|Photo courtesy of KRO-Media|
I actually called the feed store to ask this exact question last year as I was anticipating my very first baby chick purchase. The voice on the other end of the phone was that of a seasoned farmer and advised me to wait until the weather is warm, at least upper 60's during the day before I get my baby chicks. This translated as "go ahead and wait an eternity." I wanted baby chicks now, like a cry baby wants candy.
My local feed store and farm supply chain started "chick days" sometime in the beginning of March and had chicks available through the end of May. On April 1st I thought I would just go and see what was available at the feed store. With this much excitement pumping through my veins there was no way I could leave that place without buying my chicks. So against the farmers advice, I bought 13 baby chicks.
What I have learned about buying chicks in April instead of waiting until May like I should have:
- Baby chicks are cute until they trash the place.
Chickens, even super fluffy butt cute ones make an inhumane amount of dust. Baby chicks need to be at about 90 degrees for the first week or two of their lives. Since you generally buy the chicks within days of being born, you must keep them under a heat lamp in a warm, dry environment for a minimum of 2 weeks. After that you can cut the temperature down to about 80 degrees, and then eventually 70 degrees. It's not until they're maybe 6 - 8 weeks old that they can handle 40-50 degree nights outside. They will trash whatever room you have them in by throwing shavings all over and creating some sort of super layer of dust. And that dust is partly poop. Just saying...
- Building a coop in the snow is hard.
I live in Michigan, so April is a very unpredictable month. It could be sunny and 60 everyday, or it could be 20 degrees with a blizzard for the majority of the month. Planning a coop and actually building it can be tricky. If you don't already have your coop built or live in a warmer more predictable environment, you should wait until May to buy your chicks. It wasn't until the chicks were over 6 weeks old that I was finally able to move them out of my house and into their finished coop.
- Chicks aren't as enjoyable in a cage in your house.
I wanted to let my chicks free range, feel the earth beneath their little chicky feet and pick at the dirt until they find a little worm or special treat. Instead they were in a large dog cage wrapped in cardboard under artificial light making a mess out of my back bedroom, smelling sort of like sweat and socks. The commodity of having little baby birds in the house wore off after a week. It was really hard to hold them, clean their cage or let them run around the room for a few minutes to stretch their little legs. We once bought a dozen crickets for them to chase around the room, but I'm pretty sure a few of them escaped, headed south to the basement and started a new life of their own living in my dirty laundry. And the little chicken land mines left all over the floor when the chicks were done was not pleasant to mop up.
Something else to keep in mind when buying your chicks: The feed store and your local farm supply chain will carry chicks for a few months, but the selection seems to get more scarce right near the end and the shipments aren't always predictable. New chicks are brought in weekly and I noticed at our local Tractor Supply the variety was always different.
So hold tight, May will be here soon and you will be glad you waited.