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Starting Chicks

Written by: Amanda B.

April 2023

Here a chick, there a chick, everywhere a chick, chick! Eeeee! Before you go grabbing all the cute little baby chicks you see at the feed shops, big box stores or even your amazing local breeders are you ready for this amazing adventure you’re going to embark? If not, or kind of, that is ok! We can help get you prepared and make sure you are ready. BUT BEWARE! Chicken math is a serious thing! What is chicken math you ask? Well, it happens when you go to buy chicks or chickens, planning for 5? Well, purchase a coop for double... You will understand as time goes. What you plan for is never what you will end up with. Chickens are like tattoos, once you get one you want more and more!

When someone comes to me and is interested in starting a flock, I always make sure they have already installed their beautiful coop. Please, please, please, make sure it is safe from predators. Fencing in the ground at least a foot or two, IF your coop is on soft ground and not concrete. Make sure the locks cannot be wiggled open by hungry raccoon hands or pushed open by a wild fox. This brings me to the things you will need when starting this adventure.

Starter List

  • Starter/Grower Feed

    • Medicated or non-medicated

    • I choose non-medicated (I will share why later)

  • Waterer and feeder for chicks

  • Brooder tub or tote for the chicks to live in until they are coop ready!

    • Size will vary based off of quantity of chicks

  • Heat lamp or chick brooder heater plate

    • The plates work amazing, but I have personally used heat lamps.

    • If you choose a heat lamp, make sure to get the clamp and the bulbs, sometimes these are sold seperately

  • Bedding for the brooder

    • Wood chips or flakes, paper towels, newspaper. I use newspaper is it is much easier to clean. Roll it up and toss it in the trash can.

  • Electrolyte/probiotic packet

    • Add to the waterer the first day chicks come home to help them adjust and reduce stress on the body from the constant change of environment

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

    • You can add once the chicks have drunk the electrolytes and you provide new clean water

  • Oregano Flakes and Ground Cinnamon

    • If you choose non-medicated this is a MUST!

  • Coop - double in size what you want! (I promise I have good reasoning)

  • Extra hardware cloth to put over any areas deemed unsafe on your coop

    • If a racoon, fox or weasel body part can reach in and grab a chicken it is unsafe

  • Live Traps for outside (if living in a predator known area)

    • At least 2 sizes, small and medium ones usually come in a pack together

When shopping for your chicks it is important to have these items ready. I know you are thinking that you don’t need to waste the money on a live trap set now, but it is important too because none of us have ever planned on having a predator get our chicks or chickens. Sometimes crap happens and we have to be responsible pet owners for the chicks that survived the attack. Plus, it’s a huge relief when we are able to catch that predator. I do recommend relocating the predator to your local hunting grounds in your area. Especially opossums, because they eat A LOT and by a lot, I mean over 3,500 a season! Your local hunters will be grateful!

Now, selecting a coop is important. I know a lot of people think in the beginning they only want a few chickens, but I am telling you, YOU WILL WANT MORE! An example I have for you about chicken math is myself and my experiences. I went to the local feed shop where I ordered 6 chicks. They had a batch of 4 that the buyer decided to not take and 2 guinea fowl that were extra, as well as 3 ducks… what did I do?... I took everyone home with me! I figured “ahh what’s a few more?” Well, a few more went from 10 leghorns 6 years ago to now 40+ chickens, 4 ducks, 3 guinea fowl, 3 quail and soon to be over 30 quail this May (thank you Hoover’s Hatchery, hehe) and I have 16 baby chicks in my basement spare bathroom also! So, let me tell you... chicken math can get crazy quick. And with all that crazy, comes money to spend on them. Which brings us to the next part... feed... (don’t worry in the picture below the toilet paper near the lamp was removed after this photo was taken.. I promise!)

Choosing a starter/grower is simple for some and not for others. I chose to question everything from ingredients to where it was made. I am a very honest person and there are some brands out there that just do not deserve to be put in your chick’s body. It is your job as the owner to see where feed is made and the creditability of that company. ALSO! This is a HUGE NO, NO! DO NOT get chickens and then choose to feed the cheapest food available. I understand you may want 10 chicks, but can only afford to feed the cheapest due to income. If this is the case, please purchase 5 chicks and feed a better-quality feed. The purpose of feeding a good quality feed is what they eat, goes to you! The nutrients in the food will nourish their body and provide you with a healthy egg and later if you choose to butcher, then quality and healthy meat is on your table. Feeding lower quality feed will result in poor egg production, flavorless eggs, gray or pale egg yolks, soft shells, poor health in your hen, harder molting season and more.

Many also wonder whether they should do medicated starter or non-medicated. Well, I am here to tell you that the choice is yours BUT! If you choose to get vaccinated chicks then the medicated feed is not necessary. If you choose to not vaccinate for Coccidiosis then medicated may make you feel better. I personally never vaccinate my chicks for Coccidiosis ONLY because there is a holistic remedy that has worked long before and has yet to fail me. This is where the oregano flakes and ground cinnamon come into play. Amprolium is the main medication used to prevent coccidiosis. It stops the chickens body from making use of thiamin in the bacteria, doing so prevents the chicken from getting the disease. What I do instead, my old wise-man trick, is when I purchase my NatureServe starter/grower that is non-medicated, I simply add oregano and ground cinnamon to the food. Their feed also has essential oils of oregano, cinnamon and white thyme to help boost your chick’s immune system. These help balance the immune system and have a great response from the gut to prevent loose poop or pasty butt and will help firm up poop immediately. It is important to guide the gut health for your baby chicks. Their immune systems at such young ages rely on their gut and lungs. NatureServe feed is an amazing brand, so I do not have to add a lot per feeding. I add 1 tablespoon of each herb to 2 cups of food.

I am also a firm believer in apple cider vinegar being added to the water. This helps boost their metabolism into gear and pushes them to drink and eat healthy. It also helps expel any bacteria already in the body. So please keep their brooder area clean. I also want you to know that organic is the best way to go when purchasing ACV. It is important to not use products that contain pesticides when chicks are so small. These pesticides have several side effects which I’d love to get into, but that is for another blog on another day!

If you have very stressed chicks that were transported in poor weather conditions, it is smart to add the Apple Cider Vinegar to water, but you can also use an electrolyte with probiotic. This will help boost their energy and relax the tummy. The constant change of environment can get crazy! Changing the environment from incubator > housing > then shipping box > transport to store> new brooder> another shipping or transport box >to new home brooder! IT’S A LOT OF TRAVELING!

SO! I hope this helps guide you on your adventure with raising chicks! I know this will be amazing for you. A few last-minute pointers!

  • Make sure to hand feed your baby chick’s snacks once they are over 2 weeks.

  • Pay attention to who’s moving quickly verses slowly,

  • Keep the water clean! We add a tile under the waterer to keep any bedding from getting in it.

  • Any chicks showing weakness and not moving and hiding in corners or standing still falling asleep for long periods of times, be sure to separate and give the electrolyte powder and a warm rice bag to lean on.

  • If a chick is really not acting itself, try adding a little honey in their water and let them drink it. It can take time to heal over anything that comes in their path. They may be tiny, but they are strong.

  • If they get poop stuck to their bottom make sure the heat lamp is not too close to them. Soak bottom with warm wet wash cloth or paper towel so that it can loosen off of the feathers and is not pulled off. Pulling can cause redness and can be fatal if the poop pulls the vent area out. So, you could add some coconut oil to the area the poop was stuck to prevent more poop sticking.

OKAY! I think I covered most! Let me know if you feel there is anything I should add to the list to inform friends and new chicken owners!


Your Chick Friend/Mama,

Amanda B.

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