Thinking about raising chickens in your back yard? If so, now is a great time to start planning for your new flock. A fun way to begin is by raising your own baby chicks. While incubating fertilized eggs is an option, many folks choose to purchase newly hatched chicks from a local farmer or farm supply store. You can even buy them online and have them shipped! And newly hatched chicks are cheap… often as low as $1.99 each!
Before you get your chicks, make sure to be prepared for their arrival. First, you’ll need a brooder. This is simply a sturdy pen (such as a large box or storage tub) that will house and protect the chicks. A heat lamp should be securely attached to the brooder to maintain proper temperatures. In the first week, chicks will need the temperature at about 90-100 degrees! For the floor, use pine shavings or a similar material to cushion and help absorb moisture. Food and fresh water should be kept in the brooder so the chicks can eat and drink at will. Finally, interact with them as much as possible to get them used to being around people.
You may decide you want to raise 4 hens (the maximum allowed in the city of Madison) or prefer to start with just a couple. Either way, consider purchasing a few more chicks than you plan on raising. A chick may not be fully healthy when it arrives at your home and may not be strong enough to survive. Also, even when purchasing chicks being sold as “female”, there may still be males in the bunch. Since roosters are not allowed in town, you would have to find a new home for any accidental males. Lastly, as the chicks develop, you’ll start to notice character differences. Some will be more aggressive or skittish, while others seem more friendly and calm. A flock that gets along can really make it a more enjoyable experience for you and your visitors.
After they hatch, the new chicks will need about 6 weeks of TLC until they are feathered out and ready for the outdoors. A common time to get baby chicks is early-mid March. After those 6 weeks, they’re ready to head outside to the coop, just in time for spring!