Silkie chicks in brooder

Chicks – What you REALLY need to get started

Last spring we decided it was time to get chicks for the farm. Me being me, I read, researched, pinned, and read some more. Matt being Matt, he wanted to know how much this was going to cost us.

There are TONS of amazing resources created by people far more experienced with raising chickens than myself and let’s be honest, I continue to learn every day as I figure out what works best for our farm! But, if you’re looking to add just a handful of hens to your life their needs are pretty basic.

  1. Shelter – They need a safe place to live that’s warm, dry, and easy to clean! My husband built a brooder (a chick tank) out of scrap woodbut if you search brooders on pinterest people have used everything from plastic tubs to upcycled furniture.
  2. Feeder/Waterer – Yes, you can use bowls, BUT chicks are MESSY! They will play with/in theirfood and water bowls. As adorable as it sounds, refilling both a million times a day, wasting chick feed, and replacing wet bedding gets old! Also, a water bowl can be a drowning hazard for the little chicks. Chick feeders run about $3 at your local feed store and you don’t need the plastic containers that screw on. I just use a few of my regular-mouth mason jars and BAM, you’re good to go.
  3. Heat source – Your little cuties need warmth!  A heat lamp works great, can be adjusted closer or further to change the temperature, and is super reasonably priced. The biggest concern with heat lamps is they can be fire hazards if improperly installed or neglected. There are other heat options as well, but for beginners a heat lamp is the most cost-conservative.
  4. Chicken feed – You can get chick starter/grower or chicken feed from your local feed store. There are also several DIY recipes on pinterest (you over achiever, you!). There are many opinions on what chicks should consume, but that’s a whole nother article.
  5. Bedding – Pine shavings are my favorite bedding. Make sure they’re pine, NOT cedar, because cedar shavings cause respiratory issues. You can use newspaper, paper towels, or sand, but pine shavings are what I’ve found work best for me.
  6. A Coop Plan – No, you don’t need a coop right away, but you’ll want to have a plan for where your flock will go when they outgrow the brooder. You don’t want to end up with 22 chickens and no place for them to go (What? No! I swear I never did this!).

That’s it!

I know, I know! “But Cheryl”, you’ll exclaim, “they need ________”!

There are oyster shells, chick sticks, diatomaceous earth, electrolytes, chicken first aid kits, wooden eggs, chicken scratch, chicken vitamins, etc. And yes, at some point you may want to or need to invest in some of the other items recommended for raising healthy, happy chickens, but these are the basics. They will get you started and you can buy the other items as your chicks grow and you learn!

Are there items did I not include on the above list experienced chicken mamas consider must-haves?  Comment below!

I hope this gives you a solid argument for why chickens are totally in your budget, mostly because everyone should have chickens in their life!

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