So you decided to join the fun world of chickens! Let me tell you, be prepared to fall in love. Chickens are fun, silly and each of them have their own little personality and quirks.
So chickens are pretty easy to care for and not very high maintenance. They do count on you though to feed them, keep their living space clean and care for them when they are ill. This is a commitment!
So let start with what you should have before you even get your first chick.
Heat Lamp and what temperature you should keep your chicks
Some kind of bedding
Space- A well ventilate space for them. Not a drafty place, chicks can get cold very quickly and die. But make sure your peeps are not in an area that is going to be hard for them to breath. Oh and as they get bigger you may need a screen to put over the top! I had a few escapes, thank God my pups love the chicks!
Heat Lamp - So this is very important for all chicks. Some people are strongly against the heat lamp because it is a fire hazard, but it is so important to keep these babies warm.
Heating chart by Fahrenheit
0-1 week 90-95
2-3 weeks 85-90
4-5 weeks 75-80
5-6 weeks 70-65
At this point you can start to wean them from the heat lamp. I normally just run it at night for a few days. Another thing I do for my peeps is heat up a water bottle and put it into a sock (So they don't burn themselves.) It gives them a little extra heat and they love to sit on top of it :). It is like their first roosting bar!!
Food - You can not give your peeps adult food right away. Their little bodies are not ready for that and it can cause so many health issues. Start with a starter feed. Medicated and non medicated is a personal choice. I do non-medicated, but you would have to do some research to see what the best choice is for your little flock.
When you buy your peeps grab a few packets of the water electrolytes. They are really cheap and you just mix them with a gallon of water.
Food and water dishes - Please get the ones made for peeps. The food dish because you don't want them going to the bathroom in their food and the water dish because you don't not want your little fuzz balls to drown in a water dish that is to deep.
Bedding - So be prepared, chickens are messy! The first week or so you can get away with cleaning their area once a week. Week 3-4 you will be cleaning it at least twice a week. By week 5 you are going to be spot cleaning every few hours to keep up with the mess. Deep breath though your peeps are soon ready for the great outdoors. As for bedding I suggest something cheap, but safe. Shredded paper , some dirt from outside and even straw is a great choice. Depending on what kind of bedding you use things are going to get dusty too. I dust several times a day when I have new peeps.
Extra Care - So here are the things that would not fit into any other category.
Introducing them to the outdoors should be a slow process.
They have lived inside a climate controlled area for several weeks. You cannot just toss them outside. At first I take mine out for visits through out the day. I also introduce them to my older girls a few times. I let them run around the yard (with supervision, hawks live in my area and would love to get an unattended chick). Next I let them go into the coop/run during the day, but bring them in at night. This is all supervised the first few days. Older girls can be mean when introducing any new members to the flock. You need to watching for bullying. And bullying and establishing a flock order are very different. Chickens will go their entire lives reestablishing flock order, this can be a little peck, some pushing and even just puffy out their chests. Bully is full blown pecking and hurting each other.
Pasty Butt - This is a very serious condition and can kill your new babies. Make sure you are checking their bottoms often. It is what it sounds like, their dropping paste up around their bottom and block them up. The best way to treat this is catch it early and clean it out for them. Do not just pull it, this may cause injury. You want to use warm water and gently wipe them.
Handling your babies - When they are real little keep handling to a minimum.
They really do need that heat their lamp provides, but as they get older make sure to hold them a lot. This creates a strong bond and trust me you are going to love it when they are older and all come running just because they hear your voice!
When I greet my girls in the morning it is like a frenzy to get to mom first. If I don't pet one fast enough they let me know by jumping up into my arms, I even had a few jump onto my shoulder for attention. It is a special feeling to be on the receiving end of all that love.
And last, but not least I need to give you two warnings. The first is just because the bin says all they babies are girls it isn't always true. If you want a true female you are better off going with a sex link chicken. That means that girls are born one color, boys are born another color. I got 8 babies this year and thank God only one turned at to be a roo. My only roo, so he will be staying with my flock. I know some people live in areas where they cannot have roosters though, so if you want to be 100% sure go with a sex linked chicken breed.
And my 2nd warning I give with a heavy heart. Sometimes not everyone makes it to adulthood. You can do everything right and still loose a baby chick. This year I got 8 to add to my flock and lost 2. It happens do not think you done something wrong, do not think you failed them.
I hope you enjoyed this post, my chickens are one of my greatest joys and I hope to write about them more! Congrats on your new flock or soon to be new flock.