How to Start your Backyard Flock

Leggett Town and Country offers live chicks from the end of February until May each year. To learn about current and future breed availability, give us a call at 434-797-9300.

Preparation

Prepare your home for your chick's arrival.

Supplies

Purchase the correct supplies and feed for your chicks.

Breeds

Choose the best breed for your wants and needs.

Care

Learn how to take care of your backyard flock.

PREPARING FOR YOUR CHICKS

Prepare a warm place for your chicks about 48 hours before they arrive. You'll need a draft-free brooder pen with shavings and a brooder lamp to keep your chicks warm. Do not keep chickens inside of your home or in places where food is prepared.

  • Brooder Pen: Make sure your pen features a sound structure with walls at least 18-inches tall. Then, you may need to prepare a screen to cover the pen so that your chicks don't get out and nothing else gets in. You'll want to set the pen up in a garage or other protected outdoor space.

  • Brooder Lamp: The brooder lamp should attach over one side or in the center of the pen. This allows the chicks to choose when to be under the lamp or escape the heat. The lamp should be roughly 20" above the shavings.

  • Shavings for Bedding: 3 - 4 inches of absorbent wood shavings should be placed in the bottom of the pen. The shavings will catch and absorb their droppings. Remove wet shavings, especially around waterers, daily. Do not use cedar shavings or other bedding with strong scents.

  • Lighting: Provide 18 - 22 hours of light in the first week, then reduce to roughly 16 hours. 

  • Feeder: Keep chick feed inside of a metal or plastic feeder. Clean egg cartons filled with feed may also be used. Be sure to provide 4 linear inches of space for each chick.

  • Waterer: A one gallon waterer is sufficient for up to 50 chicks. Always have fresh water available that is free of chick droppings. Do not place waterer under brooder lamp.

SUPPLIES

You'll need a few supplies to get started with your backyard flock. All of these supplies can be found in Leggett Town and Country's pet department. If you have questions about the supply list, be sure to give us a call at 434-797-9300.

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  • Shavings - to place at the bottom of your pen

  • Purina Medicated Start and Grow Feed - do not feed guineas medicated feed

  • Probiotics and Electrolytes - powder to add into their water

  • Waterer - to offer a steady supply of water

  • Feeder - to keep food in a centralized area

  • Thermometer

  • Brooder lamp and bulb

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BREED

When choosing the best breed of chickens for your backyard flock, decide what you want out of your flock. You may want them as pets, layers or meat birds.

Backyard Pets

  • Silkies

  • Speckled Sussex

  • Wyandotte

  • Australorp

  • Buff Orpington

  • Rhode Island Red

Best Egg Layers

  • White Leghorns

  • Rhode Island Red

  • Americana

  • Golden Laced Wyandotte

  • Buff Orpington

  • Australorp

Excellent Meat Birds

  • White Cornish Cross X

  • Jersey Giant

  • Orpington

  • Turken

CARING FOR YOUR CHICKS

When taking your chicks home, be sure to keep them in a safe space in your car. If it's cold outside, keep the heat running. If it's hot outside, do not leave chicks in a closed vehicle.

Once your chicks arrive home, immediately place them in your prepared pen with shavings and brooder lamp. During the first week of life, chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature should then be reduced by 5 degrees until the temperature is at least 55 degrees. You can place a thermometer beneath the light on the floor of the pen to find out the temperature.

To keep feed and water fresh, empty, clean, and refill feeders and waterers daily. As your chicks grow, adjust the height of the feeders and waterers to be level with the birds' back.

Begin transitioning your chickens away from Start and Grow feed at 18 - 20 weeks.

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For more information on taking care of your baby chicks, click here, to visit Purina Mills' website.

ATTENTION: FOR YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY

Live poultry can spread Salmonella germs. When spread to humans, these germs can cause mild to life-threatening illnesses. To help protect yourself and your family, follow these tips:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching your poultry, their eggs, and anything in their living environment.

  • Children younger than 5 years old should not handle live poultry without supervision. 

  • Do not kiss, snuggle or hold poultry to your face. Germs could get into your mouth and make you sick.

  • Do not let live poultry into your home or living areas.

  • Clean equipment and materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry, such as cages, feed containers, and water containers, outside the house, not inside.

  • To learn more about Salmonella, visit: www.cdc.gov/salmonella/