Are you considering getting baby chicks?
Keeping chickens has become very popular these days and many people are choosing to raise and keep their own flocks. The most common and economical way to get your own chickens is to order baby chicks through a catalogue. Typically they come in batches on 24 and sometime companies throw in a “bonus” chick for you.
Baby chicks are fairly self sufficient as soon as they hatch. They can walk almost immediately after hatching and can fly in a bout a week. They are born knowing how to eat and they don’t need their mother to feed them. Young chicks will need to be kept in a small, warm environment while they are growing. A brooder is ideal but any small, enclosed area that can be kept warm will suffice. This area will also have to be safe from predators that will eat the young chicks.
A brooder is fairly simple to make using a cardboard box.. You can line it with some type of liter like sand, woodchips, newspaper, etc. Baby chicks are fairly messy and the litter will have to be changed frequently. The top of the box will need to be covered with cardboard or some other material to prevent drafts from hitting the chicks. A heat light or light bulb will need to be hung over the area to regulate the heat in the box. Just be careful not to hang it so close that it starts a fire.
The size of the brooder that you need will depend on the number of chicks you have..Remember, a small box will be ok initially but the chicks grow very quickly and you will have to move them to a bigger area as they grow. They need plenty of room to run around and to sleep in. Keep a close eye on the chicks and watch for signs that they are either too hot (panting) or are too cold (they are huddling together under a light).
The ideal temperature of the brooder should be around 90 degrees F for newly hatched chicks.. As the chicks get older, you can lower the temperature by about 5 degrees F for each week. Happy chicks will “peep” and will be active. They will run around, peck, drink and sleep normally. Chicks that are cold or hungry will cheep loudly and continually. They may be listless, fluffier than normal and their poop will not look right.
Your baby chicks need to have access to fresh water at all times.. They tend to foul the water if you use a bowl so it is better to get a water dispenser. The same goes for the food. You can purchase a “chick starter” that is very fine at any feed store and some pet stores. They also like very small pieces of fruit, dark green lettuce, bean sprouts, etc. They can also be given dry baby cereal that is barley, oat, wheat or rice, from the grocery store.
As they get older, your chicks can start to explore the outdoors but you will need to keep a very close eye on them. They are very small and have a lot of natural predators that will make a meal of them. Dogs and cats can also be a problem and even if they don’t eat them, they can harass them to the point that they die from stress.
In a warm climate, your chicks will usually be completely feathered out and can be left outside as long as they have a safe chicken coop and fenced area.. Your babies will start perching when they are about 5 to 6 weeks old so be sure and provide low perches as well as higher ones.