Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising Baby Chicks

Every year we hatch chicks in our own incubators. Occasionally we will buy chicks also but many times we usually hatch our own. We prefer the breed of Buff Orphington chickens for their large brown eggs. They start laying at about 6 months of age for us and continue laying for about two to three years. Then they are butchered and the meat canned in broth for soups and noodles. We always have a younger batch of laying hens coming on to replace the ones that will quit.

* For hatching we collect eggs when the temperatures are milder so that the eggs are not overly chilled. We usually hatch our eggs in very early spring.

* We do not wash the eggs once collected. Eggs have a natural coating that help to protect them and we do not want to wash that off. Eggs are then stored in cartons and rotated once a day to keep the air pocket at the top of the egg. The top of the egg is the large end of the egg.  Do not refrigerate the eggs you wish to hatch. Do not keep your eggs over 14 days. After that if they hatch they tend to be weaker.

* Once the eggs are set in the incubator they must continue to be turned once a day to maintain that air pocket. Many incubators have an automatic turner that rotates these eggs for you. If not simply running your hand over the eggs lightly is enough to rotate the eggs .

* Stop turning the eggs two to three days before they are scheduled to hatch.

* Once your chicks hatch they must be placed under lights to stay warm. Do not put chicks on a slick surface such as newspaper or plastic. This will cause foot problems later.
We have pieces of plastic wire mesh that provide a surface for their little feet to grip while allowing the poo to still fall through. We place this small mesh at the bottom of a normal wire brooder until the chicks feet get large enough that it can be removed. This only takes about a week. The plastic mesh is then washed and stored for the next time.

* I put marbles in my waterer ( above ) so that the little chicks can not drown in the waterer but can still drink. These too can be removed in about a week.

* I also boil eggs and chop up for the first few days to give my chicks extra protein. Try dropping a few shiny dimes in a shallow dish. They will peck at shiny things and it will help them start to peck and feed.  

It seems like it just would not be spring without a few fluffy yellow chicks around.

Anyone else out there have any shortcuts or tricks for raising baby chicks?

But my ultimate favorite way to grow chicks.............

Let the Mama Hen Do It !!

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


  1. What great information. I don't understand why you have to turn the eggs to maintain the air pocket, but I do understand it has to be done.

    I love your ideas for water and feed, too!

    Where did you get your mesh for the chicks? That seems like a great idea. :)

    Happy Thursday!

  2. Just fascinating! I wish I had chickens-maybe someday : )

  3. I'm growing some chicks. i got them pretty small but have had them for about a 1 1/2 months. They won't eat just anything, which I don't like. They don't care for sweet potato scraps and they won't eat the sorghum or the sunflower from the extra cheap bird seed I bought. They don't even like potatoes that much. They also crave too much fat and protein. A lot of times if it ain't a bug they don't want to hear about it. They go crazy over scrap meat. I don't like that. How do I make them less picky. I can't remember the breeds. But I have one white/yellow and 2 black chicks. The black chicks are very slow to catch on to new food and they all follow the bigger white/yellow chick. I'm sure he is a rooster.


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