Also: Food — medicated or non, Heat lamps, chicken dust, temps and more.
A family member once praised me for keeping all my baby chickens alive. This knocked me for a loop. I asked, “Why is that such a big deal?”
Keeping the babies alive has never been the problem at my house. It’s keeping the grown ones alive—now that’s a challenge.
Compared to the problems I face with predators, Baby Chicks are the easy part. Under proper care, the right conditions, and depending on where you get your baby chicks from, they are rather simple. (That’s just my opinion.)
That bein’ said, though, a Chicken Diva once gave me a warning that I’m gonna pay it forward to you . . . .
No matter how cute they are when they first come home, in about three to five weeks, you will be kicking the door down wanting to get them outside. (That is, if you keep them in the house.)
Wherever you keep them — in a tote, dog cage, bathtub or special pen inside the coop, baby chicks need some essentials in order to survive.
Heat lamps don’t cost that much but you do have to make sure the chicks aren’t roasted. I’ve never had a problem with heat because the first few weeks, I kept them inside in a big ol’ bird cage (big enough to fit a monkey in.)
Some use dog cages. Those are great because the heat can escape which means, no cooked birds. Totes work well, too, but keep an eye on the temps. We messed up once and had the heat lamp hanging too low above the birds. We caught it just in time. Still could have been a disaster.
Food. You also have to decide whether you will use medicated baby chic feed or non-medicated. I go for Non but many go for medicated.
What’s the difference?
Medicated has certain antibiotics and such in it that supposedly, helps the babies in their first months of growing and getting to know this brand new world. Many people are against it because they say it makes the baby chickens grow a natural tolerance to the medicine so if they ever need it later in life, it does them no good. Other people are for it. Either side, they have their reasons and arguments. The only reason I am bringing it up here, you are going to have to decide that one on your own.
Also, if you do baby chicks, you will have to decide if you are going to do . . .
Straight Run means the baby chick can either be female or males— they were not sexed. That means you will have to decide on what to do with the Roos, if you have them and so on.
Pullets are females.
Those are what they call young chics and some places will allow you to order one or the other. Usually cockerels are cheaper than pullets. Unfortunately, sometimes, you have to buy Straight Run.
You also need to decide where you will get these baby chick. I listed resources below, so don’t worry about that now. However, there are hatcheries you can order from (many have a minimum of 15 or 25), local farmer supply stores, or even farmers. Tons of chicks to be had, that’s for sure.
One con to Baby chicks — Chicken Dust.
Like I said, in a few weeks, you will be begging to get them outside. Their cute little droppings will stink and cleaning out the pen or cage will go from once every few days to quite a few times a day. You’ll need Pine Shavings for that, too. They also get a thing called “Chicken Dust”. It’s this powdery white film (like flour) that gets on everything. It’s from their skin and from the down on their bodies before or as they grow feathers. Again, it’s a mess to clean up. Wiping walls and shelves and floors and pictures and knickknacks — well I loathe doing that once a week much less every dang day.
Also, never put baby chicks in with big Hens. Some people chance it — to each their own— but Hens have a pecking order and they don’t care how crazy-psycho they gotta get about it. They will grab the neck of another chicken, hold em down, pluck out their feathers or even worse. I had one that was younger and the other Hens even starved the poor thing to death.
One last thing, Chicks won’t lay eggs until they are twenty something weeks old. That’s a round about estimate. So if you want eggs fast, a baby chic will make you wait awhile.
If you decide to skip the baby chicks and go right for the Hens . . . .
Then know your source. You can grab Hens from a Farmer’s Market, Animal Sales, Pet Stores (I’m told) and bulletin boards online and off like Craigslist. Plenty of people sell Hens but again, know your source and know what you’re going after. I went looking for Australorps once. Thought I had a trustworthy supplier. Guy sold me two Jersey Giants (which are confused for Australorps and the only way to tell the difference is the bottoms of the feet) and an Americauna. The guy knew I wasn’t getting what I thought I was and the poor Hens had been bred to bits. They also had feather eating parasites, which nearly infected my other flock.
That brings me to my next point . . .
Quarantine new birds in case they are sick or have bugs, parasites or whatever may end up being an issue. Yep, chickens can get all kinds of itchy things that will munch on feathers, skin, and whatever else. They can even get worms. That’s why chickens love to take dust baths. They will wallow down in dry dirt throwing a dust cloud all over them. Don’t try to stop a chicken from dust bathing. And not to scare you, but illness is a good reason to quarantine a bird before mixing them up with your flock. Don’t put all that time and care into birds just to have one sick wipe out the whole flock.
Also, don’t try intervening or mucking with the pecking order, either. Big Hens are always fighting to be the top Diva of the Coop. Who is Diva today may not be Diva tomorrow. It’s just the way things are. Just let them work it out.
Someone gave me a little Bantam Cochin once and told me to be careful because they were so small. They said I should find about four more just so the bigger Hens didn’t bully the little thing to death. I named that chicken Fancy, my Fat Bottom girl, and let me tell you, she let them big Hens know from day one that she wasn’t taken no crap off them. In fact, I brought home a big ol’ girl — a full blown Bantam— who I named Shaneequa. She bulldozed every Hen and I thought, Oh God, she was gonna run right over my little Fancy.
Nope. The moment Shaneequa strutted into the Coop, Fancy brought all hell down on her. Chased her around that Coop at least twenty times. From that day forward, the only thing that messed with and won over Fancy was a Bear.
So, while I say don’t intervene, also keep in mind that if chickens are around the same age, size may surprise you. Always keep an eye on it, though. If the tables were turned on Fancy, I would have had to get more little cochin girls to have her back — gave my little fat bottom girl her own hit squad or something.
Some links to buy from:
(I am not paid by these two sources but I have bought from them and have had good results!)
Welp Hatchery, located in Bancroft, Iowa, is a family owned business. Established in 1929 by Joseph H. Welp, the hatchery is now owned and operated by Kurt …
For over 95 years, Murray McMurray Hatchery has been supplying the small farmer, rural egg producer and chicken enthusiast with a wide variety of day-old …
Next article coming up . . . To Roo or Not to Roo!