Baby Chick Care

Basic Guidelines for Proper Care of Poultry

Author: Paul Wylie, MSU Extension Agent October, 2000.
(616)673-0370 or wylie@msue.msu.edu

Baby Poultry

  1. Keep them warm, dry, and draft free.  Baby poultry can be kept for several weeks in a cardboard box or ring of cardboard 18 inches high with a heat lamp hung over the center of the area.  Hang the lamp about 18 in. above the floor at first.  A thermometer placed on the floor should read 95 degrees directly under the lamp at first.  Chicks & poults will move closer or farther from the lamp to adjust the heat to their needs.  Raise the lamp every 3-4 days to gradually decrease the heat level to 80 degrees.

2. Allow 36 sq. inches of floor space per bird for the 1st three weeks and then one square foot (144 sq. in.) afterward.  A 4-foot diameter ring with 1 heat lamp is about right for up to 50 chicks for several weeks.

3. Do not keep them in the house.  Set up an area where they can be cared for in another building, such as a porch, garage, or poultry coop.  They do need fresh air.

4. Baby poultry may carry Salmonella germs that can make people very sick.  Avoid contaminating human food and always wash your hands after caring for them.

5. On the floor, place 2 inches of dry wood shavings or 1 in. of dry sawdust or cat box filler.  Cover this for the 1st week with coarse landscape grade burlap to prevent litter eating.  Change the litter as it becomes wet & dirty.

6. Provide nutritionally balanced ground or crumbled feed for the type and age of poultry you have.  If the birds are not eating, gently grasp some of them and dip their beaks into the water first and then feed.

7. Provide feed & water free choice in clean containers.  Wash & clean feeders weekly, to reduce waste, fill 1/3 to ½ full.  Clean & disinfect waterers every few days.  Use a 9/1 water to bleach solution to
disinfect.  About 4-6 drops of bleach in a gallon of water will retard mold growth.

8. Do not place baby poultry in with older birds.  To help prevent disease outbreaks, practice all in/all-out management.

Growing Poultry

1. Do not mix different types of poultry or different age birds of the same type.  You will have fewer disease problems.

2. Place the birds into clean & disinfected housing with adequate floor space.


3. Provide adequate feeder and waterer space.


4. Unless the birds are raised in cages or on mesh floors, feed a coccidiostat to help with this protozoan disease common to poultry.


5. Follow a vaccination program for layer/breeder birds.


6. Nutrition is very important.  Feed the right type of mixed feed for the type and growth stage poultry you have.  If you are feeding a complete feed, you should not feed scratch grains.  If you feed a concentrate plus whole grains, offer grit free choice.



7. Light level and hours of light (day length) are important to egg-type chickens.  Use artificial light at one 40-60 watt bulb per 100 sq. ft. of floor space in the poultry house.  Plug the lights into a time clock to regulate the day length to develop the pullets.  Considering natural day length, never increase day length during the growth stage and never decrease day length for layers.  Other poultry should have a 12-hour minimum day length.



8. Get further information and details from MSU Extension or USDA bulletins.


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