baby chicks in a box

Buying Your First Chickens

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There’s not much cuter than a fuzzy yellow, newborn chick. Each spring, people are tempted to buy a few for their own backyard or to give them to loved ones as gifts. This is a terrible idea. They are adorable, true, but chicks are a huge commitment. Chicks have special heating and feed requirements. They grow into much larger and less cute chickens, which need a coop and a place to roam. Whether a gift for yourself or a friend, a chick comes with many strings attached: feed to buy, a living area to build and maintain, cleaning up after the chicken, veterinary care, and more. Not to mention the hassle the chicken may cause with your homeowner’s association! No matter how cute they are, resist the urge to liven your springtime with chicks. They do not make good Easter gifts.

If you’ve thought long and hard about the time and effort required to raise chicks and have already prepared your property for your birds, buying your first chicks can be one of the most exhilarating parts of chicken husbandry. Make sure that you have the knowledge to successfully raise them, a healthy and warm home for them, and that you’re willing to care for these birds for the next 5-7 years. Are you ready to make that commitment?

Online Vs. In-Person Ordering

Chicks can be ordered online and delivered to your home or purchased in-person from a farm or farm supply store. Online or catalogue ordering is a quick and easy way to choose your chicks. If you choose to order online, ask about the company’s shipping methods and fees, chick guarantees, minimum chick order requirements, and certifications.

Buying chicks in-person has a huge advantage: you’ll be able to see the condition of your chicks and check them for diseases. If any are in poor conditions or are sickly looking, you’ll be able to reject them instantly. Healthy birds should be alert. They shouldn’t have skin conditions, like bald patches or soreness and redness. Personally choosing the best of the flock will give you the best chance at successful chicken husbandry.

Also, remember not to get too many chicks. They are small now, but they’ll get much larger. Also keep in mind the number of eggs your chicken breed produces on average. Compare this with the number of eggs your family will realistically eat, the amount of space you have available, and the expense of caring for multiple

Caring For Your New Chick

For the first 5-8 weeks of life, chicks should be kept indoors in a brooder. Any sort of box, cage, or even an empty aquarium will do. Line the bottom with pine shavings or newspaper and keep the brooder warm with a light bulb and reflector. For the first week of life, the temperature must be kept between 90-100 degrees. For each week after that until the chicks have feathers, decrease the temperature by 5 degrees until you eventually get to 70 degrees.

Your new chicks not only need a sanitary place to live and warmth, but they also need a constant supply of water (make sure it is very shallow to prevent drowning) and a feeder. Feed them chick grit, which is specially formulated food for this stage of their lives. Check on your chicks several times a day to make sure they are warm enough, have food and water, and are not in harm’s way. Chicks require a lot of supervision!

Watch Your Chicks Grow

As your birds get larger and older, they’ll need more floor space per chick. They’ll also require more water and food and will be able to go outside in a safe, fenced-in area on a warm day. Once your birds are larger and fully feathered, it’s okay to start introducing them to their coop. If it’s cold at night, keep them in their heated
brooder during the evening hours. If it’s warm outside or if your coop is heated, you can keep your adolescent chickens in their coop. There is no one-size-fits-all age when it’s okay to transfer your chicks from the brooder to the coop. So long as your birds are healthy, feathered, and thriving, it’s up to you exactly when to move your chicks to their long-awaited home.

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