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So you did it. You gave in to that sweet chirping sound of baby chicks at the feed store, or you got to drooling over those beautiful colorful eggs on Instagram and somehow you ended up ordering chicks, or you decided to start hatching your own eggs (see my guide here). I’ve been there, friend…oh, have I been there.
So, to help you out, I’ve compiled a simple list of supplies you need to have ready before you bring your babies home! You can skip to the bottom for a bulleted list. You should be able to find all of these items at your local farm store, but if you’d rather shop online I’ve included links for you!
The Chick ‘Brooder’
A Rubbermade-type tote or small stock tank makes a great brooder for your baby chicks. I prefer a tote that is clear so that the babies can see you coming and aren’t spooked every time you look in on them (The lid can go in storage for a while, you just need the base). I also like the clear totes so that they get used to seeing you moving around, and get used to being in the same area as us.
You want something that has high enough walls that they won’t fly out easily (although you always get that one who likes to escape!). For those rebels, I’ve found that an old window screen works great over the top to keep those adventuresome baby chicks in.
Your tote needs to be big enough to fit the heating pad while still keeping it away from the water.
The baby chicks get an ‘upgrade’ as they grow. It’s better to start out with a smaller brooder and then give them more room as they grow. They get so excited when they get moved to a larger tote and love running around like little crazies.
Bedding for your chicks
Sometime in February, I start saving our newspapers for my brooder. I lay down a couple sheets of newspaper and then a few good handfuls of course shavings. When your baby chicks are really tiny (depending on how many you have), you can change the bedding every other day. As they grow, you’ll need to change it more often. Don’t worry, your nose will tell you when it’s time to freshen up the bedding! I change it every day, otherwise you’ll start to feel like you live in a chicken coop.
When they are little, I keep a small cardboard box handy. I transfer the chicks to the box while I change their bedding and clean their feeder/waterer. When they get bigger, I just roll up the newspaper and lay new paper/shavings down while they’re in there.
Keep Them Warm
Growing up, whenever we brought new chicks home we never used a heat lamp in our brooder. My Mom would fill up a quart jar full of hot water and let the babies snuggle up next to that. We’d refill it whenever it cooled down. They loved it, but looking back I do think having inconsistent heat caused us to occasionally lose some babies.
Heat lamps in chicken coop and in your house are a big fire hazard, so if you choose to use them proceed with caution! With little kiddos I wanted to play it as safe as possible. So the last two years I have used this heating pad specifically made for chicks. Last year I used it in addition to a heat lamp. This year I knew my daughter would be more involved with the chicks, so I decided that I’d go with just the heating pad.
One of my friends bought this adjustable heat plate and loved it. The chicks snuggle underneath like it’s their momma, and they can’t hop on top and make a mess! I altered mine a little and raised it up on wood blocks. The chicks loved it and were able to sit on top or crawl underneath.
At about 2 weeks old I stopped raising it up and just let them sit on top of it. They don’t mess as much where they sleep, but when I had it raised up I had to clean off the top occasionally because they’d sleep underneath. Chicks aren’t very tidy housekeepers.
The chicks are so much more content with a heating pad than with a heat lamp. When using a heat lamp, it has to be on all the time and thus disrupts their circadian rhythm (that’s my theory). The heat pad made for much happier (and less noisy) chicks!
Feed the babies
Your baby chicks should always have food in front of them. It’s not so hard when they are new little babies, but as they grow they eat A LOT. There are different kinds of feeders for chicks. Some of my favorites are this feeder for little babies that you can add a mason jar to, or these kind that have a spinning rail on top so the chicks can’t sit on it and get their food all messy.
Your local feed store will have different varieties of chick starter (feed for chicks). I always go with the non-medicated and as natural as I they have available. Azure Standard have two great brands of organic chicken feed called Scratch & Peck(which I have used and love!) and Modesto Milling. They carry a chick starter in both brands. (Azure Standard is a co-op that delivers to drop-off points nationwide, find your closest drop-off here.)
Keep them hydrated
Those little baby chicks drink more water than you’d think. They also like to get their water tray nice and full of shavings. It is so cute to watch them scratch around like big chickens, but they get everything so messy!
Here is that list I promised:
- Rubbermade-type tote
- Heating pad or Heat plate
- Round feeder or Spinning rail feeder
- Organic Chick Starter
- Chick Waterer
Hopefully you find this helpful finding the supplies you need for your baby chicks! If you need chicken coI p inspiration you should check out my farmhouse chicken coop post here!