The thought of raising baby chickens from scratch may sound very daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Gathering the knowledge and information you need to raise them successfully will help you infinitely, and being well informed will make this task look so much easier.
To help you along, I have created this guide that will show you how to raise your baby chickens for the first 60 days of their lives. These first 60 days are undoubtedly the most important to set up your chickens for long, healthy lives.
Baby Chickens Day 0 To14
Congratulations, you just got new baby chickens, but now what? The first thing you will have to do is make sure the brooder is preheated and then you wait.
Your newborn baby chickens will spend their first 24 to 48 hours post-hatch, in the incubator drying and resting. Make sure that the brooder is ready for them before moving them. Your chicks will stay in the brooder until they are strong enough to face the world without needing a heat lamp.
During the first two weeks of your baby chicken’s life, they will be fragile and unaware of how to do anything. They will have to depend on you completely. You will have to teach them how to eat and drink.
You can teach them by gently pushing their beaks just a little into the water and food. If you have particularly clever chicks, they will catch on quickly and teach the others without your help. It might take a little while so be patient and know persistence is key.
During the first two weeks, your chicks are learning how to move around and use their muscles. It is advised to cover the floor of the brooder with paper towels to prevent slipping. There will still be a few slips and spills, but they will learn quickly how to use their legs and get stronger.
If you want chickens that are easy to catch and handle or even love cuddles, then do exactly that with your new baby chicks. It is best, however, to leave them be in the first 7 days because they are so fragile at this stage, but after that, you can pick them up and pet them for small amounts of time.
They will become accustomed to being handled and won’t get stressed out or fret when being picked up as adults. Before you know it, your little ones will be running to you for some snuggles as soon as you appear.
Baby Chickens Day 14 To 28
It’s been two weeks now since hatching and you’ll be amazed at how much they have grown. They will be double the size they were at birth, if not more. The two weeks to come is kind of like an awkward teenage growing stage.
Their feathers will be a little patchy where adult feathers are growing in. They aren’t babies anymore, but not yet adults either. They will be growing taller and won’t be as fluffy anymore. They definitely remain cute though.
By now their legs are strong enough to walk on shredded paper instead of sheets of paper towel, so you can replace the bedding in the brooder. You can also start giving them short periods outside of the brooder, but do remember that they do still need the comforts of the heat lamp.
Don’t be surprised if they freeze in fear the first time you let them out. The world can be quite scary out there. Also, remember to keep handling them so they don’t forget how great human cuddles are.
At this stage, the chicks should be feeding and drinking as they please without any encouragement from you. Just make sure that there is starter chick feed available and that they always have access to clean water.
Baby Chickens Day 28 To 42
By now your chicks have grown so much that you will barely recognise them. By week six, they will have a full body of feathers and look like the mini version of an adult chicken.
They do still have a bit of growing to do to get there, however. You will also notice that there isn’t much space to move around in the brooder anymore so it might be time to move onto the next phase.
By week six your chicks are ready to move into their first chicken coop. If the temperatures are fairly average with no extremes, then they will be able to last in the natural elements without a heat lamp.
It is always best to get the coop before your baby chickens need it. If there are any delays in getting the coop otherwise, your chicks may start to stress because of being too cramped in the brooder and may even die. The size of the coop will depend on the size and amount of chickens you have.
Baby Chickens Day 42 To 60
Your chicks have now reached the stage where they are considered to be young adults. The young hens are now referred to as ‘Pullets’ by some. In only a few weeks, your ‘baby chickens’ will be ready to lay their own eggs.
How long do chickens live?
The average lifespan of a chicken is 5 to 10 years. Some can live longer or shorter lives depending on breed, lifestyle and health. The oldest chicken ever recorded was named Matilda. She passed at the ripe age of 16!
If you want your chickens to live the longest lives possible, pay attention to their nutrition, housing and lifestyle. Breed will also have an influence as well as diseases.
What age should chickens be when you buy them?
The answer to this question relies completely on what experience you’re looking to gain. You can buy fertilised eggs and hatch them yourself, or you can buy day-old chicks or even fully grown hens. The choice is yours.