Those cutie pies are either ready to be delivered or in a box next to you from your local farm store.
Now what do you do?
If you read my previous post, So you want to raise Chickens? that will get you up and running!
Chicks are playful and mischievous buggers. They are messy! Be prepared to change their brooder/cage often. How often?
I go at least once an day to scoop out poop, change water, give food and make sure they are comfortable. I totally clean out the brooder at least once a week if not more. Your nose will definitely tell you when it needs to be changed.
Now for water and food I definitely check that more often at least 3 times a day. These wee ones get HUNGRY and THIRSTY!
Don't be surprised if you find one that is a being "Hen pecked" this can happen with animals that are noticeably weaker to the other chicks.You may find a few losses even after that chick seemed to be chipper and happy. This happens, if you fed, watered, kept them warm there is a chance of loss. Don't beat yourself up! We may lose 1 or 2 out of 6 to 12.
We have lost some chicks to other chicks that literally were bullies or days older and they pecked the younger bunch. We learned to separate those that are 3 days a part. I didn't realize how even that small number can make such a difference. It's like throwing a infant in with a toddler. One 3 day old pecked the top beak off a day old chick. That wee one lasted a week despite our efforts to help it.
Some folks save the babies to make Maggot feeders. Can keep in freezer until your ready to do so. Or if your like me, I give proper burial and plant flowers above them.
Over the next 3 to 18 weeks you will see a HUGE change! Feathers will start coming in, Combs and Wattles, Roosters may find their voice as young as 3 weeks old and they will eat gobs of food.
I found this great chart here- When to switch from Starter to Grower
Remember to raise or lower your bulb by 5 degrees weekly in your brooder. When to let them outside is decided on 2 factors. The temperature outdoors in the day and night.
If it's too cold the chick uses so much energy keeping warm it may die. In other words if it's too cold out don't leave them out! 65-70 once they are big enough is great! Sunshine is good for them!
Watch out for predators! Make sure your Coop/Chicken Run have hard clothe/Rabbit wire that is small enough that little arm or big beak can't get in to grab your chick.
Food, Treats and Water
Make sure food and water are readily available if you let these wee ones loose. Check out my Pinterest board for ideas. Those are just a little bit of the ideas out there so search for more there or Google.
You can give them Meal worms from the store or that you breed yourself. I would give mine various herbs, Blackstrap Molasses and small veggies/fruit. Flock block for chicks ( I have made my own that worked well!) I'll dig up and post the recipe soon.
If it's too chilly I have made oatmeal for the flock. They love it! I throw in dried herbs, meal worms, seed or any type of greens I have.
Yogurt? Circulating on the web is a story about boosting your egg production by giving yogurt. We have been doing this for years but have not noticed an increase. Probiotics are not only good for people for pets and farm animals. I haven't made my own yet but that's on my list of things to learn.
I haven't made any sort of cabbage pinata or garland of veggies or fruit. Ours are out ranging so they have a lot to do so they are not bored. But I have seen some interesting ideas!
I have given 1 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar in a gallon of water. I use a ceramic or plastic container. Metal will corrode and perhaps altering the taste.
I use this to help give them a boost for health, raise PH levels, reduce algae growth in waterers. ACV has many great benefits for our flock and for people too!
I have given Garlic to boost immune system, wormer, help with respiratory health, it is also said to ward off ticks, mites and other bugs. I usually crush ours for chicks, they need to develop a taste for it. It can be done every day, week or once a month. I have used powered Garlic if I don't have fresh. I use one clove between 6+. If you have a smaller flock I would cut that in quarters or half.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)- Use food grade. Natural Fossilized Silica crushed fossils that can sprinkled in coop, nesting boxes, around run area, food and water bowls to help with Fleas, Ants, Ticks, Crickets, Aphids, Millipedes, Digestive worms and other creepy crawlies that be around while being safe for your flock!
I have added a sprinkle to their food to help with intestinal worms.
While DE is great for your flock, garden and home. It can cause lung irritation. So wear a protective mask. I have used a old herb shaker bottle. Also take care when sprinkling by your birds as it can have the same effect on their lungs!
Remember if you are able to keep them outside to keep checking on them. I wouldn't free range any babies that aren't under a watchful eye. 10 weeks and older seemed to work well for us. But there are still chances you may lose some to predators even if your watching.
Partially free range- which is to free range for morning or evening. Or whatever works for you. This could also be ranging in a mobile chick saw or chicken coop. Works great if you need to till up a part of your old garden beds or yard. You also get to keep a watchful eye on your flock.
Confined- For whatever the reason some folks just can't free range and that's ok! They will love to be able to get moving however they can. Use the space recommendations, give treats, fruit, or worms if they are unable to have regular access to them.
BRR! It's Cold!
Now we are in the Midwest. So winters can be brutal here for us and our flock. Mr. Awesome did make a huddle box for the chicks and later the chickens. They never used them but they had access. They usually perch together so a box wasn't needed in our experience.
We never use a heat lamp for our older chickens. I've heard too many stories from reliable friends that mentioned the experience of chickens leaving the warmth of the coop to go out and end up dying from just a bit of the cold. I'm guessing a shock to their system? They usually stay together if they are too cold.
We do not use a heater for our water dishes either. We have found using a old frying pan without the lid works well for dropping or hitting it on the ground or hard surface to get the ice out.
Check your birds to make sure no one is standing in the water bowl! It's not unheard of to have a chicken do this and end up with frostbite.
Baby it's HOT outside!
So I mentioned we don't use a heat lamp, and we don't use a fan for our birds when it's too hot.
We make sure there is plenty of water. I have given ice in water bowls. My ice can have herbs, fruit, or meal worms in it. Watermelon is a favorite! The rind is usually the only thing left.
You may see your birds kind of hanging their feathers out funny. They are cooling themselves. They also may dig deep when taking a Dirt Bath to cool off.
As silly as it seems, taking a dirt bath is beneficial for chickens for prevention of Mites and Lice that are happy to take up residence on your chicken. If your chickens are confined without access to dirt, please consider a artificial bath. This can be made in a tote without the lid of course. Some sand and dirt will make them happy. You can even do this in the winter time.
Chickens will find any patch of dirt that seem groovy to them. If you have a carefully manicured landscape please consider keeping your chickens out of that area.
When will my Hens lay?
Chickens can start laying about 6 months. Some breeds sooner and some later.
Keep in mind if they are stressed out, children running after them, loud noises, family pets, new surroundings, and weather are a handful of factors that may factor in laying.
Will I need a Rooster to have my Hens lay eggs?
No Rooster is needed to have your chickens lay. If you would like fertilized eggs you will need a Rooster.
I keep my eyes open for chickens that look lethargic or don't look like themselves.
Some things to look for:
Low egg production
Drinking too much
Oh and there's more! I do reference here-The Chicken Chick for ideas. She has got a bunch of great articles and information.
Dealing with your Rooster
We had to cull (Ended up in the pot and went to animal auction) several of our Roosters.
First and foremost is safety of our children. On several occasions a Rooster has went after Mini Man.
We tried holding the Rooster(s), swatted him with a broom/stick but ended up choosing an alternative choice to handle the Rooster attacking our Son. This may seem wrong to some but Roosters have been known to make a child blind, peck horribly and chase a child.
We love the idea of having the Hens protected and fertilized eggs but not at the expense of getting harmed.
For some reason several of the Roosters would chase after other family members, myself included. Do you know they can fly just like a football if kicked right.
If you have never seen a Rooster hellbent on coming out of nowhere to do Gladiator type of moves on you I'm glad you haven't. It can be scary as an Adult let alone being a child.
Some Hens just seem to have a maternal instinct. But they may not stay on the eggs so please check them regularly if you are planning on having her together with her chicks. You may consider having a special box or cage for her away from the other chickens. There is nothing more heartbreaking then seeing fertilized eggs almost ready to hatch when another Hen decides to peck at them.
Broody Hens will stop laying eggs and lay on what's called a clutch of eggs for the next 21 days. She will turn the eggs so you don't have to.
Of course if you don't have a Rooster you don't want her to stay on your eggs. There are various tips for breaking a Broody Hen. Separating her from the eggs, frozen veggies under her, wetting her in a tub, or blocking off the nesting box.
A few other tips
Keep eggshells! After you are done using them, rinse them off and leave them somewhere to dry. I leave mine on a paper towel for a few days. I make sure they are thoroughly dry as not to have them turn moldy.
Once dry, I break them up as small as I can or blend them in a coffee grinder and use back in chicken feed or in the garden!
Speaking of gardens, chicken poop is awesome for your garden. It does have to compost for a bit. Right now our flock has been in and about our garden, tilling, turning, eating weeds and leftovers from last years garden. They are also fertilizing our garden. We aren't composting but using the weather to cut the burn factor.
Placing fresh chicken manure can burn your plants so either compost in early Spring, late Fall or make sure you leave plenty of time in between before you start planting.
Keep your chickens locked in at night. It's quite easy for a passerby (predator) to grab a snack! Oh and don't worry they will learn quickly where "home" is.
You may consider clipping wings to keep them where you would like them to stay.
I stopped naming our chickens. I was getting too attached to our first flock. We lost them to our dog. I'll be blogging about that in the next day or so. This saddened us. I was reminded these are not pets. They are helping us grow food, giving yummy eggs and on occasion could fill our bellies.
I hope this helps you in your journey. They are fun, silly and can be a comfort. We have enjoyed hearing the Rooster crow and the cluck of the Hens as they get ready to lay an egg. Well, it's not really a cluck, more of a loud singing off key.
I'll be posting a new post about Ducks soon. Ducklings aren't too different then Chicks stay tuned for more in the next day or so.
Thank you for stopping! If you have any suggestions or comments please leave them in the comment section, I'd love to hear from you.