Hen Up® Articles

Puffball Pointers, Part 2: Get your chicks off to a healthy start

By Hen Up™

OK, so you’ve done all the work to get your brooder ready for your new backyard flock. (If not, be sure to read Part 1!). In mere days, hours or maybe even minutes, you’re going to be a chicken parent. Congratulations! 

If you have children, you already know there’s a learning curve to parenting with surprises around every corner, and sometimes the best you can do is expect the unexpected and roll with what the day brings. When it comes to baby chicks, it’s good to remember that just like newborn humans, they have to learn how to do some pretty basic stuff in the beginning. But you’ll find your chicks are fast learners, and best of all they teach each other.

Let’s start with two most important things your little puffballs need to do in order to grow up into healthy and productive hens: drink and eat.

First lesson: Drinking
When your new chicks arrive, set them up in your brooder with room temperature water for them to drink. Wait a couple hours before giving them food. After their journey to get to you, rehydrating is the top priority. Your chicks may need a little help and encouragement to get the hang of drinking water, so now’s your chance to try your hand at chick parenting.

It’s easy — all you need to do is gently scoop up a chick and dip its beak into the water to help them find it and show them what it is. Repeat this with a few of the chicks and eventually they’ll show the rest of the flock how it’s done. Keep an eye on them to make sure that all of your chicks figure out where the water is and how to drink it within the first couple hours after they arrive, and don’t be afraid to help out if they need it.

Second Lesson: Eating
After your chicks have had some time to get used to their new digs and figure out how the whole drinking thing works, it’s time to move on the other super-important skill they need to master: eating. As we mentioned in Part 1, clean egg containers make an ideal food dish for new chicks. But you can also use shallow bowls or plates as long as the chicks can easily reach the food in them. After day one, you can switch to regular feeders. 

Whatever you use, you’ll need to provide about four linear inches of access to food for each bird in your flock. You shouldn’t have to give the chicks the same sort of help to find and eat their food as you did with drinking but check in on them and make sure they all get the hang of it. If not, repeat the dip-the-beak maneuver you used with water to help them make the connection.

For the first 16 weeks of their lives, your chicks will need a starter feed like Hen Up™ Starter Grower Crumbles that provides balanced nutrition: all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids that’ll help them grow up into healthy egg-layin’ ladies. The tiny crumbles are also bite-sized for little beaks to make sure they get proper nutrition in every bite.

Keep the food and water fresh by emptying, cleaning and refilling your waterers and feeders every day. As your chicks grow, you’ll need to raise the height of the feeders and waterers so that they’re level with your hen’s backs to make it easier for them to eat and drink.

When your chicks reach 16 weeks of age, switch them to a layer food like Hen Up™ Layer Mash or Layer Pellets. Laying hens have different nutritional needs than growing chicks, and our Layer foods are formulated to give them everything they need it one bag.

Enjoy your ongoing adventures in chicken parenting and years of fresh eggs from your backyard flock.

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