We have been backyard chicken owners for going on 8 years now. There is so much to talk about when it comes to this topic.
Chickens are amazing because they are fun backyard pets, great with kids, and give you delicious and nutritious eggs!
For this post I just wanted to give some simple steps for how to start with raising baby chickens.
Step 1: Plan your Coop and Run.
Are you going to build your own or buy one ready made? Be sure you build or buy one big enough to hold the amount of chickens you want to have comfortably. Many resources online will tell you 2 square feet per bird. I personally do not think this is near enough. I would say a minimum of 4 square feet per bed is much better. Especially if they will be in the run full time.
The good thing is that once you have your coop and run set up you won’t have to do it again or it least not for quite awhile! This is the most laborious step out of your chicken preparations but once its done everything else is very simple.
You also want to consider what predators you have in your area when planning what kind of coop & run you will be putting up. If you live in town and only have to worry about the occasional raccoon or rats then you can probably get buy with something less secure. Perhaps using regular chicken wire for the run.
We live in the Santa Cruz mountains and have many types of predators. After 8 years of being chicken owners we are actually completely rebuilding our coop and run specifically due to making it more secure from predators. Where we live, our biggest predator issue is actually hawks. This is a big challenge with our old cool & run because we would let the chickens have a large yard to peck around in that was fenced but it was not fully enclosed. The hawks would come down to attack and eat a chicken literally right in front of us in broad daylight!
We are now building a coop and run that is twice as big as before (we used to have about 8 chickens at a time and now we will have 15) and that is fully enclosed large run so that hawks will no longer be an issue.
I will post pictures of our new chicken coop and run once its complete.
Note: You won’t be putting baby chicks straight into their coop & run! They will go outside at around 6 weeks old and once the temp is it least 65 during the day.
Step 2: Plan your food and water set up
You will want to plan this according to how many birds you will have, how often you want to be filling up the food and water, and if any other critters will be getting into it. Below I will describe the set up that works best for us. This took us awhile to troubleshoot in the beginning and now its perfect.
For water we use a 5 gallon bucket with lid. A PVC pipe feeds into that and goes down to the chicken run with poultry nipples on it. This works amazing because the water doesn’t get dirty or spilled. It also stays full for MUCH longer than any poultry water dish/tray would. It also keeps other critters out of it!
For food we use a large galvanized metal hanging feeder that will hang from the middle of our chicken run. We keep a large galvanized metal trashcan on the outside of the run where we keep extra food and put the feeder completely away every night. We do this to not attract rats and other critters. We used to have a PVC feeder with a lid on it but the rats ate through it.
Step 3: Set up Area for Baby Chickens
This is usually the step that everyone thinks about first. I like to plan the future longterm setup first because it really does take the longest and is the most important. The temporary baby chicken setup is very easy. Here are some things you will need:
- Heat lamp. The one we use is a bit more expensive that the traditionally used heat lamps but it’s so much safer and it works very well. Link HERE.
- Large plastic tub lined with paper (don’t use chicken bedding when they are very young, save that for later).
- Quart size plastic water dispenser
- Quart size plastic food dispenser
- Chick starter feed (they cannot have regular feed yet)
- Packets of electrolytes (add a third of a packet to your quart of water when you refill it)
- Packets of probiotics (add a third of a packet to your quart of water when you refill it)
Notes: You will want to change out the paper, food, and water it least once per day. You will also want to check for pasty butt once per day (make sure its not clogged!). The easiest way to do this when you have a lot of baby chicks that look similar is when you change the paper out put all the chickens in a separate box. Then after you have changed everything out check for pasty butt one by one as you put them back into their home box.
That’s it for now! Hope you found this post helpful.