Starting Chicks

Here a chick, there a chick, everywhere a chick, chick! Eeeee! Before you go grabbing all the cute little baby chicks you see at the feed shops, big box stores or even your amazing local breeders are you ready for this amazing adventure you’re going to embark? If not, or kind of, that is ok! We can help get you prepared and make sure you are ready. BUT BEWARE! Chicken math is a serious thing! What is chicken math you ask? Well, it happens when you go to buy chicks or chickens, planning for 5? Well, purchase a coop for double… You will understand as time goes. What you plan for is never what you will end up with. Chickens are like tattoos, once you get one you want more and more!

When someone comes to me and is interested in starting a flock, I always make sure they have already installed their beautiful coop. Please, please, please, make sure it is safe from predators. Fencing in the ground at least a foot or two, IF your coop is on soft ground and not concrete. Make sure the locks cannot be wiggled open by hungry raccoon hands or pushed open by a wild fox. This brings me to the things you will need when starting this adventure.

Starter List

  • Starter/Grower Feed

  • Medicated or non-medicated

  • I choose non-medicated (I will share why later)

  • Waterer and feeder for chicks

  • Brooder tub or tote for the chicks to live in until they are coop ready!

  • Size will vary based off of quantity of chicks

  • Heat lamp or chick brooder heater plate

  • The plates work amazing, but I have personally used heat lamps.

  • If you choose a heat lamp, make sure to get the clamp and the bulbs, sometimes these are sold seperately

  • Bedding for the brooder

  • Wood chips or flakes, paper towels, newspaper. I use newspaper is it is much easier to clean. Roll it up and toss it in the trash can.

  • Electrolyte/probiotic packet

  • Add to the waterer the first day chicks come home to help them adjust and reduce stress on the body from the constant change of environment

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • You can add once the chicks have drunk the electrolytes and you provide new clean water

  • Oregano Flakes and Ground Cinnamon

  • If you choose non-medicated this is a MUST!

  • Coop – double in size what you want! (I promise I have good reasoning)

  • Extra hardware cloth to put over any areas deemed unsafe on your coop

  • If a racoon, fox or weasel body part can reach in and grab a chicken it is unsafe

  • Live Traps for outside (if living in a predator known area)

  • At least 2 sizes, small and medium ones usually come in a pack together


When shopping for your chicks it is important to have these items ready. I know you are thinking that you don’t need to waste the money on a live trap set now, but it is important too because none of us have ever planned on having a predator get our chicks or chickens. Sometimes crap happens and we have to be responsible pet owners for the chicks that survived the attack. Plus, it’s a huge relief when we are able to catch that predator. I do recommend relocating the predator to your local hunting grounds in your area. Especially opossums, because they eat A LOT and by a lot, I mean over 3,500 a season! Your local hunters will be grateful!

Now, selecting a coop is important. I know a lot of people think in the beginning they only want a few chickens, but I am telling you, YOU WILL WANT MORE! An example I have for you about chicken math is myself and my experiences. I went to the local feed shop where I ordered 6 chicks. They had a batch of 4 that the buyer decided to not take and 2 guinea fowl that were extra, as well as 3 ducks… what did I do?… I took everyone home with me! I figured “ahh what’s a few more?” Well, a few more went from 10 leghorns 6 years ago to now 40+ chickens, 4 ducks, 3 guinea fowl, 3 quail and soon to be over 30 quail this May (thank you Hoover’s Hatchery, hehe) and I have 16 baby chicks in my basement spare bathroom also! So, let me tell you… chicken math can get crazy quick. And with all that crazy, comes money to spend on them. Which brings us to the next part… feed… (don’t worry in the picture below the toilet paper near the lamp was removed after this photo was taken.. I promise!)

Choosing a starter/grower is simple for some and not for others. I chose to question everything from ingredients to where it was made. I am a very honest person and there are some brands out there that just do not deserve to be put in your chick’s body. It is your job as the owner to see where feed is made and the creditability of that company. ALSO! This is a HUGE NO, NO! DO NOT get chickens and then choose to feed the cheapest food available. I understand you may want 10 chicks, but can only afford to feed the cheapest due to income. If this is the case, please purchase 5 chicks and feed a better-quality feed. The purpose of feeding a good quality feed is what they eat, goes to you! The nutrients in the food will nourish their body and provide you with a healthy egg and later if you choose to butcher, then quality and healthy meat is on your table. Feeding lower quality feed will result in poor egg production, flavorless eggs, gray or pale egg yolks, soft shells, poor health in your hen, harder molting season and more.

Many also wonder whether they should do medicated starter or non-medicated. Well, I am here to tell you that the choice is yours BUT! If you choose to get vaccinated chicks then the medicated feed is not necessary. If you choose to not vaccinate for Coccidiosis then medicated may make you feel better. I personally never vaccinate my chicks for Coccidiosis ONLY because there is a holistic remedy that has worked long before and has yet to fail me. This is where the oregano flakes and ground cinnamon come into play. Amprolium is the main medication used to prevent coccidiosis. It stops the chickens body from making use of thiamin in the bacteria, doing so prevents the chicken from getting the disease. What I do instead, my old wise-man trick, is when I purchase my NatureServe starter/grower that is non-medicated, I simply add oregano and ground cinnamon to the food. Their feed also has essential oils of oregano, cinnamon and white thyme to help boost your chick’s immune system. These help balance the immune system and have a great response from the gut to prevent loose poop or pasty butt and will help firm up poop immediately. It is important to guide the gut health for your baby chicks. Their immune systems at such young ages rely on their gut and lungs. NatureServe feed is an amazing brand, so I do not have to add a lot per feeding. I add 1 tablespoon of each herb to 2 cups of food.

I am also a firm believer in apple cider vinegar being added to the water. This helps boost their metabolism into gear and pushes them to drink and eat healthy. It also helps expel any bacteria already in the body. So please keep their brooder area clean. I also want you to know that organic is the best way to go when purchasing ACV. It is important to not use products that contain pesticides when chicks are so small. These pesticides have several side effects which I’d love to get into, but that is for another blog on another day!

If you have very stressed chicks that were transported in poor weather conditions, it is smart to add the Apple Cider Vinegar to water, but you can also use an electrolyte with probiotic. This will help boost their energy and relax the tummy. The constant change of environment can get crazy! Changing the environment from incubator > housing > then shipping box > transport to store> new brooder> another shipping or transport box >to new home brooder! IT’S A LOT OF TRAVELING!

SO! I hope this helps guide you on your adventure with raising chicks! I know this will be amazing for you. A few last-minute pointers!

  • Make sure to hand feed your baby chick’s snacks once they are over 2 weeks.

  • Pay attention to who’s moving quickly verses slowly,

  • Keep the water clean! We add a tile under the waterer to keep any bedding from getting in it.

  • Any chicks showing weakness and not moving and hiding in corners or standing still falling asleep for long periods of times, be sure to separate and give the electrolyte powder and a warm rice bag to lean on.

  • If a chick is really not acting itself, try adding a little honey in their water and let them drink it. It can take time to heal over anything that comes in their path. They may be tiny, but they are strong.

  • If they get poop stuck to their bottom make sure the heat lamp is not too close to them. Soak bottom with warm wet wash cloth or paper towel so that it can loosen off of the feathers and is not pulled off. Pulling can cause redness and can be fatal if the poop pulls the vent area out. So, you could add some coconut oil to the area the poop was stuck to prevent more poop sticking.

OKAY! I think I covered most! Let me know if you feel there is anything I should add to the list to inform friends and new chicken owners!


Your Chick Friend/Mama,

Amanda B.

Published by Amanda B.

Our family homestead began 6 years ago when we decided to buy a home in the country in the beautiful state of Michigan. I was on a mission to have it all but no idea where to begin. So, our dream house found us! I know, I know, that doesn’t sound right, but it did! An older gentleman that shopped at our local pet food store had approached my family about having a home for sale and once we saw it, we knew there was no way we could get approved for the amount he was asking. BUT this man was an angel disguised as a human here on earth. We called him up and he met our daughter (my mother’s 1st of 3 grandbabies) and when I explained to him the sad news he simply said, “I have known your family for a long time, your mother worked at my kennel and holds a piece of my heart and I do not care how much you get approved for. I want that little girl (pointing to my dear Abby who was 6 months old) to have a forever home. When you get approved by a loan company come find me and buy my home.” With tears of joy and tears of so much weight being lifted off my shoulders I hugged him with the biggest and hardest hug I could gather up and we went through the home buying process. 6 years later, I am here in this very home to share my love for poultry and homesteading. That entire step of homesteading started with chickens! We have always been in love with animals and nutrition is my number one priority for my animals. My family’s business is Holistic Pet Store, feeding raw, dehydrated raw and the finest foods for pets and holistic and homeopathic supplements for people and pets. We take nutrition to a different level. So, finding a poultry feed that fit in was my task and I was up for the job. I of course brought in organic, soy free, and even things to add such a safflowers and sunflower seeds, but as my family grew, this $48 per bag of feed for 30+ poultry was not in the budget plan. We went from a family of 3 and a couple dogs and chickens to a family of 5, 4 dogs, 7 cats, 3 guinea pigs, 20 rabbits, 4 goats, 2 cows, 30+ chickens, 20+ ducks, 3 turkeys and 1 pig. So, I took my knowledge of feed and started fermenting everything. (I’ll explain this process to you soon in another blog post, it will blow your mind!!!) Every animal’s feed had been fermented and costs were minimized tremendously and it seemed as though nothing could go wrong…but it did. The Words that Changed Everything When Evie my 3rd beautiful baby girl came into our world, my job was on hold which meant my money used to pay for the animals’ feed was no longer available. Things became solely on my husband’s shoulders. He was prepared and had budgeted for most of it, but money just seemed to disappear. So, we did what it was time to do. We sent the cows for butcher and rented the goats out for parties and events, and cut costs where we could. Which sadly meant buying the cheapest feed. We did the usual big box store brands. We thought this cannot be too bad and everything will be fine. The first few months everything was okay but we slowly noticed our chickens lost their shiny feathers and softness. They even had weaker immune systems and we had lost chickens more than we ever had the years prior. We had no sign of Avian Influenza, but we had chickens dying at random moments for no reason. I truly felt it couldn’t get worse and then I started cracking eggs and the yolks were gray, the beautiful orange yolks dwindled to flavorless, bland grays and pale yellows. At this time, I felt like the odds were against us and was about to sell everything I owned and when I was able to work, I would start up with a new flock. The next day we had our wonderful truck driver from our distributor, John A. Van Den Bosch, come in. When I told him the news and was to my wits end, he said the magic words that changed everything, “Have you ever heard of NatureServe?” At first, I thought to myself maybe, then quickly realized I never had. He told me about the company and how Van Den Bosch carries them and that he truly feels it is the perfect fit for what I am looking for. When I looked them up, by golly-gee he was right! NatureServe was everything I was looking for, they used fermented probiotics and digestive enzymes and ESSENTIAL OILS. Combined, it was an immune system booster created by man with 100% of natures bounty. I was blown away. HOW DID I MISS THIS! I am sure if you are reading this you may think I am kind of crazy but let me fill you in on a life of one of my chickens. They receive fresh water every other day with essential oils in it to help prevent respiratory issues, as well as keep the immune system stable. They have free access 24/7 to almost 200 pounds of feed that is mixed with safflower and sunflower seeds. As a treat we chose fermented broccoli sprouts or flaxseed sprouts. They have almost 11 acres of grass and wild herbs and flowers to rummage through and a medium sized pond to find some yummy tadpoles, baby frogs, and crickets to eat. But when winter hit, it was fermented sprouts and feed they relied on the most. To find an affordable but not breaking the bank food that fit my lifestyle and ethics was hard until that magical day I was introduced to NatureServe. NatureServe is a company based on family and faith. They use the highest quality ingredients while going above and beyond with what they are putting in their feed. For example, they use: Fermented pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your flock’s digestive tract Flaxseed for a safe form of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber Alfalfa, THIS ONE I LOVE! Reduces seasonal depression in chickens, helps hens lay all winter or during a usual off season, and is an amazing protein source Diatomaceous Earth is a natural de-wormer, and with its main ingredient being silica it will help give your poultry a healthy heart Marigold may be the best ingredient added to this feed! Marigolds help the skin’s ability to heal faster as well as reduces eye infections from even starting. This flower is also a natural anti inflammatory which is wonderful for chickens that free range on several acres all day Oregano and Thyme to support immune system The feeds are produced through Belstra Milling in DeMotte, Indiana. With NatureServe’s ingredients being the safest and the healthiest, I know what I am putting into my flock is of the highest quality. After all, don’t we do this so we can feed our families the healthiest meat? As a homesteader we use the whole chicken. The chicken’s meat is for food, the bones and certain organs are used in stocks and broths. Why feed a food that is destroying an animal’s immune system when you can feed a layer that can excel your poultry’s life and not only improve their way of living but your own. What change came since being on NatureServe Stronger flocks Longer egg laying duration Strong shells No issues with blocked eggs or eggs breaking inside the chicken due to optimal nutrition Golden orange yolks Healthy chicks, poults, and ducklings Nutritionally satisfied poultry (no aggression due to lack of nutrition or hunger) Beyond beautiful feathers and colors I can’t wait to touch base on more topics with you! Keep your eyes peeled for more fun blogs by yours truly, Amanda B.