I’m not judging. Initially I was judging, but only because all of the stress buying made it harder for me to stress buy MY baby chickens. I’m totally chill now.
We bought our first flock, which have all passed on to chicken heaven, when the kids were little. We didn’t plan to buy another flock this year. We’d even converted our coop into a much-rejected shelter for the dog. But with all that’s going on right now, my thoughts turned to the good old days when we had fresh, delicious eggs every day, breakfast for dinner was our favorite meal, and once in a while there was even homemade ice cream (click here for the best chocolate ice cream recipe). Plus, chickens are the sweetest little pets.
I thought maybe the run on baby chicks this year was just a local thing, but a friend of mine texted me this article from the New York Times this morning.
You probably know this, but for those who don’t: your chicks won’t be laying any eggs for up to 8 months. This is a loooong term investment. Also, getting set up can be expensive. I already have a coop and most of the supplies and I still spent $100.
We’ve gone through the learning curve of chicken care before, but I’m giving myself a refresher course. If you’re the caretaker of a tiny new flock, I would like to point you to a GREAT resource: The Happy Chicken Coop. Please, especially read through the potential health problems because they’re so easy to avoid with proper care.
When you first bring your chickies home, they’ll need a brooder. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Our first flock lived in a cardboard box with chicken wire over the top. Our new babies have this:
The essentials in this setup are:
- A warm, draft-free area
- Dry Nest — so the chicks can walk without slipping on the plastic and to aid in easy cleanup (they poop you know). You can also use newspaper.
- Baby chick sized waterer — did you know that they can drown in an open dish or adult sized waterer? Keep them safe! When they’re big enough for the coop, go with a nipple waterer like this one. It keeps their water clean and the coop dry.
- Baby chick crumbles (food)
- Heat panel — because their mama isn’t there to keep them warm. They need to be kept at 95-100f degrees for the first two weeks! You can also use a heat lamp — we did with our first flock.
We put cardboard under the heat panel because they were kicking out the Dry Nest and we want them to be comfortable. It will need to be changed out daily.
When the chicks are a little bigger, but not ready to go outside, we’ll cover the top with chicken wire so they don’t get out and hurt themselves.
Wondering what kind of chickens to buy?
We live in the the mountain west, so hot summers and cold winters. All of our flock did great here. We had an Ameraucana, a Black Australorp, a White Plymouth Rock, and a Buff Orpington. All were good layers, but the best was the Ameraucana (and the eggs were green! so cute!). My son was in preschool when we got them so he named her Dave. It was confusing.
This time around we have 2 Dave Jrs., 2 Black Australorps, and 2 Barred Rock.
Wintering chickens is easy. Just make sure their water isn’t frozen, they have food every day, and they’re not in a draft. Otherwise, they’re like little furnaces with plenty of body heat. They keep each other warm. Heating the coop can actually be detrimental because they don’t acclimate to the cold — going outside can be quite a shock.
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We’re lucky to have a super handy step-father in the family who put in a ton of time helping us build our chicken coop. If you’re at all handy with tools, I have a Pinterest board with a lot of great designs, here. You can also convert sheds or play-houses if you happen to have them.
I wanted a run that I could stand up in for easy cleaning. It cost more but it’s super sturdy, and it’s SO nice to be able to walk in and out. I’m going to add some perches to the run this time around. (Chickens love to perch just like other birds.)
This was a project the kids loved to help with — I wasn’t concerned about drips because I don’t think the chickens care.
I’m happy that so many people will get to experience the fun of backyard chickens. My kids LOVE them.