Sunday, April 7, 2013

How to care for baby chicks

Photo by: possbeth
Dare I say it is finally spring here in Michigan, and nothing makes it feel more like spring than buying some brand new baby chicks. If you're anything like me you just impulse bought a dozen chicks, they're sitting on your counter, and now you're frantically googling for some answers on what exactly you need to do to keep them alive and healthy.

People like me are also probably the reason you just impulse bought a dozen baby chicks. This year I'm really on my game about convincing co-workers, friends, and people I just met, that this is the spring they need to invest in backyard chickens, almost to the point of annoying. I find myself, regardless of topic that was brought up, circling the conversation back around to chickens and their many benefits; "Oh your Aunt is sick? I bet she would love to see you get some chickens, really would bring her back around."

I was going to write a full post on all the things to think about when buying baby chicks, but these guys are the pros, so I will leave it to them:
Here are a few tips that I have found helpful along the way:
  • Don't buy medicated feed. Purchasing 'chick starter' is encouraged because of the higher protein content, but medicated feed is not necessary in almost every case. Medicated feed is often recommended because of a disease called Coccidiosis, which usually occurs when temperatures are very warm and conditions are dirty. If you keep your chicks environment clean, wash the waterer frequently, and have sufficient space for your baby chicks, it is unlikely you will encounter any problems.
  • There is a thing called 'pasting' you should be aware of:
    Pasting occurs when droppings stick to the bird's rear end and clog the vent opening. Gently remove the wad of hardened droppings, taking care not to tear the chick's tender skin. To prevent pasting, make sure that your chicks are not getting chilled. If pasting persists, mix a small amount of cornmeal or ground-up raw oatmeal with the starter feed. 
    Read more: Diseases of Baby Chickens |
  • There will be a lot of dust. I'll say that again, there will be a lot of dust! So plan accordingly.
  • They grow really fast. Sure it seems obvious now, but the dog cage you had planned to keep 8 chicks in may only work for the first 3-4 weeks as the chicks continue to double in size. Typically chickens are ready for temperatures in low 40's (F) at night when they are around 6-8 weeks old and fully feathered. At 6-8 weeks old most breeds are almost half grown and very large compared to the tiny babies you bought. Again, plan accordingly, and slowly ween them off the heat lamp until they are used to the low temps. 
Here is another post about the best time to buy baby chicks and why:


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