Taking care of chicks is not hard. Like any baby, they require warmth, feed, liquid, and shelter. They grow extremely fast for about the first 4 months. It is a joy and completely entertaining to witness. Below are some suggestions and definitely not the rule. Everyone finds their own style to raise their chicks.
BROODER: Chicks require little space, about .5 sq ft per chick initially, .75 sq ft per chick at 6 weeks, and 1 sq ft per chick at 10 weeks. To begin with, a cardboard box, plastic tote, or any small confined draft free area will work. Place the brooder in a predator safe environment or cover with wire. Fill the brooder with a couple inches of pine shavings, then cover with a nonslip surface. Paper towels work well and are an easy clean up. The non slip surface helps them to learn to walk and reduces splay legs.
HEAT: The temperature where the birds are should be 90 to 95 degrees for the first week. Reduce the temperature 5 degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees. Then they shouldn't need any more heat during the day. We have found at night they still enjoy the warmth from a heat lamp. A good source of heat is a 250 watt bulb (Red bulbs are better than white. They cause less picking.) If you are using a small brooder 125 watt will do. A brooder light fixture and bulb can be found at most feed or hardware stores such as Lowes. Hang it about 18 inches from the floor. The height may need to be adjusted. The temperature directly under the bulb will be higher than 90 degrees but should not be over 105, the birds will adjust themselves to the area they like. If they are cold they will chirp loudly and pile on top of each other, which can smother or injure the guy on the bottom of the pile. If the temperature is right, they be make small chatter noises to each other and when sleeping will line up and make what looks like a fuzzy carpet of chicks. Too hot, they will pant and spread out all over the brooder.
FEED: Use a commercial chick starter for the first 8 weeks. If using a medicated starter to guard against coccidiosis, use up to 16 weeks. To wean them off the medicated starter, mix 1 scoop grower to 2 scoops starter for a week, then half and half and half, then full grower.
Chicks are built to survive the first 48 hours without food and water however, it is best if they learn to eat and drink before dire need kicks in. To start them on feed, use a shallow dish that is not to slippery, for example a coffee lid. Fill it with chick starter and sprinkle some of the food outside of the lid. Place the feeder they will be using one they learn to eat, behind the shallow dish, as they get accustomed to moving about they will explore the contents of their brooder and will find the bigger feeder.
WATER: Allow 1 gallon of water for each 50 birds. A quart water container will suffice for under 25 chicks. DIP THE BEAK OF THE CHICK IN THE WATER BEFORE YOU TURN IT LOOSE. For the first 2 days add 2 tablespoons of table sugar to each quart of water for extra energy. For best results add quik chick or a combination of vitamins and electrolytes in the drinking water right from the first day. If picked up at the farm, they will have been offered a water supplement. If shipped it will help overcome shipping stress, and vitamin shortage. Your birds will be thirsty when you get them. A taste of water right away helps them to find more water soon. Most baby bird loss is caused because the bird doesn't start to eat or drink. Never let your bird run out of water.
LIGHT: A heat bulb, will also serve as the light you need. After weaning from heat, be sure to give your birds light. Use a 75 watt bulb on dark days. Have a small light for night - 15 watts or similar - to keep them from piling.
OTHER COMMON QUESTIONS
DRAFT SHIELD: if using a corrugated box floor brooder make sure the brooder is about 12 inches high around the birds helps cut down drafts on the floor. Be sure the circle is large enough to allow the birds to get away from the heat if they want to.
LITTER TYPE: Wood shavings, rice hulls, or ground cobs make good litter. Do not use cedar chips, sawdust (It is too small and the birds may eat it instead of their food), or treated wood chips. Sand, straw, or dirt will also work but are not as good or as absorbent the others.
GRIT: If using a commercial starter you will not need to offer grit.
PICKING: Baby birds will often pick each other if they are too hot, too crowded, without fresh air or bored. Occasionally bright light also causes them to pick. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to picking. Sometimes, however, they pick for no apparent reason. To stop it try putting in fresh green grass clippings or clover leaves several times a day and darken the room. We give them toys, a mirror or cat ball with a jingle inside provide humorus fun for you and a diversion for them. As a last resort, debeaking might have to be done.
REAR END "PASTING UP": Sometimes the stress of shipping cause the manure to stick to the back of the bird. It is important to remove this daily. Pull off gently or, better yet, wash off with a cloth and warm water. It will disappear in a few days as the bird starts to grow. If they continue to paste, try changing the brand of feed they are on.
COCCIDIOSIS: Coccidia are common protozoan parasites. They are present in almost all chicken yards and can lay dormant for years until chickens are introduced. Heavy infections of coccidia cause serious disease and may kill many chickens. Chickens of all ages can come down with coccidiosis, but 4- to 16-week-old chickens are most commonly affected. Wet litter, poor nutrition and concurrent diseases are the most common triggers of coccidiosis. Coccidiosis caused by E. tenella first becomes noticeable at about three days after infection. Chickens droop, stop feeding, huddle together, and by the fourth day, blood begins to appear in the droppings. The greatest amount of blood appears by day five or six, and by the eighth or ninth day, the bird is either dead or on the way to recovery. Mortality is highest between the fourth and sixth days. Death may occur unexpectedly, owing to excessive blood loss. Birds that recover may develop a chronic illness as a result of a persistent cecal core. However, the core usually detaches itself by eight to ten days and is shed in the droppings. To treat, there are several coccidiostats available. A common treatment is Sulfadimethoxine.