Raising Healthy Chicks

Baby chicks can be purchased during the spring and fall from farm supply stores like Wilco stores or your local farms. Wilco buys its chicks only from hatcheries that participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) where significant tracking takes place to ensure the health and safety of the chicks.

Wilco’s chicks are also vaccinated for Marek’s disease which is one of the most common and contagious diseases in chickens. All Wilco chicks start on Chick Boost, which helps the chick in developing a positive bacteria culture in its digestive tract.

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three chicks standing together

What You Need

group of chicks under a heat lamp

Before your chicks arrive home, set up a brooder. A brooder is your baby chicks’ first home during the first six to eight weeks of their life. After that, they can safely move into the coop.

Begin by disinfecting all materials before you use them. A simple mix of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water works well. Just make sure to rinse your material thoroughly. A good disinfectant that’s safe for animals can help you keep your materials once a week.

Place your brooder in a warm and draft-free area that’s close to a source of electricity. Give each chick 3 to 4 square feet of room in a circular and expandable brooder. Avoid having square corners to prevent chicks from getting trapped.

For bedding, place a 3 to 4-inch layer of wood shavings to keep the area dry. Avoid the strong odor of cedar shavings. During your daily upkeep, you’ll need to remove wet bedding, especially pooling around waterers.

All brooders need a heat lamp or a radiant heater. Assemble your lamp about 20 inches above the bedding in the center of the brooder. Heat lamps should be secure to avoid them falling into the brooder and cause a fire or harm the birds. Light control is crucial to keep temperatures consistent, as well as reduce picking and bullying among chicks. Temperatures will gradually be reduced by 5 degrees per week once the chicks have grown some feathers.

A Complete Starter Feed is recommended for the first 18 weeks of your chick’s life. At 18 weeks, you switch to complete layer feed. In the beginning, place multiple feeders in the brooder until your chicks have learned to eat. You can use egg cartons or slips of paper as feeders for easy access.

Keep a small waterer for your baby chicks. Teach your chicks where to drink by dipping their beaks into the water. If you don’t have a small waterer, put rocks, marbles, or stones inside in your large waterer to allow the chicks to drink without drowning in the deep water. As your birds grow, you can raise the feeders and waterers until they are at back height of the growing birds.

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