Our new chicks arrived yesterday! It was perfect timing, since we moved the teenage cornish out to the outside meat bird pen on Tuesday.
Are you considering keeping chickens, but you’re not sure what to do with baby chicks? They’re actually not hard to keep alive, as long as you give them their (pretty basic) needs.
– Food. Chicks need chick food. Chick food is specially blended for the needs of baby chicks. You can get medicated feed if you prefer, which contains a Coccidiostat to help guard against coccidiosis, which is an illness that baby chicks can get. I do not personally use medicated feed, but that’s a decision I’ll leave up to each individual chicken farmer. It’s easiest to give chicken feed in a chick feeder.
– Water. Chicks need water. If you’re buying new day-old chicks via mail-order, you’ll probably need to show them how to drink water. (Just dunk their beak in the water.) Never let your birds run out of water. They’re so little, and they can’t handle dehydration. Many people recommend feeding them sugar water the first day or two. It’s easiest to give water to the chicks from a waterer, since they can’t tip it over. They will still make a huge mess with it, though.
– Heat. Most people use a heat lamp for this. Chicks need to be kept warm – about 95 degrees for the first week, then lower their temp by 5 degrees every week until you get down to ambient temperature.
– Safe space. Give your birds plenty of room, and give them more room as they grow. We have our 25 chicks in one giant Rubbermaid bin, but as they grow, we’ll move them into two separate bins, and then divide them further as needed.
– Litter. Though this isn’t strictly required to keep your chicks alive, it will make keeping your birds from getting all super nasty and dirty. Change the litter (and clean the feeder and waterer) daily if possible.
Isn’t this one adorable? I hope it’s a girl.
– Basic care. Check to make sure they’re not pasting up, which means that their poop sticks to their butts. This should be removed gently with a warm, wet rag. Make sure they’re not picking on each other, which often results from being too crowded, too hot, or not having enough water.
– Toys. They don’t make chicken toys. They’re chickens. Their brains are the size of a pea. That said, though I don’t know that it does much for the chickens, I personally find it highly amusing to provide some sort of high contrast toy for the chickens. And by “toy,” i mean like a dark spot on the side of their box. First one chick will run over and peck at it, and before you know it, they’re ALL over there pecking at it. Maybe I’m just easily amused.
But that’s it. Chicks are not hard to care for. If you’re ordering mail-order, it’s not unusual to lose a few, which is why most mail order places will send a few extra in every shipment. So, don’t stress about it unless you lose more than 1 or 2.