Resource Library for Chicken Keepers

πŸ™‚ by TBN Ranch

Baby Chicks

The First 7 Weeks
Preparing for, and managing baby chicks.
Everything you need to know, step by step.

πŸ™‚ How to Buy Chicks from a Feed Store
πŸ™‚ Brooder to Coop, When?
πŸ™‚ How to Care for your Mail Order Chicks
Solutions for Spraddle Leg
Chapter 4: Caring for baby chicks
πŸ™‚ Introducing Hatch-a-longs to the flock

πŸ™‚ Fecal Impaction / AKA Pasting-Up

Young chicks commonly suffer from fecal impaction, and if left untreated they will die. The warning signs are listlessness, stumbling, and sometimes a swollen abdomen. Most likely your ailing chick has a dirty bum with caked on fecal matter hindering the ability to poop. What to Do

πŸ™‚ Managing the Brooder Temperature

The brooder is where your chicks will live until they are fully feathered. This article will help you keep them comfortable by understanding their behavior while using a traditional heat lamp or today’s radiant heat alternative.

πŸ™‚ About the Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder
πŸ™‚ Choosing a Radiant Heat Chick Brooder
πŸ™‚ Traditional Heat Lamps, and the Radiant Heat Alternative

Charts, Diagrams, Learning

Chicken Anatomy, External, Internal, and Skeletal
Chicken Anatomy, Full Color
Chicken Egg Color Chart
Chicken Feather Variations & Markings
Development of a Chick
Checklist for Chicken Coop
πŸ™‚ Interesting Facts About Combs & Wattles + Distinctive Types
πŸ™‚ The Chickens’ Senses

Managing the Flock

πŸ™‚ Backyard Chickens, Know What you’re Getting into
πŸ™‚ Can Chickens Fly?
πŸ™‚ Chicken TERMINOLOGY
πŸ™‚ Intervention and Management of Problematic Pecking
πŸ™‚ How Long Does a Chicken Live?
πŸ™‚ How Much Space Chickens Need
πŸ™‚ All About Molting
πŸ™‚ Introducing New Chickens
πŸ™‚ Pecking Order
πŸ™‚ The Chicken’s Senses
πŸ™‚ The Deep Litter Method in the Coop Explained

πŸ™‚ Understanding the Pecking Order

It is often the stronger or larger birds that rank highest in the social order. This article will help you learn how to minimize the drama when the bullying becomes excessive.

πŸ™‚ Getting Chickens to Roost in the Right Place
5 Different Types of Coop Heaters
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Rooster
How to Humanely Euthanize a Chicken
πŸ™‚ The Best Way to Catch a Chicken
πŸ™‚ Raising Chickens, Pros & Cons

Informative Articles for Chicken Keepers

A collection of articles from across the web by
content contributors who share their experience and expertise.

πŸ™‚ The Role of a Rooster

The primary role of a rooster in a flock of chickens is to fertilize the eggs laid by the hens. Aside from fertilizing eggs, roosters also play a protective role in the flock. They are naturally aggressive and territorial animals that will defend their hens from predators… Continue Reading

Seasonal Chicken Keeping

πŸ™‚ Keeping Chickens in Extreme Heat

 Is your chicken yard and coop suitable to sustain the well-being of your flock in the summer? It’s essential to prepare for extreme heat, or your birds may suffer from heat exhaustion… Read More

Top 10 Tips for Keeping Chickens in Winter
Winterizing the Chicken House
πŸ™‚ Keeping Chickens Cool πŸ™‚ MORE
πŸ™‚ Keeping Chickens in Winter
More: Chicken Keeping in Winter
Guide to Chicken Keeping in Extreme Cold
πŸ™‚ Winter Chicken Keeping in Phoenix

Broodies & Incubation

πŸ™‚ Keeping Hens with Eggs or Chicks safe Among the Flock
πŸ™‚ BREAKING THE BROODY HEN
Broody Hens vs Incubators Pros & Cons
How to Incubate & Hatch Eggs
My Pet Chicken Guide to Incubation & Hatching
Caring for Broody Hens
How to Choose the Perfect Incubator
Beginner’s Guide to Incubation
πŸ™‚ Why a Hen Leaves the Nest After Laying an Egg
When is it Safe to Open the Incubator?
Solving Incubation Issues When Hatching Eggs

Chicken Coops, Drinkers, Feeders, & More

πŸ™‚ Over 500 Coops to Ponder Over

Which coop is right for you and your flock? Traditional, unique, DYI, or maybe you’re looking for an elaborate set-up? View Now

πŸ™‚ Drinkers/Waterers

So many to choose from, but which one best fits your flock’s needs? Auto-fill, nipple, standard fill, or DIY, view them all in one convenient place HERE.

πŸ™‚ Less Waste, No Mess Chicken Feeders
πŸ™‚ Coop Building Plans
πŸ™‚ Less Waste, No Mess Chicken Feeders
Ultimate Chicken Coop Guide
Chicken Coop Ramps, The Ultimate Guide

πŸ™‚ Nest Box & Bedding Gallery
More than 100 to View!

Nesting boxes are essential and extremely useful for chickens and their keepers. A clean, private and peaceful space encourages hens to lay eggs all in one place. Without nest boxes, hens will lay their eggs in random places, which is inconvenient for keepers. Here are many ideas to help you find the right nest boxes for your flock. View Now

πŸ™‚ Creative Roost Ideas

There are so many different types of roosts, which one is best for your coop?  Your birds need something suitable to roost on at night, it can be an old ladder, or maybe something you design from scrap lumber. Or… you can be creative and come up with something totally unique.  Here are over 50 types to inspire you. View Now

Feeding & Nutrition

πŸ™‚ Feeding Chickens Rolled Oats
πŸ™‚ Feeding Hemp Seed
Fresh Food List for Chickens
πŸ™‚ Toxic Food List for Chickens
Feeding & Watering Chickens
Feeding Chickens at Different Ages
How Do Chickens Digest Food?
Natural Supplements for Chickens
Gardening with Chickens, Plants to Avoid
πŸ™‚Understanding Chick Starter & Grower Feed
πŸ™‚ About Grit and Chicks & Chickens
πŸ™‚ Five Healthy Supplements for Your Chickens
Chicken Feeding Chart

Predators!

Six Common Predators and the Clues Left Behind After an Attack.
Coyote, Fox, Racoon, Opossum, Hawk, and Owl.

πŸ™‚ Common Predators to Chickens in Phoenix, AZ
How to Keep your Chickens Safe from Possums
πŸ™‚ Keeping Chickens Safe From Fox

Choosing a Breed

Building a flock? There are many beautiful chicken breeds to choose from, each having something special to offer. The breeds we chose in this article are primarily birds we are familiar with.
Details are specifically about temperament, egg size, egg color, egg production, primary use, and weight.

πŸ™‚ All About Heritage Chickens

Ancestry

Chickens, History and Ancestry
A History of Chickens: Then (1900) Vs Now (2016)

Managing Eggs

πŸ™‚ When to Expect the First Egg

If you buy your birds as chicks, you can expect to feed and care for them for 22 to 24 weeks before they reach their point of lay. However, this depends on the breed, time of year, and the level of care they have received. Learn in detail how to determine the point of lay HERE.

πŸ™‚ Brittle Eggs
πŸ™‚ Cleaning Farm Eggs
Incubate & Hatch Eggs
πŸ™‚ Why Homegrown Eggs Are Better
πŸ™‚ Why Your Hens Aren’t Laying Eggs, Solution
πŸ™‚ How Light Effects Egg Production
πŸ™‚ Shelf Eggs Come Up a Little Short on Nutritional Value

Mail-Order Chicks, Hatcheries & Supplies

πŸ™‚ Hatcheries & Retailers

A list of our favorite hatcheries & retailers. We have purchased chicks from all these hatcheries and have always been satisfied. Online retailers are also included, especially useful for those hard to find items.

Health & Wellness

πŸ™‚ About Worming Chickens
πŸ™‚ Dosages of the Good Stuff… For Chicken with Parasites
πŸ™‚ Backyard Biosecurity
πŸ™‚ Loss of Baby Chicks
πŸ™‚ Salmonella
How to Treat Bumblefoot
Diseases: 5 Common Flock Problems & How to Treat Them
πŸ™‚ Salmonella Safety Practices for Chicken Keepers
All About Marek’s Disease

How-To

Sexing Chicks
How To Clip & Trim The Wings Of Your Chicken To Prevent Flight
πŸ™‚ Clipping Chicken Nails

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Raising Baby Chicks the First Seven Weeks

Research, Plan, and Prepare, Everything you Need to Know


Raising chicks can be easy if you just do your homework before you buy. Knowing when to plan for your chick’s arrival is also something to take into consideration. Of course it makes good sense to have your coop set up and supplies ahead of time. But it would also be helpful to be informed of what’s new in today’s chicken keeping market. For example, the use of radiant heat instead of heat lamps, or all the new ideas for drinkers and feeders that are designed to save you time and money.

Before you bring home chicks you’ll need a brooder to raise them in for the next 5-7 weeks. Need help choosing the best type? No problem, here are a ton of ideas, Brooder Box Ideas.  While your chicks are in the brooder, you’ll have plenty of time to get their coop ready. Whether a DIY project or not, every coop size and style imaginal can be found HERE.

Research, have a plan, be prepared, and know what to expect, these four things will help ease your commitment so there’s more time to enjoy your birds.
It’ll be helpful to have some understanding of Basic Chicken Terminology, this reference article will help you through the maze of chicken lingo. Spring is on the way, so let’s get get started!

Caring for Chicks

The enclosure that will house your chicks for the next 5-7 weeks is called a brooder. It can be anything from a cardboard box to something more extravagant as shown in the pics below. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it definitely needs to be convenient for you to manage, and be comfortable for your chicks. See more brooder pics.

The First Two Weeks

If you are raising bantams, day-old, or mail-order chicks who may be weak from their long journey, line the brooder box with paper towels for the first week. Use a drinker & feeder designed specifically for chicks and place it directly on the paper towels. Your chick’s feed is readily available at all feed stores, ask for chick starter. The bag will say chick starter, or chick starter/grower, they’re one and the same. You have one other feed detail to decide upon, medicated or non-medicated. Personally, if my chicks are mail order, I feed medicated for the first week, if bought from a feed store, I feed non-medicated.

Sometimes, baby chicks act lethargic or weak from either a long trip or other stressful conditions. In this case, you may want to give them a little electrolyte boost for two or three days. Simply add Sav-a-chick electrolytes and vitamin supplement to their water source. It’s available anywhere chicks are sold, also on Amazon.

Sav-a-chick electrolytes

If you bought your chicks from a feed store, they’re probably a few days to a week old, and most likely accustomed to pine shavings for their bedding. It’s okay to continue using pine shavings at this point. This will help keep the brooder smelling fresh, changing it every day is good practice.

Pine Shavings
Pine Shavings

Your chicks will need enough space to move freely, and after the second week will need the box covered with chicken wire.
One-half of the brooder shouldn’t have a heat source at all. The other, preferably radiant heat which will be further explained later in this article.
Watch for poopy or pasty butts! This is a common problem usually bought on by stress, or uncomfortable living conditions during the first two weeks. Using a wet paper towel, or baby wipes, clean those fuzzy butts because this condition hinders fecal elimination… which is often fatal.
As your chicks become more active, keeping the food & drink sources clean is challenging, so here are a few tips. Raise the drinker to the height of the smallest chick’s back, this will minimize the litter from landing in their water. Use bricks, 2×4 pieces, flower pot saucers, or even a bowl upside down will do the trick.
Tip: Set their feeder in something that will catch the feed they scratch out, this will substantially minimize feed waste. Be creative, use a flower pot saucer, a pie tin, etc.

Temperature Control in the Brooder, Radiant Heat vs Heat Lamps

Radiant Heat

Keeping the temperature right can be a chore, especially if you depend on a heat lamp. You’ll spend a good deal of time raising and lowering it during the day as temperatures change, which is exactly why I rarely use them.  I never raise chicks indoors, they’re always kept in a shed or garage during a time when overnight temperatures seldom drop below 55-60. Heat lamps have their place, but I only use them if a cold spell occurs before my chicks reach a month old.  My primary heat source is radiant heat. It doesn’t heat the brooder, it only provides warmth when the chicks settle underneath it.

Your chicks will be happiest if they can actually touch the surface, so keep the unit nice and low, you can easily raise it as they grow. Radiant heat is certainly more natural, chicks have been settling under their mothers in cool climates to keep warm since somewhere around 6000 BC!

Radiant heat is a sufficient heat source for chicks if the ambient temperature is at least 55 degrees. Again, this is why seasonal planning for your chick’s arrival is important.
Keep a thermometer inside the box to monitor the temperature, but watching the chick’s behavior is the best indication of their comfort. Rule of thumb: If they’re huddled together, they’re cold. If some are eating or drinking, others sleeping, and the rest under radiant heat, you have happy chicks. There’s no worry about your chicks finding the radiant heat, place them under it when you bring them home and they will return to their comfort zone all on their own.

Note: Important Fact about Radiant Heat: The thermometer in the brooder should read at least 55 degrees. You won’t feel the heat when placing your hand under the radiant heat unit unless you touch the plate. Remember, radiant heat doesn’t heat the brooder at all, only the chicks when they are under it… so try not to stress over what seems cold to you.

What if There’s a Cold Spell?

If it’s necessary to use a heat lamp on a chilly night, avoid placing it directly over the chicks when radiant heat is available to them.  A heat lamp near the coop to keep the ambient temp around 55 degrees works well.
Note: Heat lamps for chicks in feed stores are almost always only available in 250 watts. That is a lot of heat! You already have a heat source, so there’s no need to blast them with 250-watt heat lamp. There’s an easy fix to that, 50, 75, and 100-watt heat bulbs are easily found on Amazon, choose a wattage that will keep the ambient temp at or around 55 degrees. You can often find lower-wattage heat bulbs at pet stores in reptile supplies.

Always use a red bulb, the light from the clear bulb is too bright and the chicks may become agitated, which inevitably leads to the unwanted problem of chicks pecking each other.

Keeping Chicks Indoors?

There is no need for a heat lamp at all if you use radiant heat. They will be much happier with natural lighting and far less likely to have pasty butts, which often is the culprit of chick fatality. But, there are drawbacks to raising chicks indoors, I won’t tell you not to, but here are three reasons why I don’t.
First, when chicks are ready to be moved to the coop they’ll need to acclimate to harsher weather conditions and fluctuating temperatures. Second, by the time they are three weeks old, well… they’ll stink, to put it bluntly. Trust me, You’ll be cleaning their brooder box constantly and wishing they were anywhere but your living space.  They will also be very active in what has probably become very cramped quarters at about three weeks old. And Third, chicks mature slower.
The rule of thumb is to keep chicks at a controlled temperature until they are fully feathered, which is about 6-7 weeks. Chicks raised in cooler temperatures with a moderate heat source are often fully feathered by 5 weeks.
To sum it all up…  plan to buy chicks when they’ll be comfortable in a garage or outdoor shed using primarily radiant heat. This will depend on where you live, for most folks it’s springtime. For others, like the lower desert southwest, mid-February and late fall are ideal.

Three to Six Weeks

Three weeks is a good time to introduce a perch for your chicks. A tree branch or one-inch dowel rod will be sufficient. They’ll be reluctant to explore this strange new object, but in a day or two their curiosity will get the best of them. Learning to perch now aids in their transition to roost as adults. Why is this important? It’s good practice to keep nest boxes clean for obvious reasons… and hens sleeping where they lay is anything but. In every coop a roosting bar should be provided, it is instinctual for birds to roost elevated, so this won’t be a difficult task to accomplish. There are however exceptions to the rule of roosting. Silkie Bantams are often reluctant to venture any higher than 3 feet… if at all.

Three weeks is also the perfect time to introduce a little grass for them to enjoy, but there are three rules. 1. No long pieces, 2. not too much, and 3, have grit available in the brooder to help them digest this strange new food. The grass is a good distraction to an array of possible problems in the brooder as well, such as pecking each other, or bullying. It keeps them busy! Just keep in mind, problems always occur for a reason. Most commonly, overcrowding, bright lights, or undesirable temperatures.

Moving Day, Brooder to Coop

When your chicks are fully feathered (5-7 weeks) they are ready to leave the brooder and be moved to the coop. It should be well-ventilated, spacious enough to include a roost bar, and have shelter from wind, rain, inclement weather, and protection from the sun. Provide at least one nest box for every two birds. Two square feet of ground space per bird would be adequate, but the more space you give your flock the better. Crowding is the perfect recipe for bullying when establishing early and continual pecking orders.
Feed and water should be elevated to the height of the smallest bird’s back, this will help keep their food and water clean. You can either hang them, or simply find something stationary such as bricks, or a cinder block.
Note: Some chicken keepers prefer to move their chicks to a grow-out pen before the coop. This is just a smaller coop where they’re housed until bigger. Grow-out pens are especially important if you have an existing flock, where a whole new set of rules applies for introductions.

Diet / The First Egg

At the point of lay, (5-6 months) your birds are ready for a change in their diet. This is the perfect time to switch from chick starter/grower, to layer pellets. You can expect the first egg from your pullets anytime now.

Don’t Forget to Protect your Flock from Predators!

Watch out for these guys! They are bad news.

Don’t think for a minute that your flock is immune to a predator attack. There’s no place on the planet where chickens are safe from predators…. not even in your suburban backyard. And guess what, not in your coop either, unless you’ve made every effort to predator-proof every nook and cranny. That means, no animal will be able to dig under the coop or get in over the top. It means there are no gaps around doors and windows, and the coop door has a secure latch to keep them safe at night.

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Getting Chickens to Roost in the Right Place

Chickens have a strong homing instinct which drives them to return to the same place to roost at dusk. Those who for whatever reason have decided otherwise can easily be picked up when it’s dark and placed in the coop.Β  After a few days to a week at most, they usually give up the tree limb, fence, or corner they fancied and join the others in the coop without your interference.
Make sure it’s dark though! Because as soon as you turn your back they’ll run back to where you took them from. It’s very common for youngsters to choose a corner on the ground away from the coop.Β  Just pick them up and place them where you want them to be and they’ll catch on after a while. However, don’t be concerned if your young birds pile up together in the coop, just be glad they’re in there! As they mature they’ll find their way to the roost, usually at around five months old.
This four-month-old Leghorn chose this spot to roost for the night. After a few evenings of fetching her off the fence and putting her in the coop, she gave up and now joins the others on her own.

Leghorn Dottie 9316

Do all Chickens Roost?

No, don’t ask me why… some, such as Silkies for example, are known to hunker down for the night in the coop, off the roost.
I have four one year old hens that refuse to roost, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are safely confined at night I just let them choose their comfort zone.

Broody Silkies 10-23-14

Night Behavior

A chicken’s behavior is dramatically different at night. During the day they are full of life, feisty, and confident, but when the night comes they turn into total milk duds, almost as if they were in a hypnotic state. Take advantage of this time, this is your hassle-free ticket to handle, inspect, and doctor chickens. Especially the ones that are difficult or impossible to catch during the day.
Chickens are so docile at night that you can usually sneak a new bird in the coop after dark, it will most likely go unnoticed until morning. Some chicken keepers choose to introduce birds this way. But I must warn you, a chicken’s night stupor disappears the moment they march out of the coop at the crack of dawn. Be prepared to witness a whole new ball game of unkind introductions, to say the least! Learn more about Introducing Chickens to an Existing Flock.

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