You don’t have to own a farm to raise your own chicks and watch them gradually grow into egg-laying hens or proud roosters. Nevertheless, free-range chickens need enough space and opportunities to roam. Only in this way will the chicks feel comfortable and develop optimally. The purchase and rearing of chickens should therefore be carefully considered.
In this article you will learn what else you need to consider when raising chickens and how you can successfully raise chicks in a species-appropriate manner.
Relatively little work is involved in raising chicks together with their mother. This is because the mother hen not only provides the chicks with sufficient warmth and shows them which food is the right one, but also protects them from possible dangers, such as other members of the same species. Everything the chicks need to know in the first weeks of life, they learn from their mother.
In order for the rearing to be successful, you as the keeper simply have to provide the right framework conditions. This includes:
A dry coop
Sufficient opportunities to run around
The mother hen looks after her offspring for about eight weeks – then the grown chicks have to manage on their own.
Raising chicks without a mother is much more difficult, but with the right know-how, artificially hatched chicks can also be raised.
Chick rearing in the incubator
After the chicks have hatched, they can easily remain in the incubator for another 24 hours. The yolk sac provides them with food during this time. Only then is it time for the little fluffy balls to move into a separate incubator. A sturdy cardboard box, a plastic box or even a small animal cage is suitable for this purpose. The only important thing is that the brooder box offers the chicks enough space and is easy to clean.
Suitable bedding is pine shavings or short straw, which you distribute generously on the floor of the incubator. In addition, your chicks will need a water trough and a food bowl. Special feed, called “chick starters,” will help the chicks grow.
Fresh water & hygiene in the incubator
As for us humans, a sufficient supply of water is vital for the newly hatched chicks. Therefore, make sure that fresh and clean water is always available for the little ones to drink. However, most chicks are not yet able to drink on their own directly after hatching, as they lack the mother’s example. This is far from a cause for alarm, however: Dip the chicks’ beaks into the drinking vessel again and again during the first few days. In this way, the chicks gradually learn to drink on their own. In addition, a high level of hygiene is also essential in the incubator: In their first days, the chicks are often susceptible to diseases. Keeping the floor clean and dry at all times and changing the bedding regularly helps keep them healthy. The trough and food bowl should also be cleaned regularly. This way you can effectively prevent diseases and infections.
Warm, warmer, heat lamp: The right temperature for chick rearing.
Since chicks cannot yet keep themselves warm during the first few weeks of their lives, an external heat source is needed to prevent the newly hatched chicks from becoming hypothermic. In nature, it is the mother hen that keeps the chicks warm with her body heat.
It is therefore essential that your incubator is always at the right temperature – for example, with the help of a heat lamp. The temperature should be between 32 and 38 degrees during the first week. You can use a thermometer to measure the temperature, but you can usually also tell from the chicks’ behavior whether their “comfort temperature” has been reached:
If the chicks are lying sluggish and dull in a corner of the cage, it is probably too hot for them and you should hang the heat lamp a little higher.
If all the chicks are crowded together under the warming rays of the lamp, they are probably too cold – the heat source must be hung lower.
After about 7 days, the chicks can already be placed in a separate coop. Nevertheless, the heat lamp is still indispensable, since the feathers of the animals develop only slowly. The chicks should also not be exposed to drafts.
Out into the open!
6-8 weeks after hatching, the chicks’ feathers have developed to such an extent that even cooler temperatures can no longer harm them. Thus, the chicks are ready to live outdoors. The sex of their future hens and roosters should also be clear by now. From now on, give the chickens enough run and exercise. So nothing stands in the way of a further healthy and species-appropriate development of your protégés.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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