If you are interested in raising chickens, you may choose to purchase a box of chicks from a breeder or farm, or you may incubate them and hand raise them yourself. While some people prefer to purchase full-grown chickens for their flock, raising baby chicks allows you to become familiar with the animals and to watch them grow. Before purchasing baby chicks, it is important to understand some of their particular needs.
During the first week of their lives, baby chicks need to be kept at a temperature between 32.2 and 35.0 degrees C. In the second week, the temperature can be dropped by five degrees, with a five degree temperature drop in each subsequent week until the chick is comfortable at room temperature. A 250 watt infrared heat lamp trained on the chicks' living area can maintain the temperature for them. If all of the chicks are cuddled together directly underneath the lamp, they are too cold, and if they are scattered to the edges of their enclosure, they may be too warm.
For the first eight weeks of the chick's life, you can use a commercial chick starter feed. You can teach the chicks to begin searching for food by liberally scattering the food around them. Even if this is messy, it will help them find the food a little quicker. After three days of having their food scattered, give them the food in a low trough. They should have food available to them at all times. They can be given water in commercial chick waterers or in low dishes that have marbles at the bottom, which will prevent the chicks from climbing into the dish.
For housing purposes, you should have about 1/2 square foot per baby chick. A two foot food trough and a one gallon commercial waterer will take care of 50 chicks.
While fully grown chickens are not proficient flyers, young chicks have some flight capabilities. To prevent chicks from getting out of their enclosure, drape a section of deer netting or chicken wire over the enclosure top, or make sure that the enclosure has walls that are at least two feet high.
When the chicks are between two and three weeks old, and provided the temperature is at least in the high 60s, baby chicks can be allowed to investigate the outdoors for a few hours. Place them in a wire cage and keep an eye on them to make sure that they don't get away. By the time the chicks are between four and five months old, they are ready to move outside full time.