Starting in February, the chicken hatcheries around the United States start to ship out their day-old chicks. The general public is able to purchase chicks from these hatcheries; however, it has to be in larger quantities. Our local Tractor Supply Company got in their first chicks on March 2nd of this year. I have always wanted chickens for the eggs, but due to some bad experiences as a child, Todd said there was no way he would welcome any chicken into our house. His theory is, “Chickens are for eating!”
With nearly 5 years of persistence, Todd finally gave in and said we could get chicks this year. Not only was I surprised, but I was excited! I have never had chicks and didn’t know the first thing to do to take care of them.
After checking out 3 books from the library, I was scared to death of owning chickens. They seemed so complicated to keep. To my surprise, they are so very simple to take care of. When choosing chicks, make sure they are laying pullets which means they are females and they will lay eggs. You do not need a rooster if you are looking for chicks to produce eggs. If you want meat chickens, you can get any kind.
What you need before you bring the chicks home:
- Rubbermaid Container (or large cardboard box)
- Wood shavings or paper shredddings
- Heat Lamp
- Food & Water Dish (we made our own)
- Starter Feed (can be purchased at TSC $7.99/20 lb bag)
In the state of Ohio, a person is required to buy at least 6 chicks because they are a flocking animal. Todd was nice enough to go to Tractor Supply for me while I was at work on March 2nd and pick up the chicks. He brought them home and put them in their new area to get settled in. Within a couple of hours, we lost a chick.
Apparently, while at TSC, Todd saw the woman picking out the dead chicks from the bunch. Transport is very stressful for these little creatures, and having to go through it twice is not favorable. The next day, we had another one pass away. This leaves us with 4 chickens.
Things to know about baby chicks:
- Chicks should not be handled the first few days
- Chicks can carry germs that make humans sick and vice versa: make sure you clean your hands thoroughly before and after handling the chicks
- Chicks are very fragile the first week of life
- Chicks require a temperature of 90 degrees the first week of life. After the first week, you can decrease the temperature 5 degrees each week until the temperature is at 70 degrees
- If you live in a cooler area, chicks will need to live inside with you until it is warm enough to put them in their coop outside
- Chicks taste great to predators, you have to protect them at night!
The chicks have grown tremendously since the beginning of March. Sometimes, I feel like we can sit and watch them grow! I try to handle the chicks as much as possible now, but they are still pretty skittish. Oh, and just so you know, they are not the smartest animals.
Did you know?
- You can teach a chick to drink out of a rabbit water bottle
- Todd did this after Week 3 of owning the chicks
- No more mess in the homemade water dish!
- A chicken starts to lay eggs by the age of 4-6 months
- Depends on breed
- I was informed that hybrids can lay starting at the age of 4 months
- On average, a chicken can lay an egg every day
- Chickens lay less when it’s cold or dark
- They also lay less if they aren’t getting the property nutrition
- Chickens lay eggs until they are approximately 4 years of age
Todd is currently building the chicken coop that they will be living in once they get old enough (8-10 weeks) and it’s warm enough outside for them to live. There are books from the library that have great chicken coop plans if you feel you can make it yourself. I have seen chicken coops run from $200 up to over $1,000!
We are still in the very early stages of chicken-ownership and are by no means experts. We are learning along the way and anxiously waiting for our first egg. I feel raising chickens would be a great learning tool for children to see where their food is coming from as well as how the chickens grow up.
Chicks at 3 days old...so cute and fluffy.
Chicks at 5 weeks old!
Do you have chickens?
What has been your experience(s) with them?