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Baby Chicks FAQ

These are some of our frequently asked questions about raising chicks and the answers.*

Visit Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc., call (813) 932-9775, or email us if you have additional questions.

How do I raise baby chickens?

With a little bit of planning, you can easily and successfully raise baby chicks and quickly reap the benefits of having full-grown, egg-laying chickens. You’ll need some supplies to get you started, such as a brooder, bedding, food, waterer, and a heat lamp. We are happy to help you put together all the supplies you’ll need to get started. Please stop by and ask us, we would love to talk to you about chickens!


How many chickens do I need?

In our experience, you need at least three hens for a happy, healthy small flock. Chickens are very social animals, and so we recommend at least 3 because they keep each other company when you are not there to interact with them. A single hen will be very lonely, and they tend to also be very loud when they are alone (because they want to be social).


How large should the baby chick brooder be?

It should be 2 sq. ft. per chicken and at least 12” high. Structures like a “kiddie pool” work well as long as it is large enough and has tall 12″ sides. If possible, avoid boxes with square sides as chicks can get trapped.


What should the brooder look like?

The bottom should be lined it with wood shavings, paper towels, or newspapers. We recommend wood shavings because any wet bedding needs to be removed and replaced daily. Cover it with mesh paper or chicken wire. It needs to contain a feeder and a waterer. It will also need a red heat lamp hanging over it which needs to have the temperature adjusted each week (they will need it to get progressively cooler as they get their feathers in), and a “cool off” area for the chicks to get out from under the lamp if they get too hot. We recommend the red heat lamp because the red light will not keep them awake when they are supposed to be sleeping. You can use a thermometer placed at the chick’s level to tell if you have the right amount of heat.


Why raise chickens?

Raising chickens has many benefits, including:

  1. Chickens eat bugs in your yard – less pests!
  2. Chickens fertilize your yard with their guano.
  3. Children can learn where their food comes from and have hours of entertainment, not to mention get fresh air and exercise playing with them.
  4. You can collect and eat fresh eggs every day!
  5. You can raise some breeds of chicken to both lay eggs and then provide meat when they reach the appropriate age.


When do baby chickens get their feathers?

At about 6 weeks they will have most of their feathers. They begin growing feathers when they hatch, and over time they lose their down as the feathers grow in. Once they have their feathers, they can go outside during the day.


What kind of food to baby chicks need?

Baby chickens need specific nutrients, and sometimes medicine in their food as well. Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc. has great options for chickens to help them reach their fullest and healthiest potential! Stop in and see us today!


Chickens FAQ

These are some of our frequently asked questions about raising chicks and the answers.*

Visit Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc., call (813) 932-9775, or email us if you have additional questions.

Chickens Free-Ranging in a field
How old must a hen be to lay eggs?

Usually 20-24 weeks (5-6 months) old. This will vary by the breed of chicken and the environment. The first round of eggs will usually be small, then they will become normal size as they continue to lay.


How often do they lay eggs?

Approximately every 24-26 hours. Again, this also varies by the breed of chicken and the environment.


How many eggs does a hen lay in a day?

Depending on the breed, time of year, molting, etc., up to 1 egg per day is the average.


What is molting?

Molting is the process of shedding old feathers so that the chicken can replace them with new shiny ones. Molting can be sickness or stress-related, but most of the time in a healthy chicken, molting is a time when the reproductive (egg-laying) system can rest, and is usually triggered by less light hours during the day.


Does a hen need a rooster to lay eggs?

No, they lay eggs all by themselves.


Once the chicken is full-grown, where does it live?

A free range chicken will roost in cover, such as in bushes or under a structure in an area that they feel protected. So, for backyard chickens, you want to build them a coop where they have shelter, a hay-lined bed to rest in, and some food and water. A coop is also a good idea so you can harvest the eggs every day (usually in the morning) from one place and keep their bedding clean and dry. The coop also protects them against predators, such as hawks, dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons, and other animals that think chickens are tasty. Because they do have natural predators, coops are usually closed up at night so the hens are safe. In a particularly high predator area you could add a chicken run, or build a chicken tractor, which has room for chickens to be outside and eat insects and scratch but still be protected from predators.


How much space does a hen need to be happy and healthy in the coop and outside?

Each bird needs 4 sq. ft. of indoor space and 5-10 sq. ft. of outdoor space. It is a good idea to have extra space in case you decide to add more chickens later on.


What do I need to think about when getting or building a coop?

Your coop should be able to be accessed easily by you, and you should be able to stand up inside it for easy cleaning and harvesting of eggs. Coops should have windows and ventilation so that ammonia does not build up inside. In the winter, the coop will need a heating and a lighting source, as having less light will encourage the hens to lay eggs less frequently. Next boxes should be included so that the chickens have a comfortable place to lay their eggs, and these should be easily accessible as well for harvesting eggs. Finally, a chicken coop should have perches for chickens to roost, rest and/or sleep – though they will normally just find any spot that makes them happy to do this, providing options gives a chicken happy choices.


If I leave the egg in the nest will it hatch?

No, in order to grow a new baby chicken you need a rooster to fertilize the egg. Even if you do have a rooster, or your hens are free range and there is a rooster in the area, if you are collecting the egg the same day it is laid you can still eat it if you refrigerate it after collection.


Do I have to wash my harvested eggs?

No.  In fact, we recommend you NOT wash your eggs.  The eggs, just as they are laid, have a protective coating around them to help keep them fresh and protected.  Washing the eggs takes this protective coating away.  However, if you must wash your eggs for whatever reason, you must refrigerate them.  If you do not wash them, you can leave them on the counter for easy access in your kitchen.


Do I have to refrigerate my harvested eggs?

No, you do not have to refrigerate your harvested eggs. You can put them in the fridge if you like. Once you do refrigerate the eggs, you have to leave them refrigerated until they are going to be eaten.


How do I know if a harvested egg which has been sitting on the counter or in the refrigerator has gone bad?

You can use the float test to determine the freshness of the egg and whether or not it should be eaten. This can be done with fresh eggs from your chicken and also store-bought eggs.

  1. Fill a bowl with cold water, enough that the egg, if sitting at the bottom of the bowl it would be covered with water by a half inch or more.
  2. Place the egg gently in the water.
  3. If the egg floats it is no longer fresh enough to eat.
  4. A super-fresh egg will sink and lay on its side, these eggs are best cooked (scrambled, fried, poached, etc).
  5. An older egg will sink but stay somewhat upright, and these are best for hard-boiling (you can pan-cook them too, just like the super-fresh egg). Happy eating!


How long does a chicken live?

The lifespan of a chicken varies greatly by type, environment, care, and so many more variables. There have been reports of some chickens living nearly 20 years! Others less so. Plus, one must also take into consideration if the chicken(s) are also being raised for eggs AND meat, then they will be harvested when they are of a size that is acceptable for eating and when meat is needed for the family to eat.


What can I feed my hens?

There are all types of feed to keep your hens happy, healthy, and well fed, plus treats to give them other nutrients that may not be in standard feed. Hens need calcium to make strong egg shells, so oyster shell is a great choice for this. And a great treat for hens is mealworms, which provide protein and happy pecking for your flock.


Is there anything else I need to consider for my hens?

Sure! Providing fresh dust for the always-entertaining dust baths is a great idea. Dust baths are how chickens preen and keep themselves clean. Please ask us here at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc., for more tips and tricks to give your flock a great life!


*much of the information in this FAQ comes from the Purina guide entitled “My first year with chickens; A week-by-week guide to a happy, healthy flock.” The remainder of the information comes from our knowledge of chickens and how to care for them. Please Contact Us if your question is not answered by this FAQ.


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