So, You Want to Raise Baby Chicks, Eh?

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A proud mother hen indeed.

A proud mother hen indeed.

Mother Hen. That's what you can call me for now. Because baby chicks are a lot of dang work. Did I know baby chicks would be so much work? I sure did, because baby anything is a lot of work. I also did a ton of research before we chose breeds, picked out chicken gear, etc. Every time I do something new I make it a point to learn as much as possible so I know what I am getting myself into. I follow several blogs and pages, but have found the info in these books beneficial as well. Baby chicks are one of the more challenging I've raised so far (ha, I say that like I'm an expert! My baby raising experience is limited to humans and puppies). The hardest part is they won't stop pooping in their food and water which means I'm constantly changing them and cleaning the brooder!

Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but a bit over one week in it has been no less than three times a day, which means I'm doing a lot of chick poop cleaning. In light of this discovery I'm compiling a short list of some of the things I didn't come across in all of the research I did prior to raising baby chicks, but I think is super important as well as some solutions to the challenges I've had.

Or maybe I did come across this info, but it didn't stick with me. All of these things are now well noted, so to beat the drum again, here they are:

1. Salmonella is on the rise big time, so don't put your baby chicks where you'll eat. This includes your dining room, kitchen, and places you run by while stuffing a sandwich in your mouth because you have so much to do you can't take a minute to eat it at the table. We kept ours in the laundry room for a few days because it is the room closest to the garage, furthest from the people, but we could still easily pop in to see if they needed anything. Some people brood in a box in their hen house, but ours is so far from the house we'd be trekking out there every hour to make sure all is well, and trekking everything they poop on back to the house to wash in the utility sink. They now live in the garage because we have made a nice nook under the attic stairs for them. Many recommend not bringing them in the house at all, but you need to asses your layout and decide what will work best for you. Because of salmonella you should always wash everything they touch with hot soapy water and sanitize well. I'm including hands, clothes, and surfaces they or their gear has been placed on. I give everything I can a good once over with a baclock Norwex rag after proper washing and sanitizing just to be safe. Don't pick up your chicks and put them against your face. Chicks don't really seem to like it. Their beaks aren't really designed for kisses anyhow, despite how cute they are. Also, salmonella, 'nuff said.

Day old chicks are the most adorable thing ever.

Day old chicks are the most adorable thing ever.

2. They poop on everything. Should I say that louder? THEY POOP ON EVERYTHING, a lot. They poop in their food, they poop in their water, they will figure out how to pull down the thermometer and poop on that. They even manage to poop on each other. It's like the baby chick poopocalypse in that box. To soak it up I lay several layers of paper towels in the box, and change whenever there is more poop on the towels than clean spaces. For the first few days I only had paper towels on the floor of the box so I could gauge how much they were pooping easily and change quickly. Adding pine shavings helps soak up some of that nastiness and it has a clean farm scent to it. Now that we have both paper towels, a good layer of pine, and a few hours of outdoor time, the box is only being cleaned once a day. Hallelujah! 

They are thinking about using it.

They are thinking about using it.

3. When you add the pine shavings to the box, they will get stuck in their beaks while they learn to peck at it, and they will drag it into everything. So keep an eye on them for a bit after you add it so you can rescue those that need it. Pine shavings clog up the water bowl and food dish, and baby chicks need access to clean food and water all times. The pine shavings has doubled my water cleaning duty, but decreased the urgency of the poop issue. I got these great little plastic chicken nipples and hung a water bottle for them to combat it. They haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet. If I had known these existed I would have never started with a dish. We're going to play around with bottle configurations and find a way that works eventually. I had put the dish up on a platform which cut down on the mess, but the water is still pretty gross so for their health I'm going to keep their poop out of it completely. 

4. Be careful not to cook your chicks! Most of the research I came across had the same recommendation: 95 degrees for the first week, and take it down 5 degrees every week. Well our chicks didn't like 95 degrees. They laid down, panted heavily, and looked up at it as if to ask, "What did I do to you to deserve this?!" Raised the heat lamp a bit, and lowered the temp to 85 and they are happy, peeping, playing chicks. You'll know if they are cold because they will be huddled together, and if they are too hot they will be as far away from the warming light as possible. 

Raising baby chicks is a great family activity.

Raising baby chicks is a great family activity.

5. Baby chicks play dead. The 2nd day we had them I walked in and was horrified to see them all sprawled precariously throughout the box. Their little bodies were twisted and limp with their necks and wings askew. I reached in to pick one up and they all jumped up and started pecking around making happy peeping noises. Turns out they sleep like that. A week in some of them have figured out the roost bar, so they sleep like propper chickens. Some are still sleeping like they've kicked the bucket though. I'm much less alarmed when I see it.

6. You will spend all your money on chicken things. Our chicks now have a great little tractor (Jared is going to put training wheels on it so we can move it around the yard easily), a swing, and a fun bridge. I also am dying to add to our flock already. I must have a Lavender Orpington, they are so pretty!! 

7. Baby chicks are hilarious. It's been so crazy here with all the planting, unpacking, and entertaining of family that we have not sat down to properly enjoy them. We've had a couple days this week where we've brought them out. We just love watching them jump and flap, peck around, and explore. They have so much personality already. We plan on getting in more time with them this week, so be prepared for photos galore on social media. We'll also finish naming them, we have four done!

We added cardboard because they fit through the bars still, just barely. A few more days and this will be perfect for them.

We added cardboard because they fit through the bars still, just barely. A few more days and this will be perfect for them.

After a week I've decided that raising baby chicks is for the birds, literally. A broody hen is going to do it for us next time. Just like raising our kids though I'm going to be all cliche' and tell you it's worth it. Because it is. I can taste that mushroom and goat cheese omelet already and it's at least 17 weeks out.

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This post contains ads & affiliate links (this links to our full disclosure about browser cookies, and way more than you probably wanted to know about ads and affiliate marketing). We make a small commission when you purchase from some of the links shared in this post. Making a purchase from a link will not cause you to pay more or affect your purchase in any way. It will however, support our wildest farmin' dreams, which is mighty awesome of you