Bringing baby chicks home for the first time becomes an exciting journey of raising backyard chickens. While the eggs are excellent, prepare the space for your new babies, to make the transition go smoother.
Prepare before your baby chicks arrive.
- Gather a large box and added a layer of wood chips and hay.
- Buy a chick feeder, some baby chick feed and a baby chick waterer.
- Purchase an old heat lamp and a red infrared bulb to go in it.
However, there are a few other things to consider before you bring home cute baby chicks that grow into hens that lay eggs.
Check The Local Laws
When I first decided to purchase chickens, this did not occur to me. However, your homeowner’s association may think backyard chickens are a nuisance.
I realized real quick that in our semi-country environment, most did not understand that chickens are not a problem. They thought you had to have a rooster to have chickens.
So, our neighborhood is generally split between those who do not know how to care for chickens, and those who do. You may run across Ms Know-it-all, who tries to enforce her idea of the rules. Be prepared to say, “I followed the rules.” Otherwise, you may lose your chickens.
For example, in our neighborhood, the only way I could have chickens under our Homeowner’s Association was to make it an educational project. Since I homeschool, this became an easy fix for us. Ms. Know-it-all, who had not even read the Homeowner’s contract, told me I could not have chickens. I quoted the contract and listed off my educational objectives for my children. She said not one more word about it.
Make sure you follow the Homeowner’s Association’s rules. I did and I am glad I made sure I was in tune with that rule.
Get your camera ready.
This may seem obvious, but in the chaos of settling in baby chicks and giving handling directions to my little helpers, I wished I had taken more photos. The baby chicks are super cute and photos are a must! Take out your phone and be prepared to just sit and watch.
Give them lots of love.
Hold those baby chicks and talk to them remains important as they grow. Feed them, water them, keep them warm, and add fresh litter to their brooder too. Yet, chickens who are snuggled and talked to, grow up to be chickens who are more friendly. At least, that has been our experience.
But, a note of caution: Don’t let your kids kiss them too much. The baby chicks immune system may not be strong enough to handle human bacteria and it could make them sick, or worse, kill them.
Keep Your Brooder Dry
You may think this is obvious, but baby chicks can be a mess. The poop and poop everywhere. They poop in their water and their food. They knock over the water and feed containers. Then the food and water mix with the poop.
You want to try and keep their brooder dry to prevent bacteria from growing, and keeping them from getting what is called pasty butt. Pasty butt is when the poop (and other sticky wet stuff) sticks to their bottoms because of the excess moisture. You can gently clean their bottoms, but if this happens, the mess you wipe will also take off their feathers in that area. This leaves an open wound.
I like to use a combination of wood chips and hay in my brooder to help absorb moisture, but also dump it regularly.
Try to prevent coccidiosis
My baby chicks rarely get coccidiosis. The only time this happened is when we bought some baby chicks that were already sick.
As a general maintenance, I regularly added a tablespoon or so into their water to keep this little parasite from occurring. I also make sure I buy new medicated baby chick feed. My chicks always stayed healthy this way. Also, keeping the brooder clean is a good way to prevent this, and as I said earlier, try to keep the kids from kissing them too much.
If you think you have a sick chicken, isolate it in another box. Coccidiosis can wipe out a whole flock. If you are lucky, you will stop the process. That being said, we once received ten baby chicks and they all got it and they all died. I bought them from the same feed store, so I think that they must have been sick before we bought them. Try to prevent this by asking if the baby chicks have been at the store for a few days.
Prepare For Predators
When you add chickens to kids and 3 dogs, you get excitement. You may think your dogs will accept your new friends into the family, but they may require a bit more training…;-)
One time when we brought our baby chicks home, our chihuahua became too curious. He heard the birds chirping away. So, he apparently made a decision to investigate. There was a screen on top of the box, but he wanted those chicks. He finally worked hard enough to jump up on top of the box, knock it over. Chicks, food and water went everywhere. He grabbed one in his mouth, and killed it.
And, that is just the Chihuahua. I became a lot more cautious after that episode. You just cannot trust those doggie instincts to kill and eat.
Keep Baby Chicks Warm
When babies are with their Mama Hens, they cuddle under her soft feathers to stay warm. When they are without a mother, you will need to keep the heat lamp on to keep their warm.
Keeping the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees in the brooder is best, then weaning them from that after about 3-4 weeks old. Even then, they will become cold easily until they grow their feathers.In our mild Texas climate, using high heat is not necessary, but if you live in a colder climate, you may need to keep them heated longer.
Also, after the Chihuahua experience, one of our chicks ended up wet and we learned quickly how fragile they are when wet. Cuddle your wet babies in a towel and let someone hold them until they dry and warm up a bit. They become pretty docile when wet and need to be nursed back to happiness. But don’t leave them to themselves when wet, I understand they can die this way.