Care of chicks

Newly hatched chicks must be kept warm and free from drafts, be properly fed and watered, and be protected from predators. If you plan to keep the chicks for a long time, consult references for care and management information. See FS-1188, "The Small Flock for Poultry Meat", or FS-1191, "Rearing Chicks and Pullets for the Small Laying Flock". If you want to raise a small number of chicks for only a few days, you can care for them in a simple enclosure and with a minimum of equipment.

A cardboard box can be a satisfactory home for up to 12 chicks. The size and shape of the box is not too important as long as it provides enough space for the chicks and the equipment to feed and water them. A 2 x 2 foot box 12-15 inches high is adequate. A screen or wire mesh should cover the box to restrict handling and to protect the chicks from cats and other predators.

The sides of the box provide adequate protection from drafts. The 1st week, keep the temperature at the level of the chicks at 90-95° F. Reduce the temperature about 5 degrees per week until room temperature is reached. It is best to use a thermometer to measure the temperature, but the actions of the chicks can also be a guide. When the chicks are cold, they bunch up and give a distressed "cheep." When they are too warm, they stand apart with their beaks open, and their throats may have a pulsating or panting motion. In most rooms, a light bulb placed over the box will provide enough heat. A gooseneck study lamp with a 60- or 75-watt bulb works well. The neck of the lamp can be adjusted to provide more or less heat. If necessary, cut a slit in the side of the box so the base of the lamp can remain outside the box, with the gooseneck of the lamp fitting in the slit and the lampshade placed inside the box.