We have been planning on getting chickens for a while now, but for some reason I just kept holding out. I guess I was a bit nervous. It is one thing to have a dream and a plan, but actually putting the plan in motion is a different story.
It all started with a harmless trip to the Tractor Supply store. It was a rainy day and I thought it would be fun to just take a look at what they had. We were doing good as we stop at the chicken supply aisle. We checked out the different items and I looked at the different feeders. Then I heard one of the girls squeal, “Look at the baby chickens!”
That was it. I was struck with chicken fever. They were all so fuzzy and yellow and you just wanted to squeeze them they were so cute.
I have never had chickens before (although our landlord did have them in Spain..they weren’t my responsibility though, I just reaped the benefits of them). And even though I have several “homesteading” books and have read through them many times, when the time came to actually get the chickens my brain started going fuzzy.
What do we need? What types of chickens to we want? Layers? Pullets? Sexed? Too much information, too quickly! I really needed a checklist!
Here is the crash course on buying baby chickens. Please note that this information will only take you through the first few weeks of owning baby chicks (we haven’t gotten any further than that).
What You Will Need to Buy (or make or get from craigslist)
- a box (or something to put the chicks in) – We chose a rubbermaid tub, but it wasn’t the best choice for 2 reasons: 1) We had to be very careful and make sure the heating lamp didn’t melt the tub, and 2) The chicks quickly outgrew it. We then found a wooden box outside that is working much better.
- chicken wire – Depending on the depth of the box, you may need some chicken wire to keep the little guys in.
- bedding – We are using pine shavings for our bedding, but I have read that you can also use newspapers.
- food and water dispensers – Make sure you have ones that are meant for chicks. They can drown in larger water containers.
- heating lamp – Little chicks need to be kept very warm (95 degrees the first week). We still have our lamp on around the clock at 3 weeks old. Their box is large enough that they can get under the lamp if they need to, or move to a cooler part of the box if they get too warm.
- thermometer – Like I said before, young chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees the first week. Each week of their lives they heat can be reduced by 5 degrees. I just set the thermometer inside the box near the heating lamp, since this is the warmest area.
- chicken feed – So far just bought a bag of chick feed specifically for chicks. At some point I know we should change feed, but I haven’t gotten that far ahead yet.
- change bedding daily – If the bedding gets wet or very yucky, you can change it more often. You want to make sure the chickens have plenty of dry bedding to scratch around in.
- change water daily – Wash out the water container with soap and hot water each day to help prevent bacterial growth and sickness. Also, check the water throughout the day. Our little guys kick up the pine shavings into the water. I have to take a stick and clean it out so that the water will be available to them.
- feed – We have self feeders, so I just make sure there is plenty available.
Our chicks are now 3 weeks old and we are starting to see their color change a bit. We have taken them out in the grass some, but watch over them carefully (I feel like a mother hen). The girls have caught several small grasshoppers and the chicks go crazy over them. I can’t tell you how much fun we have had with them. What a wonder is God’s creation!
Here is a quick video to chronicle our learning. I am hoping to post more as we learn.