Chicken raisers are always looking for new tips and ideas on how to raise their chicks better and keep them healthier. Just when you think you have at least a pretty good system down for raising chicks, you hear of a new idea or a new tip! I have learned a lot in the past 5 years of raising chicks for 4-H. I would like to share with you 5 helpful facts on raisings chicks that I have learned.
Also, for those of you who have been following my hatching process, I have included photos of the 3 chicks I hatched this year. The rest of the pictures are of chicks that I mail ordered this year for my 4-H Poultry Project.
Sugar water is very important during the first few days of a chick’s life. It especially helps chicks that have been shipped through the mail. Shipping is very stressful for chicks. The sugar water will help the chicks cope with the stress better and give them a boost in calories. I mix 1 tablespoon of sugar into 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a very good electrolyte for chicks. When added to water, it helps keep chicks hydrated. It also stimulates the growth of good micro flora in the crop. Good micro flora thrive in a pH level 5.5-7 whereas disease causing microbes prefer a pH level of 7.5-9. The ACV helps keep the crop’s pH level in the 5.5-7 range. This type of disease prevention is called competitive exclusion, which is when you fend off harmful organisms by encouraging the growth of beneficial ones. I add 1 tablespoon of ACV to 1 gallon of water.
Chickens control their body temperature in four different ways: radiation, convection, conduction, and evaporation. A chicken can not lose enough heat in temperatures above 104 degrees F because their normal body temperature is 103 degrees F. Chicks will die if their body temperature exceeds 117 degrees F. That is why I like using an Ecoglow as my heat source. The chicks can easily move out from underneath the Ecoglow if they are too hot. If you choose to use a heat lamp, a good rule of thumb is to keep it at least 18 inches above the brooder floor. See my post Raising Chicks-Brooder Set Up for more information on controlling the temperature of your brooder.
Chicks need plenty of fresh water everyday! It is very important to keep your chicks hydrated in order to keep them healthy! Chicks that lose even just 10% of their body water will experience physical disorders and chicks that lose over 20% of their body water will die. To encourage your chicks to drink, keep the drinker height between the eye of the chick and the height of it’s back. Always provide fresh clean water for the chicks to drink. Make sure there is enough water for every chick.
Chicks need different types of food at different stages of their life. The main difference between the types of feed is the protein content. Growing chicks need different levels of protein as they grow. Here are the average protein levels of each type of feed and to what age chicks they should be fed (ages are in weeks):
- starter 18-20% protein- day 1 to 8 weeks
- grower 15-16% protein- 8 weeks to 18 weeks
- layer 16-18% protein- 18 weeks and older
Some brands of chicken feed sell starter/grower or grower/finisher feed types. Check the back of the feed bag to see what age chicks the manufacturer recommends you feed those feed types to. Also, brands may differ in the protein content of their feed types, check the label to see how much protein is in the feed. Heritage breeds tend to need higher protein when they are chicks so that they will grow at the right rate. You can supplement extra protein by offering dried mealworms or crushed oats. Make sure you offer chick grit as well so that the chicks can digest the new food.
Hopefully these five helpful facts will help you take even better care of your chicks and help you raise happy, healthy ones too! The following photos are an update on the chicks that I am raising! Enjoy!
June the Svart Hona Cochin mix at 1 week old.
Sable and Siskin the Svart Hona chicks at 1 week old.
Sable (upfront) and Siskin (inside the crate) at 2 weeks old.
Left to Right- Svart Hona, Salmon Faverolle, Buckeye, and Speckled Sussex at 3 weeks old. The Salmon Faverolles, Buckeyes, and Speckled Sussex are chicks that we had mail ordered for our 4-H Poultry Project this year.
Speckled Sussex at 3 weeks old.
June, the Svart Hona Cochin, at 3 weeks old.