Everything You Need to Raise Your Own Baby Chicks

Raising your own chickens has more benefits than we can list in a little ol' blog post; from helping your compost along, to offering you unparalleled pest control, to creating brilliant fertilizer out of chicken poop, to providing you with healthy, fresh eggs every day.

There's no limit to how creative you can get with chicken housing for every living situation (learn all about urban chicken rearing here), and certainly no shortage of spectacular coop ideas. At Better Farm, we utilize a combination chicken tractor/paddock enclosure method with our birds, which basically functions as mobile chicken tractors enclosed by larger fenced-in areas. As the chickens eat up the grass and vegetation in one area, we move them to another.

We were blessed with a bunch of baby bard rock chicks last week, and set them up in the barn across the street until they've grown in their feathers and can live outside. Here's all you need for a basic set-up for when you want to raise your own:

  • Container large enough to home your baby birds (a kiddie pool will work while the birds are still tiny; a metal trough is better because it has higher side walls)
  • Wood and newspaper shavings for the floor of your container
  • A red heat lamp (white lamps will encourage cannibalism)
  • Starter feed (check with your local feed store)
  • Fresh water (when babies are young fill ice trays with water for them so they don't drown. When they're a little bigger, you can switch to a regular chicken waterer, avaialable at any local feed store)
  • Food dish, to be kept stocked at all times
If you're like us and have frequent snake visitors, you'll also want a screen cover for your birds. We found a discarded screen and cut a hole out for the heat lamp, then carefully stitched a screen "cone" over the light to ensure no predators could get in:

You'll want to keep the light at least 18 inches from the bottom of the tank. If the birds are huddled directly under the light, that means they're chilly and you should lower the light. If the birds form a kind of ring around the light, you've got it right on.

When the birds grow their adult feathers, they're ready to start living outside. Just be sure if you're going to be introducing them to other members of the flock, you also wait until their voices mature. A peeping chick is just begging to be hazed by older birds.

Got a question about raising chickens? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org. Want to learn more about chicken rearing? Click here!


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.