Our backyard farm is the proud owner of week-old baby chicks. They came in the mail to the SLC airport last Monday. It was a mad panic as we rushed to get kids out of bed, dressed and fed so that we could pick up the chicks. All thirty were alive and well inside their packing crate and were peeping away.
The first thing that we did was bring them to their new home. The temporary chick housing is a large plywood box that we can unscrew and lay flat for storage. In the bottom, we put untreated pine chips. It is important that the chips are not treated by any chemicals because the chicks like to peck at them and I am sure that they manage to swallow a chip or two. We also turned on the heat lamps. We have two lamps and they are above the tiny coop suspended about 18-inches off of the ground. You will know if your light is too high or low by how the chicks act. If it is too high, they will huddle together to stay warm. If it is too low, they will fan out against the edges of the coop trying to get away from it. Watch them closely to determine if you are at the right height.
The most important thing was getting the chicks warmed up and drinking. We dip each of their beaks into the water to get them going. Once you get them going, it's like a water park, they just can't stay out of it. Then we add the food to the coop. Chicks need chick-grow. It's like a mash but made for chicks, it has a higher protein content. We feed our chicks vegetarian feed, so check the bag and make sure that it is vegetarian. Feeding animal protein to your flock is asking for trouble.
Once you get the flock eating and drinking, we do what is called a "bum check" on them. Little chicks are sometimes prone to getting excrement buildup on the outside of their bum. If left, it can actually prevent the chick from pooping and it will die. We pick up each chick and check their bums. If there is any buildup, we wipe it away with a moist cloth. We do this everyday for the first few days, and then every couple of days once the chicks are doing well.
Also, you have to constantly check the food and water. At least seven times a day, the chicks fill up their water with wood chips and food. You have to clean it out and start over with fresh water every time you check it. They are tiny pigs!!! But check the food and water often.
If you have kids, this will be the highlight of their spring! My kids have loved being "chicken ranchers". It has given them some responsibility and it teaches them so much about life! I wouldn't trade having chickens for anything. The best thing is that in a few months, we will have beautiful egg producing chickens that give as much to us as we give to them. Give chickens a try, you won't regret it!