How to care for your new chicks
Chickens, for the most part, are easy keepers, not to mention incredibly entertaining and so much fun! They each have their own distinct personality. The more hands-on you have with them, the more their personalities shine and the easier they are to handle.
Here are some tips that will help your chicks stay healthy and thrive:
-Your chicks are shipped at 1-2 days old. Chicks can safely live off of their yolk for 72 hours after hatching. When you received them, it is important to place them under heat, and give them warm water and food as soon as possible.
-Upon pick up from the post office, bring them home immediately and get them settled in your brooder under a heat source. I HIGHLY recommend a heat plate vs. a heat lamp. It is a much safer option and it mimics the warmth a chick would receive under a hen.
-Use a waterer that is designed for small chicks, or if it is a larger waterer, place small rocks in the container so that the small chicks cannot drown. There is nothing more heart breaking then to find a tiny chick dead in a waterer.
-Offer them warm (not cold) water immediately by gently dipping their beaks in water to show them where it is. Once one chick figures it out, the rest will soon follow. I include electrolytes in their water for the first day to help their bodies re-coop from the stress of shipping.
-Chicks need a heat source until 6 weeks of age when they are fully feathered. However, they also need enough space to get away from the heat if they get too hot.
-Inspect their vents (butts) and gently clean off any poop with a Qtip dipped in warm water. Wipe their vents with a dab of Vaseline or natural salve after they are cleaned up to prevent poop from sticking again. I usually inspect their vents twice a day for the first 3-5 days. Chicks can die if their vents are clogged, so don't skip this step!
-Sprinkle the chick starter on the floor of your brooder for them to eat. Make sure this area is free from shavings or bedding. Once they get 1-2 weeks old, you can place their feed in a feed dish.
-Keep your brooder clean to prevent infectious disease and promote a healthier flock.
-Rule of thumb for chickens- If there is blood on your chicken, it will probably get pecked by the other flock mates. Blu Kote is a wonderful (but very messy) product that can prevent this and keep the wound clean.
-Integration into an adult flock is very do-able, but takes a good plan. I don't recommend integration until your pullets are 18-20 weeks old. On our farm, we take 2-3 weeks to fully integrate. Chickens don't usually take well initially to other chickens, and the more time you give them to warm up to their new flock mates, the easier it will be for you and your chickens. Please see my article on How To Integrate Your Chicks to help guide you in this process.
-Now that you have your flock, stay prepared for sickness and emergencies by having your own poultry first aid kit ready. Chickens are very resilient and can recover from injury and illness if found early and prompt action is taken.
Some of my must have items in our poultry first aid kit are:
Prid homeopathic salve
Petroleum jelly or a natural lubricant
Guaze, tape, scissors, various size syringes, gloves