It really is an art form. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started getting baby chicks. Luckily for you, I can tell you the mistakes I made, so you have the option of not making them yourself.
Baby chicks require more work than grown chickens. Preparation really is key. Ask yourself if you are really ready to take care of chicken babies. In this guide we’ll be talking about buying chickens, and how to do like a pro. How?
I actually won awards after breeding my hens. We’ll get into brooding later. That is a different topic. Baby chickens need to be provided with shelter and a bin that maintains a temperature of 72 degrees. In some places it may be too cold still to ensure this. That’s why you might consider keeping them in a bin in your house.
Now, before you do this first ask yourself if you own a cat. Baby chicks are very vulnerable and not yet big enough to not be considered prey for your cat. Typically until April 29, most outdoor or farm stores will be selling baby chicks. A lot of places even have the arrival of chicks emblazoned on their outdoor signs.
I like buying chicks from a local feed store. I’m not keen on buying them in the mail. Theirs extra precautions and I’m still not sure about it. If you know a good breeder who ships baby chicks, please leave a comment and let us know.
If you have your box ready for them with water and feed, you are ready to go! It really is a passionate personal joy for me. I love holding baby chicks. If you’re not sure, still go to the store and just look at the babies.
If you’re not excited for the extra work, you may not want to bother with it. I get excited for the new arrivals of chicks. I also love the different varieties. It can be a joy or an extra burden. If it’s an extra burden for you, you might consider not getting babies.
Since I’m talking to fellow homesteaders, I’m going to assume you all love getting baby chicks. It’s a bit of extra work, but the rewards are worth it. Here’s what I did, and I hope you share with me what you do that I may not know.
Five Steps To Bring Them Home
Before you bring home your baby chicks, you will need to take a few necessary steps to ensure your new babies have the right nest to thrive. Most likely, they will come home in a box and you should put the box in the place you are planning to put them and let them discover their new surroundings on their own.
Always buy more than one chick. A single chick needs companionship. Your baby chick will die of fright if you buy one and leave them alone outside. They need to come in groups. They will have each other for soothing and comfort.
I’ve always lived in areas that I could own as many chickens that I wanted. If you live in the city, know the laws. Many places you can only own three and at a distance from the road. In most cities you can’t own a rooster. If you buy your baby chicks from a store, most likely they have been sext.
Occasionally, a boy chick will get into the mix and once it starts crowing, you’ll be alerting your neighbors you have something that may be illegal. Do not move your girls into the coop until they reach their teenage years. The older hens will peck on the birds and they need to be able to defend themselves.
If you’ve heard the term hen-pecking, know this is a real thing. It is something they do to provide order to their coop. If you introduce this too young, they won’t be old enough to handle it and they could get pecked to death. The number one mistake people make is overcrowding.
Don’t buy more birds than you can handle. If you overcrowd your girls, they’ll start pecking each other even more. Give your young hens a chance to start laying. Some lay as early as four months, some as late as a year. Be patient.
Once, I bought chicks in winter. I’m not totally against this, but it was extra work to keep them warm, I had to put special vitamins in their water and when my power went out once in the middle of the night I didn’t know, and they almost froze to death.
I recommend you buy chicks in the spring and be patient for eggs. You will have the option to buy chicks in the winter, but know you are adding extra work. I like to buy my chicks in the spring, and simply grow them into hens and repeat the next year.
To me this is easier and less pain. I struggled with getting chicks in the winter. I really didn’t enjoy it and if you’re not liking it, you won’t be doing it. I enjoy a simple farm life and having a small farm. I enjoy getting chicks. I did not enjoy taking care of them in the winter.
One plus, was that I could get eggs in the summer. Most chickens will start laying eggs between four months and a year. By buying winter chicks, I did open the door to that possibility.
Your new baby chicks will need a nest. Local farm stores do sell this. I like to get a smaller bedding for baby chicks. I want their bed to be soft and easy to clean.
I use pine shavings and then when I move them into the coop, I’ve heard that some prefer hay and some prefer shavings. When I get baby chicks I don’t plan on keeping them in the place I allocate for them. If you have a specific preference please feel free to comment.
If you live in the city and have a relatively small backyard, you can still get baby chicks. It does have some preparation. First you want to find a local feed store. Make friends with them. Chances are they have had chicks or know what you will need to buy to raise them into layers.
You can raise chickens in a farm, urban or suburban environment. It really isn’t that much work. If you don’t want to build a coop, you can purchase one ready made.
The first thing you want to do is find out exactly what the specific ordinances or rules are. You don’t want to buy bedding and set up your home nest and then find out your city or HOA has a rule that says you can’t own chickens. Some people prefer breeders, it really is what works for you.
If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money making a separate containment for your baby chicks, consider asking a local store if they have any apple boxes they are planning to throw away. They will likely give it to you and provide you with a cheap home for your baby chicks.
Put the water, food and bedding in this box. All they really need is a container and temperature control. Be sure your box doesn’t have wholes large enough that your baby chicks can get out.
Your baby chicks will need fresh water every day. Feed stores sell water dispensers for relatively cheap. Remember to change it every day. They need fresh/clean water every day. It’s easer for them to drink from a water container made for them. They are relatively cheap and very useful.
You want everything set up before your chicks arrive. If you have your chicks for more than one day, you will see how they mistakenly poop in their water. That’s why you change it every day and keep the water dispenser clean.
There are vitamins you can add to the water. It is unnecessary unless you buy them in the winter. If they are getting proper feed, grit and clean water they don’t need supplements added to their water.
I avoid buying medicated feed. I also try to buy only non-GMO feed. At my first homestead at a local farm store, some local farmers made their own feed. I preferred this. I like to buy local and to support local farmers in any way I can. They added peas to the feed. This provided added nutrition to my growing girls.
A simple heat lamp above your baby chick box will keep your new chicks heated. The temperature of the brooding box needs to be kept at 72 degrees. You can then drop the temperature by five degrees per week. You really have to be careful with the temperature of your baby chicks. They are delicate and do need extra care.
When you introduce them to grit, you need to know that grit should always be introduced in food. I like to make them scrambled eggs with chia seeds before I introduce them to dirt. Baby chicks do need grit to survive. They won’t die from eating it. It really is natural and if you are skeptical start with chia seeds.
I also like to use flax seeds before I move them to dirt. You don’t want to over feed them. They can eat things from the garden and things like quinoa. They may not think they like it at first, but give them a chance. It really is like a little kid trying something for the first time.
Avoid dried foods like beans, and rice is an absolute no. Everything you give them should be cooked and is not a food that will absorb water and expand in their stomach.
If you see bloody diarrhea that looks like uncooked hamburger, that is a sign of a parasite in their intestine. If that happens, They will need medicine.
By adding a teaspoon of medicine to their feed, you will be able to treat them. You want to add this filler for five days. You will want to treat your entire flock. If one has this parasite, chances are they all have it. It does take time and you won’t know necessarily which bird has it. They can get it from ground water, from handling, from soil. It needs to be treated.
Awareness is key, and it will need to be treated. If you see one of your birds being listless, that is also a sign. A parasite can kill your flock. They will need treatment.
Chicks love to dust bathe.Wood ash is a perfect thing to provide them to roll around. Mix it with meal worms and don’t be surprised if they actually eat most of it. This keeps off pests from their feathers. It is a part of the natural way they live. The more natural environment you can give them, the better.
Post Office Chicks
Some people like to buy their baby chicks from a service that sends them in the mail. Never buy from a service that has them travel for more than three days. Once your chicks arrive, make sure they drink water immediately.
Know that they haven’t had water for three days. Dipping their bills in water immediately after unwrapping will ensure their thirst is quenched. If you get a damaged or deformed chick, call the place and have them send you another chick. If one of your chicks comes deformed, that can be extra work.
One of the most common deformities is referred to as pasty butt. In the area they poop, some chicks will get poop stuck. This will clog the colon of the bird and if not treated they will die. Care for this needs to be done with delicacy.
If you have a chick with pasty butt, gently clean the poop off with a Q-tip. Then put petroleum jelly on the exposed skin. Do not clog the colon when doing this.
Usually, the chick will eventually grow out of that, it is a deformity and is unplanned and something you paid for that brought you additional work. Your breeder needs to know that this deformity has been included in his or her bird’s bloodline.
Business or Hobby?
There are people out there who don’t like chickens, but love eggs. Once your chickens are laying put a sign up in front of your house. Most eggs sell for around $3 per dozen. If you’re looking for egg cartons, you can purchase unused one online or get repurposed ones from friends. People love farm fresh eggs.
Another option is to participate in your local farmers market. Eggs literally fly from booths at the Farmers Market. It’s still America’s favorite breakfast food and getting eggs straight from your home farm, can help you pay for your hobby. It is a very simple way to enjoy the hard work of loving up on baby chicks. They are extra work, but they do provide a lot of rewards. They can feed your stomach and your soul.
Chickens can do tricks. I like to start my chicks young and get meal worms. Once they do something I ask they get a meal worm. I find this very enjoyable. If you train them really good, you can get your chicks to do an obstacle course. You can buy meal worms at your local feed store.
When you start training them choose a command and only use it before they get a meal worm. They’ll learn that when you say that specific phrase they get a treat. You will then be able to train them to do anything.
My favorite post-dinner snack for my teenage girls is corn on the cob. This isn’t a food I give young babies. I have always fed my baby chicks food from my dinner table. I’ve fed them pasta, I’ve fed them leftover casserole.
They love it. I have even found ant hills and scooped up live ants for them. They love it. At my first homestead we had fire ants. They can really sting if they bite you. That’s why I recommend if you do this, you are covered. I’ve picked up enough ants, that I automatically know how to protect myself.
Showing Your Chicks
Again, know the rules at the local farm. The year I showed my chickens, they were teenagers. The judges look for no pests and if they fit the specific breed. I used a spray on their feathers that was made for humans. This killed any lice and made them more presentable.
Adding Them To The Coop
When they first come home do not add them right away. You are exposing them to unknown parasites and an established pecking order. This could cause chaos and create a toxic environment. I like to wait until they have all their feathers and are bigger than my cat before I move them in. They will need a separate nesting box for the first few weeks after you bring them home.
If you have more than one rooster, you are asking for trouble. They will fight and potentially abuse the hens. The best way to avoid this is by buying baby chicks from a farm store where the birds have previously been screened for gender.
You still may get a rooster, but one is just fine. If you end up with an additional rooster, try to re-home it or consider butchering it. One year I ended up with four roosters and it caused me nothing but trouble. I had to buy a special spray because the roosters kept plucking the back feathers off my hens. Overcrowding is an issue, but having more than one rooster is an absolute no.
Did we miss something? We’d love to hear your suggestions. Please comment below and tell us your experience with baby chicks.