Selecting Chicks to breed

Start with healthy Chicks. If you buy chicks from a breeder or a feed store, observe the chicks before making your selection. Look for chicks that are clearly eating, drinking and have plenty of energy.
Young chicks will frequently sleep, but avoid chicks that are puffed up, with drooping heads, you may feel the desire to save these chicks, but more then likely, the chick will die regardless of your efforts.
Check the tail end of each chick for pasty butt, and examine the beak for any discharge.
Selecting a healthy chick will save you from continued headaches in the future.

Selecting a Breed

There are a great number of breeds available; your choices can be narrowed by your particular needs.
Egg production, the amount of space you have available, egg color, disposition, and general appearance are just some of the factors you may wish to consider.

Several breeds combine good egg-laying with a friendly disposition.
Chickens that lay medium to large eggs with a friendly personality include the following breeds:

Australorp - Medium Brown Eggs

Delaware  - Large Brown Eggs

Easter Eggers - Large Eggs Green/Blue/Pink

Faverolle Medium Creamy Tint Eggs

Plymouth Rock - Large Brown Eggs

Red and Black Star - Large Brown Eggs

Sussex - Medium-Large Creamy Brown Eggs

Wyandotte - Medium-Large Brown Eggs


Your chicks will need to be in a brooder until they are feathered out. There are any number of things that could be used for a brooder, including Rubber Maid Tubs (As Pictured Below), Small Plastic Swimming Pools are also a popular choice.
Keep in mind that your chicks will grow fast; choose a brooder that will accommodate your breed and number or chicks. A heat lamp should be placed above the brooder.
For day Old Chicks: Be sure that there is a constant 90-100 degrees, in some area of the brooder, and a cooler area as well.
This temperature should be dropped by 10 degrees every week, until the chicks feather out
For this reason, it is important to have a thermometer in the brooder. 

Feeding and Caring For Your New Chicks

Use Medicated Starter Crumbles for the first weeks.
Switch to All Purpose Chicken Feed after a few weeks.
Layer crumbles/pellets at around 20 weeks old, or when their combs and wattles grow significantly and turn red.
Scratch should be given as treats only.
Hand feeding your chicks with cracked corn or scratch, will help to make them friendly.

Setting Up Your Coop and Run

If you plan to keep your chickens in a Coop House with an attached Run,
your Coop House should have a minimum of 2 Sq. Ft. of floor space per bird. 
The Run should have a minimum of 10 Sq. Ft. per bird
There are differing ideas on these numbers
You may find that your birds need more or less space, depending on factors such as climate, or if you are unable to let them out at dawn and let them in at dusk.
In most areas Chicken wire is too flimsy to be used for Coop construction, and Hardware cloth is preferred.


Roosts can be made from 2x4's - Avoid using materials that do not allow the chickens to stand on the roost. 
Chickens prefer to roost - (not perch), while sleeping; their feet are not designed for gripping on to a perch.

Preparing For Your Hens To Lay

At around 20 weeks old, the chickens should start on Layer Pellets or Crumbles.
Extra calcium should be available in the form of oyster shell or crushed egg shells.

Nest Box

A nest box should already be in place and ready for them to lay in.
Place a wooden egg, in the nest box to give them the idea of where to lay.
You can use a real egg or a golf ball if you prefer, however some chickens are not fooled by golf balls
Nest boxes should be approx 12x12 or larger; be sure they have enough head room.

You should have one nest box per 3-5 chickens, although you may find that more then 5 will use the same box, regardless of the number of boxes you give them.

Proper feed for Chicks

Your chicks need plenty of a high quality feed in order to do the best job. Feed a nutritionally-balanced feed from your feed dealer. Feed "chick starter" crumbles during the first 3-weeks and then switch to feeding a "grower" diet through 10-weeks of age. Feed a "pullet developer" between 10- and 20-weeks of age. If a developer cannot be located, continue feeding the grower diet through 20-weeks. After 20-weeks, feed a complete "laying mash" to main high production of good-shelled eggs.

Do not feed additional grains or ingredients with any of the complete feeds mentioned above. The starter, grower, developer and laying diets are formulated and designed as the only feeds that the chickens eat. When additional grains are offered, the chickens reduce their consumption of the complete feed by eating more grains, and will not receive all the nutrients they require. When this occurs, the birds become malnourished and may decline in growth rate or egg production, and die.
Provide plenty of feeder space. Each chick initially needs one-inch of feeder space, but this space requirement increases as chicks get older.

Don't waste feed. Three-fourths or more of the total cost for producing chickens is in feed cost. Never fill your feeders more than one-half full, or the birds will scatter the feed onto the litter and waste it. Also, keep feeder guards or grills in place to prevent feed wasting and contamination. Raise the height of the feeders as the birds grow in size. The lip of the feeder should always be the same height as the backs of the birds.
Don't let the presence of scrappy cockerels reduce the chance of growing good pullets. Cockerels make good broilers for eating at 7- to 9-weeks of age. If you need only laying hens, save money on the next flock by purchasing only sexed pullets when buying chicks from the hatchery.
However, if this flock was bought as straight-run chicks, separate the cockerels at 6-weeks of age and make plans to slaughter them when they reach the desired size.

Clean Water

Water is very important for the proper development of chicks. Provide an adequate supply of water that is conveniently located and provides access within 10-feet of any spot in the poultry growing area. Placing water's on screened platforms or wooden blocks will help keep the litter drier and prevent litter from getting into the fountains

One quart-sized fruit jar water fountain is needed to provide water to each 15 chicks. Larger fountains are preferred for large numbers of chicks since they save time and labor. As they get older, their water consumption will increase. It is sound practice to add more fountains as the chicks get older.
Be sure the chicks have access to fresh, clean, cool water at all times. Wash each fountain daily using a brush or clean rag. Constant use of a disinfectant or sanitizer in the water is not necessary if water fountains are adequately cleaned and refilled every day

It is a good idea to soak all watering equipment at least once each week in a sanitizing solution made of one-ounce chlorine bleach diluted in five-gallons water. Allow the equipment to remain in the solution for 15 minutes before draining and refilling with water. Rinsing with clean water prior to refilling is not necessary.
When the environmental or brooding temperature is extremely high it is essential that water be replaced several times each day. 

Chickens will reduce water consumption if the water temperature is warmer than 100 degrees F.
Therefore, replacement of warm water will allow birds to drink the cooler water until it eventually warms up.
The use of sugar or vitamin/electrolyte additives to the drinking water is not necessary for producing quality, healthy chicks. If these additives are used, it is essential that the solutions be mixed and replaced on a daily basis. When using these solutions, it is necessary that all equipment get a thorough cleaning every day to prevent a buildup of disease causing organisms.

Growing Stage

Proper ventilation, clean water, and a well balanced feed program will keep the chicks growing. Chicks grow faster and live better when given ample room. Add more feeders and water's as the chicks grow.
Proper ventilation will aid in disease control by keeping the house and litter dry. Wet litter invites diseases. Without proper ventilation you will fail to get the maximum feed and water consumption, and without that you will not get good growth efficiency.

Pullets that are kept for the laying house need plenty of fresh feed and water before them at all time. Don't let them go hungry or the egg basket will go empty next fall. Remove all litter and foreign material from the feeders every other day. Let the chicks eat all the feed they want and then dump the material from the feeders. If the feed becomes wet (for any reason), immediately discard all feed, clean or wash the trough and dry thoroughly before refilling with fresh feed.

Overcrowding, excessive temperature, insufficient feeder and waterer space, poor diet, and parasite infestations contribute to cannibalism. Good management and care of the birds will prevent cannibalism from becoming a problem. Treat internal parasites monthly with an appropriate anthelmintic and spray birds periodically with an approved insecticide to eliminate lice or mite infestations. Contact your County Agent for approved medications. If cannibalism starts to be a problem, it may be necessary to debeak the birds. Note debeaking should be a last resort!

When the chicks are allowed to range for themselves they must be protected from predators and exposure to wild birds. Be sure to provide protection, especially at night, to avoid injury from varmints. Control rats and mice to reduce feed contamination that can result in disease outbreaks.

Be on constant alert for the appearance of any symptoms that indicate a disease outbreak. If identification of a problem is made early, it is much easier to treat and eliminate the problem before severe damage to the bird occurs. Many diseases can be identified based on the symptoms of the lesions. Contact your County Agent or Extension Poultry Specialist for assistance in identifying any disease problem.

Pullet Management

Good pullet management is essential for high egg production. If pullets are to mature into profitable producers, they must grow continuously throughout the developing period. Practices that help promote growth and development during the growing period include:

Adequate space -- Allow 2 to 3 square feet per bird if raised in confinement.

Feed-- Keep a good growing mash in front of the pullets at all time. A complete laying ration provides all necessary nutrients. Feeding additional grain will unbalance the diet and may result in disappointing results.

 Water -- Developing pullets drink much and require plenty of water to maintain normal growth. Keep the water fresh and cool by keeping the fountains in shade. Clean all fountains daily.

Shade -- Pullets are more comfortable if provided shade during hot weather.

Green feed-- Clovers and tender grasses can be used to furnish grazing for pullets. A good tender grazing crop can reduce the feed cost by 5% to 20%. However, be sure to conduct a regular worm or internal parasite program to prevent infestations of parasites that the pullets can get while grazing on the range.

Range shelters-- Provide one 10x12-foot shelter for each 100 to 125 pullets.

Control parasites -- Pullets may become infested with worms. As previously stated, there are some effective drugs that can be used to control all internal parasites of chickens. Help reduce infestations by practicing good management and sanitation. Check a few pullets from time to time for external parasites like lice and mites.