Before we got Chicks, we did a lot of reading about how to care for these little guys and gals. It was confusing, often targeted towards industrial chicken keeping, and also often contradictory. We kept thinking about how we didn't want to kill the poor little guys because we just didn't know what we were doing. Chicks can die, they're delicate and we can't promise you that anything we say will ensure their survival. Where they come from, the health of their parents, and the environment have a lot to do with successfully raising chicks. Here are a few simple pointers we wish we had access to when we got started:
- No treats before 2 weeks old - Keep them on Starter Feed and only starter feed until they're really old enough to have grit. 2 weeks seems to be the common recommendation across blogs, health books, and forums. Of course, you don't have to give them treats that early and they will be completely happy and healthy on their starter feed alone.
- Chick grit - this is essential. In nature and in the backyard they can usually find adequate pebbles and sand to digest their food. But in the brooder or in confinement, they won't be able to do that. Most literature recommends crushed granite in small sizes when they're chicks and larger sizes as they grow. I've read some people say that regular all purpose sand will do, but we have wanted to give our chicks the best and safest grit as they grow. You don't need 50 lb bags of grit if you're raising a small flock. In fact, we didn't use more than a pound of grit in the first 6 weeks, which is why we created 22 oz packages to give you just what you need.
- Tiny bowls - we didn't realize that we might want to give our chicks small quantities of things like grit and some types of treats. Having tiny bowls on hand means: a) it's harder for them to knock over than (for example) a cut solo cup (yes we tried it) and b) if they knock it over or poop in it, you're not dumping large quantities into the garbage when you clean out the brooder. We also found that our chicks loved to have their Chick Starter Feed wet. We started giving this to them because 1 chick was eating less than the others. We drizzled a little bit of water over a tiny bowl of feed. In the end every one of them loved it and we gave them tiny bowls of wet chick starter each morning for a little while as a treat.
- Brooder size - we thought we were good to go with our little storage box we started off with. All the blogs said 1/2 sq ft per chick was more than enough. Over time though, we could start to see that they were running out of space, they didn't have enough room to hop around and it just didn't seem right. We upgraded our brooder size 2 times over the coarse of 6 weeks. I'm not sure this is what I recommend to you, but a heads up that you might have to too!
- Heating - this was a sore spot for me. I was really opposed to using a heat lamp because of all the horror stories I heard about fires being caused by them dropping in the pine shavings. Originally, I bought a heat pad, but within the first 15 minutes of the chicks being at our house - it was clear that it wasn't enough heat for them. This is really important to take note of because the chicks will die if they're too cold or too hot. You can tell because they will scream at you! Okay, so ultimately we did use a heat lamp, but we took some extra precautions to make sure it was safe.