Chicks are so much fun, and very addicting. The day before your shipment arrives, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to sit still. When I got my five chicks in the mail, the Monday and Tuesday before they arrived in my post office I would camp out next to the telephone. Whenever I heard it ring my heart dropped and I checked to see if it was from the post office. Of course, they ended up calling at 5:45 AM, but I was too excited to be tired. The hatchery I ordered from, My Pet Chicken, is all the way in Ohio. It took THREE DAYS to get to my town’s post office. Three whole days.
Before your chicks arrive, get everything, and I mean everything, ready. Put the shavings in their brooder, pour out their food and water, set up their heating implement, and so on. Lets take a look at what you should think about purchasing beforehand.
- Chicks need a form of heat. Many people use heating lamps, but these are a serious hazard. One of my close friends ordered chicks and set up their brooder with a heat lamp, but the supports holding it broke, and the device caught on fire when it hit the chicks’ feathers below. Her entire basement and first floor was also engulfed in flames, her chicks died, and her family had to move out and rebuild. This is only one family, out of the multitude that heat lamp fires have affected.
- So what is the solution? I recommend checking out an EcoGlow. Do some of your own research of course, but from what I understand it is much safer. It functions as a mother hen in that it only heats up to a certain temperature, and the chicks can go underneath it as they please. I used one, and suggest that you try it too. Its worth the extra money!
- You’ll need a brooder. A brooder is a safe place where the chicks can live while they grow enough feathers to survive being without a heat lamp. This is usually six weeks or more, depending on the weather. I made mine out of two large cardboard boxes and some tape. Others construct elaborate brooders out of pieces of wood, while some uses dog crates with hardware cloth around the bottom to prevent the little peeps from escaping (it happens).
- Find some bedding, I like fine pine shavings. For the first few days you should cover it with newspaper and a layer of paper towels over the paper (to prevent a condition called splayed leg) so that they don’t eat the little pieces of shaved wood thinking its food.
- Get a good chick starter feed. I used Manna Pro Medicated Chick Starter. The choice between non-medicated and medicated is truly up to you. Medicated feed just gave me the peace of mind that they had a little extra help on warding off diseases like coccidiosis. Others feel that nondedicated is best because they could form their own resistance to disease. *NOTE* If you have chicks vaccinated against coccidiosis, DO NOT feed them MEDICATED feed, as it will cancel the vaccine out
- Purchase a small feeder, and a small waterer especially designed for chicks. It will have a very small bottom to ensure that the chicks can’t drown in it. If you end up using a waterer with a slightly bigger bottom, be sure to fill the partially with rocks so that the chicks don’t fall in
- Get some electrolytes for chickens. You can find them at your local Tractor Supply. Giving the chicks electrolytes on their first day or two will give them an extra boost after a long shipment. If I had followed this advice, I might have avoided two of my weaker chicks dying.
- Have a back-up brooder for any sick chicks. You might also want to buy an extra pair of feeders and waterers just in case. In an emergency, it would also be useful to have extra electrolytes on hand, a heating pack, and some eye-droppers or tiny needle-less syringes.
- Having a dust pan or scoop to remove dirty bedding is extremely helpful-unless you want to scoop out the dirty shavings with your hands (trust me, you don’t want that)