Backyard Chickens 101: Chicks Growing up Fast!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Backyard Chickens 101: Chicks Growing up Fast!

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We are continuing in our Backyard Chickens 101 series today with some how chicks grow. This has been my favorite stage of raising backyard chickens!

Chickens Growth 0 - 5 Weeks New Hampshire Red Black Australorp and Easter Egger
Chicks grow up very quickly! You will be amazed by how much they change and grow from week to week. Come see how our chicks grew and changed week by week . . .

Baby Chickens Week 1

Chicks are small balls of fluff during the first week. They are relatively easy to catch and pretty much just eat, sleep, drink, and poop (and not that big either). They make pleasant cheeping noises that we found very relaxing! They are not noisy or smelly.

You are going to want to make sure their temperature is about 95 F, but their behavior is the best indicator if you have a good temperature for them. If they are all huddled together under the heat source – it is too cold. If they are all hanging out around the edges or panting – it is too hot. If it is a good temperature they should be moving around, digging and cheeping quietly. Loud cheeping usually indicates a problem!
backyard chickens brooding week 1    backyard chickens - easter egger week 1
They should be eating as much food as they want. We feed our non-medicated Organic Chick starter. Some people feed the medication as a preventative step. We find this to be unnecessary and goes against the whole “real” and natural food we are trying to achieve. For the same reason we choose an organic starter. The food will be almost a powdery substance. It cost us $10 for a 50lb bag of food. This is something you will want to buy locally as it is cheaper and very expensive to ship. Stick to just their chick feed for this week to ensure they are getting good nutrition to grow healthy and strong.

You can also feed them by hand if you like. This will help them start to know you and is always fun for kids!
backyard chickens brooding - black Astrolorp week 1   backyard chickens brooding - change water often

Make sure to change their water frequently throughout the day as chicks like to poop and kick up pine shavings in the water. As they get older we put ours on top of a plate turned upside down to help minimize the pine shavings they kick up into it. For the first several days we put cleaned rocks in the water dish to help prevent accidental drowning.
sleeping chick - Silver laced wyndotta
The other funny thing I should mention is how chicks sleep at this point. Some will find a sleeping budy and you will see 2 or more chicks cuddled up together. But many times at this age they will just fall asleep wherever they are (like human babies) and look almost dead in doing so. Do not be alarmed – this is normal!
Chicks will not roost at this point and are unable to fly the coop =)

Always make sure to wash your hands before working with the chicks as they are very susceptible to illness at this point. Also always wash your hands after you finish working with the chicks to prevent spreading anything back (although that is less likely).

Baby Chickens Week 2

This week you will notice the chicks get noticeably faster and catching them will require more work. They will also be growing in size and you may start to notice some chicks are just bigger than others. You will want to move your heat source up so the chicks temperature is about 90 F. (Again, remember your chicks behavior is a better indication than the “formula” and with cold hardy breads we noticed they liked it just under 90 at this point.) Still at this point we did not feel that the chicks were smelly or noisy. We really enjoy watching them!
brooding baby chickens with 2 year old

At this point we added some space to our coop as the chicks are more active and wanted more space to move around in. We also changed the bedding (dumping the used pine shavings in our compost bin) to keep it sanitary. You will notice they move around a lot, like to roost, enjoy digging in the pine shavings, and their poop is getting bigger and more noticeable.  Luckily though, the pasting up should have stopped. Above, Tinker bell is reading the chicks a Pooh book. Our kids really enjoy watching & interacting with our sweet little chicks!
Easter Egger - 2 weeks old   backyard chickens - new hampshire red left, buff orpington right

The chicks are still cute and fluffy, but they will start to get their feathers in towards the end of the week. Notice the tail feathers and edge of her wing feathers starting to show in the Easter Egger chick to the left. To the right look at the New Hampshire Red chick to the left – notice her wings are darker than the rest of her.
backyard chickens brooding tinker toy rooster
You will also see if you have included a roosting bar – like our DIY tinker toy roosting bar – the chicks will start to roost.

Continue to allow them to eat and drink as much as they like. You can move the water up on top of an upside down plate or Tupperware to give it some height; this will help it stay a little cleaner. But still plan on cleaning it out a couple times a day as needed. The fun thing we started feeding our chicks this week were dried meal worms. They go CRAZY for them! Remember most of their diet should be the chick starter food, these are a treat and are a great tool for building a relationship and trust with the chicks.
My kids are constantly asking if they can wash their hands to pet, hold, or feed dried worms to the chicks!

Baby Chickens Week 3

backyard chickens new hamshire red week 3 backyard chickens - brooding
Your chicks are getting faster, bigger, more feathered out, and more playful with each other. You will see them stretching out their wings a lot and flapping them. We added deer netting to the top of our brooder at this point as they were starting to get 8” in elevation at times! Above let you can see the New Hampshire Red’s feathers coming in; she will be orange so the color difference makes it distinctive to see.

We’ve notice as the feathers are coming in the chicks seem to be pecking at their fur/fuzz more.
backyard chickens week 3 Continue to feed and give water as you have been up to this point. Although chicks should mainly be eating their perfectly mixed chick starter, they may enjoy an occasional treat of dried meal worms or leafy greens.
Lower the temperature in the brooder to 85 F (or higher/lower depending on your chicks behavior). If it is warm where you live (about 70 and sunny) you can take the chicks outdoors carefully at this point in a contained area to allow them to explore and forage a little. This should be very controlled and for short periods of time as the chicks are still susceptible to getting chilled.

Baby Chickens Week 4

backyard chickens - week 4
The chickens are almost fully feathered out with about 1-2” of tail feathers. They are active and eating a LOT!  They spend a lot of time digging in the pine shavings, trying to fly, and knocking over the water container more than I care for. With our 15 chicks I find myself replacing the feed 2x a day!

2 year old feeds her pet chickens Here we let Tinker Bell go in the freshly changed brooding box and feed the birds. She LOVED it! She cried when we took her out. We are having so much fun with these sweet girls!

7 year old with his pet chicken Our son Goofy has grown quite proficient at holding the chickens. He catches them so quickly and really enjoys holding and feeding them. Here is holding his favorite. She is an Easter Egger we named Dot.

Backyard Chickens Brooding with deer netting This week we found we needed to add deer netting to the top. One of our larger Easter Eggers flew up and was sitting on top of the cardboard walls (they are 20” tall). So for our peace of mind (and our floors cleanliness) we threw it over the top. We continue to move the heating lamp farther away. The tinker toy roosters were no longer sturdy enough for our strong flighty girls so we put in a wood roosting bar.

If you find yourself wanting to add more “treats” to their diet but wondering what they can have here is a great list of what chickens can and cannot eat. Remember it should be a treat and never make up more than 10% of their diet – they need the right mix to grow up strong and healthy. Once you start adding treats other than an occasional meal worm you need to offer them grit. Since chickens don’t have teeth they need the grit to help them mash up the food they eat. For chicks you can use chick grit or parakeet gravel. Just add a small cup in their brooder that they can choose to use when they want to. 

Baby Chickens Week 5

Our chickens are fully feathered out and getting big. They are definitely ready to go out side… unfortunately our coop is not quite ready. So hopefully by Week 6 they will get to move out to their new home!
Backyard Chickens Roosing on water
The chicken have just knocked off and buried the wood roosting pole we made for them. Instead many choose to fly and perch on top of the water container. Especially this Black Austrolorp. 

They continue to be busy digging and constantly eating. They sleep all huddled together – so cute! This week we turned off the heat lamp all together – they didn’t need it any more (in case you were wondering, our house is about 67 F)
Backyard Chickens 101 - Brooding week 5This week the chickens are busy trying to pull down the deer netting using their beaks. That has resulted in them pulling it down and getting themselves tangled up in it. On 3 occasions this week because of this we had a chicken fly the coop. Luckily they hung out in the kitchen and were eager to go back to their ‘home’. So I added a tripod in the middle to lift the netting up and that seems to have done the trick. Now they can fly a little and move around without picking at the netting. 

We’ve also had to use things to prop the bottom of the cardboard walls. If not the tops start to lean in (or bottom lean out) and it creates gaps between the bottom of the walls leaving room for escapes.  But overall I was very happy with the cardboard walls and it’s ease of use.
5 week old Easter Egger   5 Week old Easter Egger Chicken   Easter Egger - 5 week sold 
Here are a couple of our Easter Eggers. We have been so impressed with this (non) breed. It is so exciting to see what they are going to look like and they all have such sweet personalities. I can’t wait to see if they are going to lay blue or green or pink eggs! Note: Most Easter Eggers have green feet – super helpful in identifying most of them since they can look similar to other breeds!

Baby Chickens Week 6

Our coop is almost ready…..but not quite. So the chickens spent another week inside. The chickens are eating a lot and wanting to dig constantly – which has created a fine layer of dust on surfaces in the adjacent rooms.
March 2013 800The chickens really want to roost! I used a couple brick on each side and a piece of scrap wood to create a bigger roosting bar. No matter when I check during the day there is always someone using it!

March 2013 822

They keep trying to fly up and perch on the wall of their brooder and then tend to pull the net down or get tangled up. I think being inside at this point they require more attention because of it. We’ve have a couple escapes a week, but they always try to get back in their brooder – to their home.
The chickens are getting harder to catch, but when you do catch them they are fun to hold. Their feathers are soft to pet!

Our kids are really enjoying interacting with the chickens.  Tinker Bell had so much fun pushing one around in her stroller one day!

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Next up ……. Backyard Chickens 101: Picking a Chicken Coop

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