Chickens are interesting animals and are a farm animal that most people could easily raise if they wanted to. Chickens do require some regular basic care, but with a little knowledge you could raise a chicken from an egg to a full grown chicken. I feel that it is best to have more than one as they tend to stay in flocks and we have had better outcome when we raised a few together than trying to just raise one.
The first thing that you need to do if you are wanting to actually hatch your own chickens, you will need an incubator. There are many places that you can buy incubators and I am sure that with a little searching you can find plans and designs for one on line. Be sure that your incubator is clean and disinfected with a mild bleach solution or vinegar and water mix. I highly recommend that the incubator is set up at least one day before you intend to put the eggs into it to make sure it is working properly. The incubator should be in a place where there are stable temperatures without a draft and out of direct sunlight. Start with eggs that have been stored in a cool location and be sure that the eggs are tilted or turned each day, at least once a day.While the eggs are being incubated, they need to be kept at a constant temperature and the humidity should be fairly constant as well.
As you are waiting for the chicks to hatch there are things that you can be doing to prepare for these new cute, fuzzy little animals that you will be caring for. Buy a feeder and waterer that is designed for chicks. They have to be able to eat and drink on their own. Getting a brooder ready is a very important step too, whether you build your own or purchase one, you will need it. There are many easy ways to build these as you can see here. It is bet to make your own unless you intend to raise chickens for profit as the commercial brooders can be very expensive. The brooder box also needs to be in an area that is draft free and be large enough that the chicks can move around in it and move closer to or farther away from the heat source depending on whether they are warm or cold.
You should also buy bedding and feed for the chicks early as well. Chicks should not be on slick surfaces for at least the first two weeks. Recommended bedding are pine shavings. paper towels, or even old towels. For the food, chick starter with 20% protein is best to start feeding them once they are in the brooder box.
Once the chicks arrive, it is important to be able to monitor them to make sure that they are not too hot or too cold. As soon as you enter them into the brooder box, dip each chick’s beak into the water source so that they know where to get a drink from. Keep fresh feed and water for them at all times and keep the bedding clean and as dry as possible for them. The temperature in the brood box should be about 95 degrees when they are first born and this can be decreased by 5 degrees each week. Chicks should stay in a warm brooder box until they are fully feathered, which is usually around 5 weeks old. At that time, they should be mature enough to be in an unheated enclosure.
Other than the basic things that a chicken needs, it is nice to have a cage that you can put any injured or sick chicks into so that they can be separated from the other chicks. Also, chickens love to perch, especially at night so it would be nice to have some perches for them to climb on. I recommend that you add a little oyster shell or grit to the bedding as it helps the chicks with digesting their food and chicks love grass clippings or any other kind of treats (worms, weeds,greens, etc. ) that you could give them .
Raising chicks can be a fun hobby or can be a lucrative business depending on how much time you really want to spend at it and how much money you want to invest into it. These tips of basic care will help you to decide if raising chicks is even something you would like to consider doing. Children will love watching the chicks grow from small fuzzy chicks to fully feathered grown chickens.
Sources and Resources:
Henderson’s Chicken Chart