It’s springtime, and all farm stores and feed mills are buzzing with new arrivals of chicks. Are you thinking about getting chickens?
Remember that chickens, although small and cute, grow very fast and you need to accommodate them as they grow. If you have picked a laying breed, you can expect them to start laying eggs when they are six months old. If you have picked a meat variety, you can expect them to reach harvest size in six weeks.
You might ask yourself, "Why do I want chickens?" Chickens can be a fun and friendly pet if they are raised around people. They also offer great benefits like fresh eggs, chemical-free weed and bug control, and great tasting, all-natural meat. And while they are doing all of that, chickens produce excellent fertilizer! So you see, there are many benefits to raising chickens.
- Double-check to make sure that your city or town ordinances and your homeowner's association allows you to have chickens and if there are any further guidelines. After you have checked, can you proceed with filling up your coop.
- Find temporary housing. While the chickens are young they will need a small, warm area. This area should be kept at 90 degrees F directly under the heat light and a lower temperature for them to move to if they become too hot. If you provide the heat and the space the chicks can regulate where they want to be. Decrease the temperature five degrees per week. Keep in mind it is colder at night if they are kept in a non-heated building. Check the temperature often to make sure your chicks don’t get cold because this can lead to many health problems.
- Remember that food and water are very important to live animals. Make sure food and water containers are kept clean and well stocked at all times. I recommend a chick blend for starting them out on feed. I prefer the non-medicated feed (unless it is needed) to raise all-natural chickens. Fill a chick feeder with chick feed and place one end close to the light. Then angle it away so the chicks can eat and pick from the temperature at which they are most comfortable. Then add a chick waterer to the area and add support and height under the waterer so chicks can still reach it but not get in it and make a mess of their water.
- Keep the bedding clean. I recommend using large shavings. These absorb water as well as waste and can be cleaned and changed often. Now is the best time to start making friends with your chickens so they get familiar with you.
If you are buying chicks from a hatchery, remember that they come as day-old chicks that have never seen water or food. Make sure to dip each bird’s beak in the water to teach it what water is. Let them get a few drinks before leaving them to do so on their own. If the feed is close by they will figure out how to eat. Most importantly, make sure they all know how to drink.
Check on your chicks often and keep them well stocked with feed, water, and clean bedding. You are on your way to happy and healthy chickens!