize safety by selecting a brooder with secure latches and closures. This prevents accidental escapes and protects the chicks from predators or household pets. A well-designed brooder should have features that keep the chicks contained while allowing easy access for feeding, cleaning, and handling.


Consider a brooder with an adjustable height feature for your heat source. This allows you to raise the heat source as the chicks grow, maintaining an appropriate temperature. Adjustable height ensures that the chicks always have the right amount of warmth without the risk of overheating.

Durability for Long-Term Use:

If you plan to move the chicks to different locations or if portability is essential, choose a brooder with sturdy handles or wheels. This makes it easier to transport the brooder without causing unnecessary stress to the chicks.

By carefully considering these factors and selecting a brooder that meets these criteria, you’ll create a secure, clean, and comfortable environment for your baby chicks, setting the stage for a successful and healthy upbringing.

Providing Adequate Heat and Lighting

Chicks next to light bulbs

Maintaining the right temperature and ensuring proper lighting in the brooder are crucial factors for the well-being and development of baby chicks. Here are specific details and examples to guide you in this important aspect of raising chicks:

Temperature Requirements:

Baby chicks have specific temperature requirements during the brooding period. In the first week, maintain a brooder temperature of around 95°F (35°C). Gradually decrease the temperature by 5°F (2.8°C) each week until the chicks are fully feathered, usually by the age of 5 to 6 weeks. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor and adjust the temperature as needed to meet these requirements.


Use a reliable thermometer to monitor and regulate the temperature within the brooder accurately. This tool helps maintain optimal conditions for the chicks, ensuring they are neither too cold nor too hot during their crucial early weeks. Regular temperature monitoring is especially essential in an incubator, where eggs need precise heat settings.

Monitoring and Adjusting:

Heat lamps are commonly used to provide the necessary warmth in the brooder. Choose a heat lamp with adjustable height to regulate the distance between the lamp and the chicks. This allows you to fine-tune the temperature and ensure the chicks are neither too hot nor too cold. Securely fasten the heat lamp to prevent accidents and ensure a consistent heat source.

Alternatively, heating pads designed for poultry use can be placed under a portion of the brooder floor. This mimics the warmth of a mother hen and allows chicks to self-regulate their temperature by moving closer or farther away. Make sure the heating pad covers an appropriate area of the brooder floor and monitor the chicks’ behavior to ensure they are comfortable.

Regularly monitor the temperature in the brooder to ensure it aligns with the chicks’ developmental stage. Observe chick behavior – if they huddle together, they might be too cold, while if they stay away from the heat source, they might be too hot. Adjust the heat source accordingly to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Selecting Bedding Material

Selecting the appropriate bedding material, like pine shavings will help create a comfortable and hygienic environment for baby chicks in the brooder.

Opt for straw or wood shavings as suitable options, as they provide a soft and insulating surface for the chicks to rest on. Straw, known for its affordability and natural insulation properties, offers a comfortable bedding choice.

Both materials aid in absorbing moisture, ensuring the chicks, with their delicate feathers, are in a cozy and sanitary living area during their early developmental stages – especially during unpredictable weather.


Adequate lighting is essential for chicks’ health and development. Use a reliable source of natural or artificial light to provide a consistent day-night cycle. During the first week, maintain 24 hours of light to encourage feeding and drinking. Afterward, gradually reduce the lighting duration to 16 hours per day until the chicks are ready to transition to the coop.

Natural light from windows can be supplemented with artificial lighting. LED bulbs designed for poultry use are energy-efficient and provide the necessary spectrum for optimal growth. Position the lights evenly to avoid dark corners and ensure uniform illumination. This helps prevent stress and promotes healthy chick behavior.

Feed and Water Containers

Invest in appropriate containers designed for chicks. You can find the necessary equipment such as feeders and waterers at specialized farm supply stores. Ensure they are appropriately sized and easy to clean. Shallow and spill-resistant dishes can be particularly useful, preventing unnecessary mess and providing easy access to clean water and feed.

Chick Starter Feed

Acquire high-quality chick starter feed that is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of growing chicks. Look for a feed that contains essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals, promoting healthy development. Providing a balanced and nutritious diet from the start is crucial for the chicks’ overall well-being. This can be easily purchased at any farm supply stores.

Socialize with Your Chickens

Spend time gently handling the chicks soon after they hatch to acclimate them to human touch, thereby ensuring that their beaks don’t peck too hard due to fear. Start with short sessions, gradually increasing the duration as the chicks become more comfortable. This hands-on interaction not only encourages friendliness but also helps the chicks associate positive experiences with human presence.

Farm girl talking with chicken

To ensure a positive socialization experience:

Gentle Approach: Approach the chicks calmly and avoid sudden movements. Use slow and gentle motions to pick them up, making them feel secure in your hands.

Frequent Interactions: Regularly interact with the chicks throughout the day. Pick them up, talk to them soothingly, and allow them to explore your hands. This consistent positive reinforcement builds trust and familiarity.

Treats and Rewards: Use treats as positive reinforcement during handling sessions as they grow. Offer small, chick-friendly treats like mealworms or finely chopped greens. This not only helps create a positive association between handling and rewards, but it also gives insights on their favorite treats, which you can store for future purposes.

Supervised Playtime: Provide supervised playtime outside the brooder in a safe and secure area. Allowing the chicks to explore and interact with their surroundings under your watchful eye enhances their environmental awareness and promotes socialization.

Socializing with your chicks not only contributes to their well-being but also facilitates easier care and management as they mature. Chicks that are accustomed to human interaction are generally calmer, less stressed, and more cooperative, making the overall experience of raising chickens more enjoyable for both you and your feathered friends.

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