Absolutely nothing! Cute! Super Cute! I think I just went blind…CUTE!
And absolutely fascinating to watch, but more on that later. This is just a quick post to introduce the new flocklings, with a few tips on bringing chicks home, getting them set up, etc.
First thing you need is a warm safe environment for the chicks. They need 95 degrees for the first week, which is accomplished with an infrared lamp mounted safely in a porcelain socket with a metal hood to direct the heat. How do you know what the temperature is? A thermometer, of course, do NOT try and guess by feel. I actually try to set up multiple meters while I’m dialing in the set up; one in the middle set under the light, another one in the coolest corner, etc. Set everything up 24 hours before you pick up the chicks so there isn’t any panic when you get home. Keep an eye on day time and night time highs and lows. Once the chicks are in their new home, they should eat/sleep/drink/play with happy peeping noises. If they are huddling together and making distressed cheeping noises, they are too cold. If the are panting, holding their wings out and staying in the coolest corner of the box, they are too hot.
So here’s my set up getting warmed up. I keep the light hanging from a chain so I can fine tune the temperature one link at a time. The lamp is VERY hot, so make sure it isn’t anywhere near the box, the curtains etc. Note the chick sized waterer and feeder. The box is 18X22 which gives each chick about .625 square feet of space. This is plenty for the first week or three, but the box gets bigger very soon. Right now, smaller is better for holding in heat, although you want the box big enough so there are cooler spots for the chicks to retreat to if they get hot.
Enough! Show me the chicks! Cute! Here are three out of the four. The blondie at the top is a Gold Sex-Link, the dark one in the middle is a Barred Rock, and the striped one is an Americauna. These three are very mellow little chicks who bonded together immediately, which is what I expected from these breeds.
And then there is this one. The “Black Star” hybrid has some Rhode Island and/or Leghorn in her (more aggressive). She was stand offish at first, but now she is happily kicking some chicky butt, running with her wings out, and at the ripe age of 48 hours old, made her first few attempts at flight (she did pretty well considering she doesn’t have feathers yet).
New chicks sleep a lot, often assuming hilarious poses like the Barred Rock there in the picture. Before you assume anything is wrong with them, wait about 10-15 minutes and they’ll probably be back to eating and playing. Keep the food and water clean (this can be a challenge). For the first few days, I keep the food in a shallow dish so they can find it easily (stand in it,sleep in it). Just put a bit in at a time and throw it out when it gets too much manure/wood chips in it. After a few days, I start using the chick feeder. Change the water at least a couple times a day. Both food and water should be level with the birds’ backs as they grow. If you are using a processed “chick mash” they probably don’t need grit, but if you are using minimally processed chick food, then they will need some of the very fine “chick grit” for their gizzards. They’ll be on chick starter for about six weeks, then they’ll graduate to a “developer” blend. At about 24 weeks, as they approach laying, they’ll start to get the layer blend with extra calcium.
Don’t forget to bond with your birds. Move slowly, speak softly, and remember you are pretty intimidating to a one ounce chick, keeping in mind that you are inevitably reaching down to them from above, and in a chicken’s life that’s where danger often comes from (like hawks). So don’t come swooping down out of the blue. I always make some noise approaching the box so they know I am coming, I’ll let them register my presence (not a hawk) and THEN I’ll reach in to play. Get them used to the human touch and talk to them so they know your voice. You’ll need to handle your birds through out their lives so it is good to develop a positive relationship*.
*See the post entitled “Chick Tip” for advice on handling chicks in a non-threatening manner.