Backyard chicken ownership is at an all-time high, many families are deciding to take the plunge into raising their own flocks of chickens, but do baby chickens need baths? If you have recently brought home baby chickens, you may be wondering the best ways to care for them.
Baby chickens, unlike other pets, will not need to be bathed. Chickens instinctively do most of their own grooming. There are a few circumstances that may require you to clean your baby chick, but proper cleaning doesn’t require a traditional bath.
In fact, bathing your baby chickens can do more harm than good. Baby chicks do not have their water-resistant feathers yet. Because of this, a wet chicken can become easily chilled, leading to hypothermia and other health issues.
When Should I Clean My Baby Chickens?
Chickens are notoriously dirty animals. They poop a lot, are messy eaters, and baby chicks, in particular, are incredibly clumsy and uncoordinated. This can lead to them falling into their water dishes and getting bedding and food stuck to their sensitive down feathers.
Another common issue that arises when caring for baby chicks is a condition known as “pasty butt.” This is when fecal matter hardens over the baby chicken’s vent blocking them from passing their excrement.
This condition can be deadly in baby chicks and requires proper cleaning immediately. Be sure to check your baby chickens daily to make sure their vents are clean. Check their down for food, wetness, or other dirty areas.
Do your baby chickens have access to grit? Learn why it’s so important and how to provide it in my post.
How To Clean And Dry Your Baby Chickens
- Start by trying to gently remove debris without water if possible. A small washcloth or hand towel will work well for this. Gently rub and massage the soiled area to try and remove it without needing water.
- If water is necessary, use lukewarm water. It is important to maintain stable body temperature in baby chickens. Water that is too hot will cause burns and stress, and water that is too cold can cause chilling, stress, and hypothermia.
- Hold the chick firmly without squeezing so that you can better access the soiled area.
- Run the soiled area of the chicken under lukewarm water to loosen the debris and gently rub with your washcloth until it is removed. If you are cleaning fecal matter to remove “pasty butt” add a small amount of soap. Baby shampoo or a mild dish soap like Dawn is recommended.
- Rinse the baby chicken until all traces of debris, feces, and soap is removed.
- Wrap the baby chicken in a paper towel or soft hand towel. Absorb as much water with the towels as you can.
- Depending on the temperature, you may need to use a blow dryer gently to completely dry the down of your baby chicken. If it is warm enough, you can return the baby chicken to its brooder and heat lamp.
- Make sure to sterilize and wash the area and all the supplies you used while washing your baby chicken and to wash your hands thoroughly.
What To Remember When Cleaning Baby Chicks
- Less is more: Remember when cleaning your chick that you are only cleaning areas that are dirty, not the whole chick itself.
- Baby chicks need to be kept warm during their first few weeks. Use lukewarm water and dry your chicks thoroughly.
- Be gentle and don’t pull on the down of the chicks or on the chick’s skin.
Cleaning a baby chicken is a relatively simple undertaking and is something you should do only when necessary. This helps to preserve the chicken’s natural oils.
Cleaning your baby chicken is not something that you will have to do often, if ever. However, it is important that it is done correctly when called for as part of good chicken care. Keeping your baby chickens healthy and free from stress will ensure you will have healthy chickens down the road.
Is your chicken coop insulated? Learn how to keep a warm flock in my post.
What Supplies Do I Need To Raise Baby Chicks?
While knowing how to properly clean your baby chickens is important, there are many other factors that play a large part in ensuring the growth and health of your new feathered friends. It is critical that you do your research and have the supplies necessary before bring home your baby chickens.
Baby Chickens Should Be Kept In A Brooder
When you bring your baby chickens home, you will need something safe and secure to keep them in. Baby chicks are usually between 3-5 days old when they are either delivered or purchased at a store.
Keeping them safe is critical during at least the first four weeks of their lives. It is a general rule that your chickens should be kept in their brooder until they are fully feathered or 6-8 weeks old (and outdoor temperatures are not below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
A brooder is anything that serves as a safe, warm, and dry place for your chickens. It must have high walls and some sort of bottom. You can purchase large metal brooders from a store, or some people use dog crates, kiddie pools, or other simple materials they may have at home. It’s a good idea to find some sort of covering for the top for when the chickens are able to start jumping and roosting.
It is important that whatever you use as a brooder has room for the baby chicks, their food and water, and is heat resistant so that you can safely provide your baby chicks with the heat they need to grow and thrive.
Do your chickens get bored? To know how to keep your chickens happy and entertained check my post out.
You Will Need Bedding For Your Chicken’s Brooder
Bedding is put down on the floor of your brooder. Bedding is important to help baby chickens get their footing and learn to walk properly. Improper bedding can lead to poor leg and foot development and a condition known as “straddle leg.”
It is critical that you change the bedding in your brooder regularly. Baby chickens poop a lot, and this can breed a host of bacteria that can be dangerous to the chickens and to you. With regular cleaning, you can ensure that your chickens, and your family, stay happy and healthy.
There are many options for bedding to use in your brooder. It all comes down to personal preference and what works for you. Just make sure that the bedding you choose allows the chickens to be stable and walk around safely.
The most popular bedding for baby chicken brooders is pine shavings. Make sure you purchase untreated pine shavings and clean your brooder out regularly.
You Will Need A Heat Source For Your Baby Chickens
Baby chickens need to be kept warm. Maintaining heat is an essential part of owning and raising healthy baby chicks. You will need a heat lamp or heat pad specifically made for rearing animals in order to keep your chicks warm and also safe.
If temperatures are too low, baby chickens will not survive and face hypothermia. Temperatures that are too hot, or ineffective and improper heating tools, can cause the chicks to overheat and burn.
Are your chickens too skinny? Learn the reasons why and how to put weight on them in my post here.
Safe Temperatures For Baby Chickens
|AGE OF CHICK IN WEEKS||REQUIRED TEMPERATURE IN FAHRENHEIT|
Place your heat lamp or pad where the chicks have access to areas of the brooder that will be directly under the heat, as well as areas of the brooder outside of the heat. This will allow the baby chickens to self-regulate their body temperature and seek out the conditions they need at the time.
If the temperature is hot enough outside, you can start taking your chickens outside for 15-30 minute outings after the 1 week mark.
Baby Chickens Need 24 Hour Access To Food And Water
For the first 8 weeks, while in the brooder, your baby chickens will require round-the-clock access to food and water. As with all the aspects of raising your small chickens, there are a few things to keep in mind when providing water and food to your chicks.
Whilst chics need food and water at night, giving access to constant food and water for other types of chickens can be bad, learn more in my post.
You will want to feed your baby chickens a diet that allows them to grow and thrive in your care. While it is tempting to feed your chickens treats, it is important that for at least the first 4 weeks, you offer them specially designed food made for baby chickens.
From the time you bring your baby chickens home until they reach laying age, you want to provide your chickens with a starter or grower feed. This feed is specially formulated with the required amount of protein baby chickens need.
Generally, this food comes as crumbles and can be offered to baby chickens in a number of different chick feeders that are available in feed stores or online.
When you decide to start letting your baby chickens range outdoors, or begin to offer treats to them, you will want to make sure you begin offering chick grit to your chickens along with their food.
Baby chickens will need access to water at all times. Hydration is critical to a chicken’s growth and health, especially when it is hot. And given you will be keeping your chicks under high temperatures, water is essential.
You should offer water to your chicks in a chicken waterer that you can purchase at your local feed store, pet store, or online. For the first week or so, you will want to add electrolytes and vitamins to your chicken’s water. This will help make sure they are well hydrated and have the necessary nutrition to grow.
Because baby chickens are uncoordinated and clumsy, they can potentially stumble into the water. This can cause a fatal drowning. In order to prevent this, adding some stones or marbles to the water for the first 2 weeks will give your baby chickens safe access to water while they are still developing.
Have A Small Chicken First-Aid Kit On Hand
It is a good idea to prepare yourself for some common medical issues that you may encounter in raising your baby chickens. Preparing a small baby chicken first aid kit keeps you one step ahead when it comes to caring for your chickens.
Some things to include in your baby chicken kit are:
- Vitamins and Electrolytes
- Vetericyn Poultry Care Spray
- Neosporin (original NOT with pain relief)
- Poultry Cell
- An Eye Dropper and Syringe
How To Entertain Baby Chicks
Baby chickens are active and inquisitive animals. One way to help enhance their health and limit stress is to keep them engaged. There are a number of enrichment items you can place in your brooder to help them develop.
- A mirror- Chickens will interact with the reflection for hours.
- A swing- Chickens start climbing and roosting instinctively early on. Try a chicken swing to help with balance.
- A patch of grass – Chickens love to eat grass and peck around for dirt and bugs. Try adding a patch of grass to the brooder for a different texture and for some grazing.
- Mini roost bars or things to climb on – Chickens like to be high up. Even as babies, this is instinctive. Try using branches or other items to help them climb and explore.
See my post here on 20 chickens toys for your chickens.
Research Your Chicken Breeds Before Bringing Home Baby Chickens
When you decide to take on raising baby chickens, you will want to make sure you do your research and decide on a chicken breed that will work for you, your location, and your needs.
As appealing as baby chicks look in the store, you want to make sure you are bringing home chickens that will thrive in your location and are intended for what you need. There are some breeds to be aware of the require special needs.
Some good, easy to care for chicken breeds that are great layers include Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Easter Eggers, ISA Browns, and Leghorns. There are a few breeds to keep in mind that you definitely want to be aware of.
Ever wonder why the chickens are so loud? Learn 11 reasons in my post.
Cornish Cross chicks are bright yellow, fluffy chicks. However, it’s important to realize that these chickens are intended to be meat birds. They grow very fast, very quickly, and require a lot of feed.
By the time these chickens are about 8-9 weeks old, they are very large and will need to be harvested for meat. Many new chicken owners discover this too late, after they have bonded with the chickens and have no intention of harvesting them.
These chickens, if not cared for properly, and then also harvested on time, can end up experiencing a dire fate. They ultimately cannot support their own weight and will end up having heart issues.
Cornish Cross chickens are an example of a breed that would not work if you were hoping to raise chickens that will provide eggs for you.
Silkies have become increasingly popular among chicken owners. They’re “fluffy” appearance and big hairy pom poms atop their heads have made them a hit amongst chicken owners.
Many people jump at the chance to own Silkies without fully understanding the needs and specifications of this very special breed of chickens. For starters, it is very important that you keep your Silkies dry.
Silkies’ feathers are not waterproof like other breeds of chickens. They are also much smaller as they are considered a “bantam” or miniature breed of chicken. For this reason, you must make sure that you keep your Silkies 100% dry at all times.
You may do this with a blow dryer and by making sure to bring your Silkies inside when it is raining outside. It is also important to keep in mind that due to their small stature, unless raised alongside chicks of other breeds, you may need to take special precautions when introducing them to an existing flock.
Some owners of Silkies and other bantam breeds actually keep these chicken breeds separated in their own coop.
No matter what chicken you have you have to feed them, one popular way is food pellets but do they even like them? Find out in my post.
Raising Baby Chickens Is Rewarding But Requires Research
Caring for and raising chicken is a fun and exciting undertaking. Watching your chickens grow and develop under your care is a rewarding experience for you and your family.
Caring for chickens, like any animal requires proper research, materials, food, and time. Investing in these will ensure a successful endeavor resulting in years of happiness for both you and your chickens.
Making sure you provide your baby chickens with a warm, safe, and dry brooder, bedding, the proper food and water set up, and enrichment items will go a long way in helping you build your confidence in raising chickens.
Cleaning your chickens only when needed will keep your chickens healthy and disease-free. Always practice good hygiene when handling and caring for your chickens to ensure your own health and safety.
Most of all, enjoy the whole process of raising your baby chickens. Don’t be afraid to hold them often and interact with them. Raising baby chickens is fun for the whole family when done correctly.