Backyard Chickens

We are busy, we've got no extra time, our daughter is potty training... and yes, we added 7 baby chicks to the mix. Anyone else?? It's been a few crazy weeks and overall, this has been another fun adventure.

A few years ago Jacob came home talking about how cool it would be if we raised chickens. At that time, I couldn't even imagine those messy and smelly little creatures in our tiny backyard. No matter how many eggs they would give me. And if you have been following me along on social media, you know I could eat scrambled eggs for breakfast every day :p 

Oh well, when we found this property, guess what? There was already a coop in it. Meant to be, right? Fast forward a year and here we are, living in our little cabin in the woods, raising 7 baby chicks! 

One acre is a lot more than we had before, and we are excited about all we can do here to provide our family with organic foods and lots of fun experiences. Raising chickens just feels right now (soon enough they wont be right under my nose at all times :p).

We patiently waited for spring to come. After a few springy days (or weeks) in February, we decided it was time. We went to our local feed store and got all we needed to get started. The original plan was to start with 3, then was 5. "But chicks are so fragile" people told us, so we decided to get a couple extra just in case. Ended up with 7. Week #4 going strong.

For the first 4 weeks we kept our chicks in our bathroom because 1) it's the biggest room in our house :p 2) we could keep them warm and care for them easily, while keeping them sort of secluded. We have moved the small coop to our porch, and since I started writing this blog post we have moved them there (right around 4 weeks - more updates will come later). This way we can keep the heat lamp on if needed. After that, they will go in the coop with a big area for them to run around. Still deciding if we will let them free range or not. 

They are super cute and smarter that I gave them credit for. Our family has been hanging our at lot in the bathroom watching them :p and we make sure to wash our hands every time we touch them because you know, they are dirty little creatures. (don't get me wrong)

Want chicks? Here is what you need to get started with chicks

I thought it would be fun to share with you all the details of how we got started since some of our friends were very curious and wondering how (and if) they could raise chicks too!

I'll share some affiliate links with each step so you can easily get started if you want to :)

1- Brooder

This is the chicks' home. It needs to be warm, just the right size, stay dry and clean, and accommodate food and water. Besides that, they are not picky. You can make it as simple or as elaborated as you like.

We used a storage bin. We started with one we had, but in a little over a week, we noticed the chicks were growing and needed a bigger space, so we got a 50 gal bin, and that seems to be plenty of space for now. You can also use a cardboard box, dog crate, a galvanized round end tank... the possibilities are endless. Just make sure the sides are high, to prevent them from escaping!

1b - To keep the brooder warm

You can either use a heater like this, where the chicks can get under and it won't overheat. Or you can get a lamp (the one we got). Our setup was like this one, with lamp and bulb. See photos :) 

 2-  Waterer

You will see on the pictures our DIY vertical chicken waterer. We made it with left over pipe we had and some side mount chicken water nipples

You can use traditional waterers instead. It’s very important that chicks are in a dry and clean place in order to thrive and not get sick. Vertical waterers use nipples that can be attached to a bucket or a pipe. They reduce waste, keep the water clean, reduce the potential for bacteria growth, and even baby chicks can learn how to use them! It was fun teaching them where to get water and it only took a couple of tries. In my opinion, the traditional waterers take extra space, get really messy and add extra work for us.

Vertical waterers are trickier to install and ours is leaking. We can’t figure our what was done wrong (add here extra bedding changes). If you know of a good vertical waterer system, please let me know, because we are not ready to give up on it.

3- Food

Little chicks need a special food called chick starter. We got non-gmo (not organic like I had said before) option they had at our local store, called H and H feed (the chick starter version, linked here. The same brand also offers other mixes for different ages).

4- Feeder

This was an easy choice. We just grabbed the first one we saw that was small yet big enough for the amount of chicks we have. Once they move into the big coop, we may look into alternatives similar to the vertical waterer, to eliminate extra work, because as they scratch around, shavings get thrown inside their food and we want to make sure everything stays as clean as possible.

We just fill it up with feed, fill up a small mason jar with extra feed, and pop it on top of the feeder. Easy peasy. We also started hanging the feeder up so it's an inch or too high from the floor, this way they scratch less shavings and poop inside their food. One thing I noticed is that whenever I don't put the mason jar on top, they jump on it, so I try to make sure I leave the mason jar on top to prevent the food from getting dirty.

5- Bedding

There are a few options out there when you look for options of what to put on the bottom of the brooder. The most important thing to know here is that the bottom of the brooder needs to stay clean and dry, in order for the chicks to stay healthy. Our chicks were a couple days old when we got them so we decided to go straight to pine wood shavings. We put a few pages of newspaper or cardboard on the bottom and topped with pine shavings to help absorb the water. The bedding helps absorb the moisture faster, and we changed it every 2-3 days, as needed.

When chicks are very young, having slippery material on the bottom of the brooder can cause spraddle leg (a condition where the chick does the splits. It can be treated but it's always better to avoid it).

We got out pine shavings also at Triple S Feed, our local store. If this is the option you want to go with, make sure that:

  • change it regularly to keep it clean
  • raise feeder and waterer so they don't scratch and kick dirty shavings inside
  • make sure you buy untreated shavings (the added oils are not safe for the chicks and grown chickens)
  • don't buy cedar shavings, since their oil is harmful for chicks and adult chickens alike.

Other options to consider: 

non-slippery shelf liner (some people will also use this in the incubator when hatching eggs) covered with paper towels. This is a good idea when you hatch the eggs at home in an incubator. Giving the chicks about a week for them to learn what the food tastes and looks like.

> construction grade sand. It's the best type os sand to use since it doesn't give off as much dust as play sand, for example. Make sure the sand is truly dry before adding it to the brooder since wet sand takes a while to dry out. You will also make sure you use a radiant heat source instead of a heat lamp if you decide to use sand, or it will be too hot under the lamp for little chick feet.

6- Chicks

Last but not least, you need chicks! We got ours at our local feed store and are so happy with them! Everyone we talked with said chicks are fragile and you usually end up loosing a couple in the first few weeks. Sometimes they come already sick, so it's very important to trust where you are getting your chicks from and take very good care of them. 

If you are local to Dripping Springs, TX, I highly recommend checking out Triple S Feed Store facebook page where they keep us updated as when new chicks are arriving and pay them a visit! Their staff is very resourceful and patient with us - first time chicken owners, and I really appreciate that.

Extra- Not necessary but highly recommended:

a cute-animal-loving-toddler to pose for your pictures! It's been really fun to watch her help out with the chicks and ask to tell them goodnight at every bed time.

Get ready for more cuteness overload because these chickies are already cute, curious and loving toddler is just the icing on the cake.

A quick look:

  • into our bathroom brooder set up weeks 1-4

watch dog recommended :p

  • water set up

with a little container and extra shavings to retain the leak

  • food

Any questions?

A quick look:

  • into our bathroom brooder set up weeks 1-4

watch dog recommended :p

  • water set up

with a little container and extra shavings to retain the leak

  • food

Any questions?


Photography by Taila specializes in photographing toddlers, seniors and couples, serving Austin, TX and surrounding areas including but not limited to Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels and San Antonio.

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