I love chickens, I always have ever since raising my first batch of chicks as an FFA project in high school. So when Kyle and I moved off grid chickens were a must on my list, both for meat and eggs. However raising chicks without electricity comes with quite a few challenges, so here is what’s working for me.
Tips for raising chicks without electricity:
- Order a lot of chicks, 10 or more. They’ll be able to huddle together when cold and share body heat. Two or three don’t produce enough heat to do this themselves.
- Keep them in a small enclosed space for the first few days. I’m using a small box with a rag over the top and checking on them frequently.
- If you can’t order a large number of chicks or they are acting cold, add a rice/corn sock that’s been heated up along the outside of one side of the box. You may need to reheat it frequently, but the heat will seep through the cardboard and give them somewhere warm to lay when cold. Or, add a jar of hot water wrapped in a towel to the box. Personally I used heat safe Tupperware so I could leave it outside the box and placed the glass bottom against the cardboard.
In a pinch, you can also use hand/foot warmers as well. The 12 hour ones are especially nice, and work well when transporting chicks.
- Give the chicks lots of food. Digestion helps them heat from the inside out.
- If there isn’t someone to check on them frequently, don’t leave water in the small box with them unsupervised. No matter how secure it seems, they will manage to tip it over, and wet chicks can’t keep themselves warm.
- Keep them in a space that has an ambient air temperature of no lower than 65° F, and keep the box up off cold floors when possible, even if you just stack it on another box.
These tips are what I’m using to keep my chicks alive in June in Alaska where our high temperatures have been mid 50’s to low 60’s this week.
If you live somewhere warmer you may even need to pay more attention to keeping them cool rather than warm! Remember, chicks can stand about 5° lower temperatures each week until mostly feathered, starting at about 90°. Once it reaches 70° they won’t need supplemental heat, and when they have their feathers they’ll be able to regulate their body temperature themselves. Just make sure to provide them with a proper shelter when you do move them outside!