Preparing a Home for Your Chicks

Preparing a Home for Your Chicks

Preparing a Home for Your Chicks


Proper first steps can lead to success

-by Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County

JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK (May 15, 2015) – With Spring weather in the air, many people may be considering starting their own flocks of poultry, not only for meat and egg production, but for the experience of raising and fostering life of these small livestock animals. As part of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County’s (CCE-Chautauqua) effort to provide low-cost, high quality, research based programming, our staff can provide support to beginning farmers who are interested in poultry production.

Before choosing to purchase young poultry, become familiar with the basic techniques needed to care for chicks. Some great resources include the Cornell Small Farms Program Website (, and the book “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow. You can also call our Cornell Cooperative Extension office at 716-664-9502 ext. 202 for additional resources and information.

Chicks can be hatched in an incubator on-site, or purchased from farm supply stores. They can also be ordered through a hatchery that will be delivered through the mail! Chicks should be brought home with the weather in mind. Birds less than 3 weeks old cannot regulate their own body temperatures, and do not tolerate cold. The air temperature, taken at the chick’s level, should be 95 degrees Farenheit and draft free. This can be accomplished through the use of heating lamps and a brooding area with walls – such as a brooding box, an empty plastic tub, or a small room.

The housing area should be clean and dry. Dried wood shavings can be used as bedding, but it is best to not clean out the shavings often. Simply add a layer of new shavings on top of the old to keep the chicks dry. By allowing the shavings to build up, a bedded pack will form. This serves as a source of heat, will keep the surface drained, and “traps” the harmful ammonia gases and dust that the young chicks are sensitive to. Additionally, when you do clean out the pack, be sure the birds are out of the area and will not breathe in the cleanings.

Commercial chick starter with a protein level of 18 to 24% is a suitable feed source for the first few weeks. Be aware, however, that pre-mix starters may have antibiotics – be sure to look at the labels if you plan to raise your birds antibiotic free. Free choice water should also be available. Choose a watering system that will provide clean, adequate supplies to your flock.

CCE-Chautauqua can help you achieve your chicken-raising goals! For more information please contact Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management Extension Educator at 716-664-9502 ext. 202 or

The Beginning Farmer Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.



Katelyn Walley-Stoll
Agriculture Program Community Educator, Farm Business Management
716-664-9502 ext. 202

Last updated August 5, 2015