It's never too early to start planning! Christmas will come and go quickly, then in just 90 days or so we'll see the exciting signs of Spring.
This baby chicks question arose last night while I was at work. We got a couple of new employees there, and strangely enough the conversation during break gravitated toward chickens.
Truth be told, and as you probably suspected, there was a lull in the conversation and I brought up the topic, so it wasn't really such a strange phenomenon. 😉
Well, I'm happy to report that I now have this great chicken hobby in common with a fellow worker - who recently made the decision to get started by ordering ten baby chicks from one of the hatcheries.
She asked me to make a list of everything she'd need to do in order to be all prepared, so I did, and will share it with you, too.
Have a coop ready or within days of completion before you order baby chicks. Time goes fast!
- Buy or build your own brooder. If you already have a brooder, make sure it's sanitized, all the parts are in working order, and test it out, including the heat settings, within enough time to purchase another one if it's not working. Set it up 24 hours before the first day of delivery stated on your invoice for the chicks. Often it will be "either" "or" within a 2-day window..
- If you're buying baby chicks from a local feed store, know what you want ahead of time and what the babies of that breed look like. The hatchery websites usually have a picture of both the babies and grown chickens of the breeds they sell and are a reliable source of correct identification of breeds. Often, the feed stores will nearly sell out one breed and put the remaining baby chicks in with a tub filled with another breed. This is a good idea in order to keep them warm, but if you have your heart set on seeing the breed you've chosen when they grow up, you may be disappointed. I learned the breeds by ordering brochures from all the hatcheries I could find, then studying them for hours on end when I was fourteen. It was free, and, of course we have the Internet today.
- Get your feed (non-medicated if you've chosen to have the babies vaccinated for Coccidiosis by the hatchery) and water containers, buy chick feed a few days ahead of time and make sure you have chick grit, any electrolytes you've chosen, pine bedding, paper towels, hydrogen peroxide and other common first aid supplies in case there are any injuries(rare).
- Read extensively about caring for the babies days or weeks before you get them. It's not rocket science, but you'll need to show them where the water container is (dip their beaks in it) watch for common issues like "pasty butt", splayed legs, beak issues, signs of illness, pecking, and such.
- Different people who write about chickens sometimes have different ideas about what to feed baby chicks. Some boil eggs, peel them and mash them for the babies for the first couple of days. Since the embryos were nourished in this way before hatching, this is a solid plan. Others stick with a high quality commercial chick feed that has been researched and developed to provide all necessary nutrients. Some use corn meal, mash, or ground oats mixed with a little water. Everyone has their favorite, but I've never seen any recommendation that would have the potential to harm the babies.
- Baby chicks seem less stressed when you have some soft calming music playing, so you might consider that.
- Follow all sanitation procedures, keep consistent feeding schedules . . . and enjoy your chickens first six weeks!