Peep Prep: What to Expect When You're Expecting Chicks

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Age of Birds     Temperature
1 day                95 degrees
7 days              90 degrees
14 days            85 degrees
21 days            80 degrees
28 days            75 degrees
35 days            70 degrees
If your chicks are huddled together close to the light, it's an indication that the brooder isn't warm enough. Likewise, if they are at the far end of the brooder, away from the lamp—they may be too warm. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the height of your heat lamp as needed.
In addition to the heat lamp, you'll need to cover the entire floor of the brooder with litter, approximately four inches deep. Litter can be wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, or pine straw. We use wood shavings, which then go into the compost pile. Another benefit of chickens - a boost to the compost!
Meal time all of the time. Make sure your chicks have food and water available at all times. The chick's body is more than 50 percent water, and it needs water for all body functions. Provide two, one-gallon water fountains for 50 chicks. Keep the water clean at all times. We have a smaller waterer, which is approximately a liter for three chicks—but which is cleaned and filled often.
Likewise, chicks grow quickly—and they need continuous access to food. 
In just two weeks, Saltine went from this... this:
...the awkward teenage phase, where chickens show their true relationship to dinosaurs.
(And yes. That is a teddy bear in the brooder. Chicken Mama gave it to Saltine when she was in the brooder alone, before her sisters arrived. Kristen feared Saltine would be lonely.)
Begin by offering your chicks starter chick feed, which we buy at our feed and seed store. Depending on the number of chicks you raise, there are different feeder options. Ours is a simple metal, circular feeder with a lid and open feeding stations. (The lid helps prevent the chicks from using their feeder as a litter box.)
As your chicks grow, you'll move them into an outside coop with an area for them to forage. There are numerous options available for coops, from the most basic plywood, self-built design to repurposed dog kennels and playhouses to elaborate, expensive gorgeous structures.
The most important factor to consider with your coop is safety. We learned the hard way. With our first flock, I purchased a small, cute coop online. While it looked predator-proof, it wasn't. A raccoon entered the coop after opening two sliding locks.
We lost Salt, a Barred Plymouth Rock. We were devastated.
Now, we've built a chicken fortress. The door requires two hands to open, and we're vigiliant to ensure the girls are safely locked away as soon as dusk hits.The girls forage in a large, fenced area behind our pool during the day. Even then, though, we've installed crisscrossing strings above the area to deter hawks. Must keep the girls safe!
Chicken Mama's new babies are slowly becoming introduced to the outdoors. Yesterday, they spent the afternoon outside in a small run, exploring the grass. In our case, we need to carefully introduce them to the older girls to ensure peace among the flock. (Yes, there really is a pecking order.)
For now, enjoy your little peeps. Our family spends an amazing amount of time outside, playing with chickens. The kids' friends come over and play with chickens. In fact, at Kristen's most recent birthday party, we celebrated chickens--chicken cupcakes, chicken t-shirts for the girls to decorate, and chicken-themed presents galore.
Remember—the more that you handle your chicks, the more tame they will become.
Just ask Chicken Mama.
Enjoy your babies--they grow so quickly.

Julie is the owner of Garden Delights, an organic heirloom plant nursery specializing in edibles. She writes about growing gardens, growing green, growing locavores, growing kids, and growing one day at a time at Growing Days.

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