Chick Care Tips from Odyssey Ranch

The information below can be used to help you get your baby poultry started correctly and to hopefully eliminate any potential problems that might arise. Please read this information carefully and be prepared when your baby poultry arrive.


Poultry Need: Feed, Water, Heat, Light & Space.

: We use Nutrena Gamebird Starter Crumble to start all of our baby birds which seems to give them a good, healthy start. However, you may use any commercial chick starter for the type of poultry you are raising. Use the chick starter for the first 8 weeks. We perfer a crumble as opposed to the mash as there seems to be less waste. However, either will work. Use a 2 foot feeder for each 25 chicks. Do not offer "scratch" feed to young chicks as the chicks may fill up on that feed which is very low in the protein requirements that growing chicks need to thrive and it may pose a choking problem.

: Have a 1 gallon chick waterer for each 50 birds. DIP THE BEAK OF THE CHICK IN THE WATER BEFORE YOU TURN IT LOOSE.  A taste of water right away helps them to find more water soon. If your chicks are at all stressed, add about 3 tablespoons of brown or table sugar to each quart of water for extra energy.  Most baby bird loss is caused because the bird doesn't start to eat or drink. Never let your bird run out of water.

: The temperature where the birds are housed should be 90 to 95 degrees for the first week. Reduce the temperature 5 degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees. This is usually when your chicks are between 4-5 weeks old and pretty well covered with their new feathers. Then they shouldn't need any more heat. A good source of heat is a 250 watt bulb.  Hang it 18 inches from the floor. The temperature directly under the bulb will be higher than 90 degrees but the birds will adjust themselves to the area they like. Use 1 bulb for each 50 chicks in cold weather. Use 1 bulb for each 100 chicks in warm weather.
LIGHT: If you use a heat bulb, this will also serve as the light you need. Otherwise, be sure to give your birds light. Use a 75 watt bulb on dark days. Have a small light for night - 15 watts or similar - to keep them from piling.

: Try to provide 1/2 square foot per bird at the start. For starting 50 or more chicks outside, use a draft shield and make a circle about 5 to 6 feet across.  For 100 birds, make the circle 7 to 8 feet across. Circular shapes are better than square shapes to keep chicks from piling in the corners.
Q. - I just bought some chicks and a couple of them died, what will you do about the loss?
A. - Unfortunately there is nothing we can do because we have no control over the care of the chicks once they leave our facility. That is why we usually don't sell our chicks until they are 5-7 days old so that they get a good start to life and learn to eat and drink on their own. Most of the chicks loss is usually due to stress from over handling or usually being too cold.

Q. - How do I keep my new chicks from stressing?
A. - When you get you new chicks home, it is best if you let them settle in their new home without too much handling at first. Show them where the feed and water is and place a teaspoon of brown sugar (or regular table sugar if you don't have brown sugar) in their water, which will enhance the taste and provide the chicks with a boost of energy. Make sure there is plenty of warmth and light and your chicks should began to thrive before your eyes!

Q. - I just bought chicks that were suppose to be pullets, but I ended up with a few roosters. Can I exchange the roosters for hens?
A. - No, we do not exchange roosters for pullets. Unless Sexlink chicks are purchased, we try our best to sex the other breeds of growing chicks that we have. We do not guarantee the sex of those chicks, but we do try our hardest, using our knowledge and experience to pick out the pullets for our customers. On occasion, we unfortunately mis-sex the birds.

Q. - Will you buy your roosters back?
A. - No, we don't buy back roosters. But if you are just looking to get them off your feed bill, we will take them back at no cost.

Q.- Do I need a rooster to have eggs from my hens?
A. - No, a rooster is not needed for a hen to lay eggs.  A rooster is only needed to fertilize the eggs if you are desiring to have baby chicks.

Q. - How do I keep my chicks warm? Heating pad? Keeping them in the warmest room of my house?
A. - Although many people believe that their home is a warm and comfortable place to raise chicks, typically it is NOT warm enough for any baby poultry. Please refer to the "Chick Care Tips" above. If you have only a couple chicks, a simple cardboard box and a clamp light will suffice for warmth.

Q. - Can all my poultry live together?
A. - Yes, for the most part, all poultry can live together as long as they are provided with ample space and proper nutrition.

Q. - Can I raise my chicks and duckling together in the same brooder?
A. - This is a difficult task. Ducklings have a tendency to enjoy their water, thus making their bedding wet. Chicks can get chilled very easily by dampness of this water. Ducklings might also be somewhat pushy with the chicks, pushing them away from the feed or water. It is suggested that they are brooded separately at first until the chicks start to get their feathers in.  If your brooding space is large enough so that the chicks can stay dry or you change the bedding regularly, the ducklings and chicks can be raised together.

Q. - Can my ducklings swim right away?
A. - No, although ducklings can instinctively swim after hatching, it is highly recommended that you DO NOT let your duckling swim. Since they are hatched from an incubator and not from their mother, they do not have the protective oils on their down (fluff) that is given to them by their mother when she hatches them, thus their feathers have a tendency to ABSORB water rather than to defect it. In actuality, baby ducklings can drown until they start producing protective oils of their own. The protective oil usually starts in a few weeks after hatching.

Q. - How many chickens do I need?
A. - This is a question we get quite often and have the hardest time answering. The number of chickens you get should reflect the use you plan for them.  If you are looking for egg producers, figure out the number of eggs you consume per week and then buy your chickens according to that number.  If you are looking to free-range the birds for pest control, that will be determined by the size of your property and the number of birds you wish to see roaming your property. If you have a chicken coop, figure the measurements of it and allow at least 2 1/2 square foot of space per chicken for your coop.

Q. - Can I put my baby chicks in with my adult chickens?
A. - No, adult birds do not usually 'adopt' baby chicks and many times will actually kill them. It is best to raise up the baby chicks and then introduce them to the adult chickens in a gradual manner.

Q. - I am looking for older chicks then you have right now, or I don't want to mess with the heat lamps and temperature control of raising the chicks. Can I buy the chicks from you now and pick them up in a few weeks? I can even pay a bit extra for the feed?
A. - No, we cannot hold or raise birds for our customers. Although this is a request we get quite often, we cannot 'hold' or segregate chicks aside from others to grow them due to lack of space and facility on our part. We have the exact number of holding facilities and brooders available for the chicks that we hatch out. When we are left 'holding' birds, we are using space that is designated for our hatching and growing birds.
If you are looking for older birds, we try to stagger our hatching and raising so that  we do have different ages of chicks available. If we don't have what you are looking for at this time, try checking back in a few weeks to see what is available then.

Q. - How can I tell a hen chick from a rooster chick and at what age?
A. - Depending on the breed of chick, depends on how easy or early you will be able to tell if you have a pullet or a cockerel. Normally you will be able to tell at about 4 weeks of age by looking at their comb (the red skin-like area on top of their head) and their waddles (the red skin-like area under their chin). These two areas are more pronounced in cockerels (roosters) than in pullets (hens). If you compare the same breed and age together, you should notice that some of the chicks will have larger, redder combs and waddles than the others. Those will most likely be your roosters. Cockerel chicks also have a tendency to feather out more slowly than the pullets.

Q. - My hens are loosing their feathers, are they sick?
A. - No, they are not sick. Chickens will automatically molt (lose) their feathers every year and those feather will be replaced by new ones. Roosters kept with hens will also cause feather loss. Usually the hen's back and behind their head will become somewhat bare from the rooster mating the hen.

Q. - My hens stopped laying eggs when it got cold. Why?
A. -
If egg production is of prime importance to you in regard to your chickens, then the use of supplemental lighting may help, but once you start this process of giving your chickens extra light in winter you will need to keep it up until spring. Any fluctuation in this process will have a negative rather than a positive impact on your hens and their laying, even if you lapse for just a day. To maintain a steady egg production, your chickens will need more than 12 hours of light a day; between 14 and 16 hours is the ideal. The type of bulb you use does not matter, just as long as it is bright enough to be able to read a newspaper. To make sure the lighting is kept at the same level everyday, the use of a timer is a good idea, so the light can go on and off whenever you program it to. Whilst it is true to say that chickens need light in winter to produce eggs, it's more that they need "extra" light in order to maintain a steady egg production. However if you are keeping your chickens as free range pets, you may be happy for them to continue their natural season of molting and resting their egg production in the winter, so that they are ready to produce even more wonderful eggs for you when spring rolls around again.

Q. - What kind of feed do I feed my poultry?
A. - The chicks should receive chick starter until they are 8 weeks old. After that, a general all-purpose feed is good for them as long as the protein level is kept at about 16% protein. When the chicken is approaching laying age, the feed should be changed to lay crumble/pellet or mash. 'Scratch' feed should NEVER be used as the only feed source as it does not provide a high enough protein content (only about 8% protein) to main healthy laying birds. If you do wish to feed scratch, feed it as a treat, more so than as a meal. You may wish to feed fresh vegetables, fruits, leftovers, oyster shell, etc. but again, remember to feed these items as a supplement rather than the main source of the meal. If you free range your birds, they will many times find their own protein sources such as bugs and seeds, but it doesn't hurt to throw out some lay crumbles or pellets to keep your chicken's protein levels high and your chicken's health in peek performance.
For ducks, guineas and other type fowl, follow the same rule of thumb stated above for the appropriate type of fowl.

Q. - What kind of bedding do I need for my chicks?
A. - Baby poultry does well with pine shavings, as it provides warmth, stability and absorbancy. Newspaper is not recommended as sometimes chicks/ducklings can loose their footing with the newspaper and have leg issues.

Q. - What kind of bedding do I need for my laying hens?
A. - The bedding for laying boxes for hens is quite varied. Some people use straw, hay or grass cuttings. These items are fair sources of bedding, however, you will find that the hens have a tendency to scratch through a lot of those nesting materials, sometimes leaving the hard bottom surface of the nesting box exposed, which could cause cracked eggs.  We line the bottom of the boxes with a piece of carpet, then place pine shaving over that. The hens tend to leave the shaving in place better then other materials, and although they still might scratch through them, the carpet will be the surface they scratch to, rather than the hard bottom surface of the box, thus less likely of a chance of breaking the eggs. The carpet makes cleaning easy as well, since once the nesting box is soiled, you just need to replace the carpet square with a new piece and add more shavings!

Q. - Will you incubate my eggs?
A. - Sorry, this is something we don't have the capacity to do.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!

First and foremost, we would like to say that although we hatch, breed and raise many different types of animals, we are sensitive to the fact that there are many homeless animals out there that are in need of a home. We do our best at re-homing many animals and poultry over the years and will continue to do so. If you ever have or come across any poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. that are in need of a new home, please feel free to contact us. Unfortunately, we DO NOT have the facility to take on any dogs or cats. You must understand that we are not a vet or hospital facility, nor can we take on any sick or injured animals for the safety of our own stock and for the safety of our customers. Animals are an important part of our lives and we will do our best to satisfy their needs.