Chickens. Entertaining, Rewarding, and a Little Bit of Drama
by Nichole Ondy
Today is the day! You have researched breeds, set up the brooder, picked out the cutest names; you couldn’t be more ready. Or so you thought…..
“Chicken math” is real folks. I repeat, CHICKEN MATH IS REAL! Do not say you were not warned. You go into your local feed store for six chicks, you best believe you are coming home with 8-9 newbies. Just accept this fact, and move on!
Babies need lukewarm, brooder temperature water. (85-90 Degrees) As humans, when we think about drinking water, we always think about a tall, refreshing glass of icy water. Sounds great right? We give our dogs and cats cool water, we give our kids cool water, but do not give the chicks cool water. Brooder temperature water will help prevent the chicks from getting chilled, and help prevent pasty butt.
Chicks thrive in a flock. If you are looking for an excuse to get more chicks (aren’t we all?), here it is…Just because you can purchase one or two chicks at your feed store, doesn’t mean you should. Chickens are a flock animal, and thrive in a group. I always recommend raising chicks in a minimum group of three. (Or more – remember chicken math?) I found that even raising two chicks together can pose as an emotionally stressful environment filled with endless, sad peeping. The most common response I get to the above topic is, “I already have full grown chickens at home. I don’t need three chicks.” Considering that the chicks are being raised separately from the adult flock for a few months, they still need to have a supporting flock to grow up with, regardless of your existing flock.
Give your newbies time to acclimate to their new homes. I like to give my new chicks at least 24 hours before handling them. Whether you order your newbies through the mail, or pick them up at a store, they are going through some sort of transportation, and being placed into new surroundings. This without a doubt will cause stress, which may promote a weakened immune system, pasty butt, and other unwanted issues. Provide a seamless transition: Have their brooder warm, and ready to go; If you are driving them home from a store, keep your car warm so they do not get shocked from temperature changes; Lastly, when you put them in their new home, (your brooder!) do not handle them for the first day unless absolutely necessary. Let the chicks get comfortable with their new feeder, new waterer, new sounds, new smells, new everything. This will be a scary journey for them, but they will soon learn to love you!
Nichole Ondy has been an employee at Animals & Gardens Unlimited in New Egypt, NJ since March of 2010. She is a walking database of all things chicken related. Her father got her into chickens about fifteen years ago, at which point she claims to have had zero interest in them. She even refused to come into AGU to get them with her father! As she became older her presumption that chickens were only a production animal shifted when she realized, through what she calls a “forced friendship” with her flock. She came to the conclusion they had such personality and has been a chicken lover ever since! On top of everything she does with chickens in-store and at home she really enjoys gardening and is very knowledgeable about that subject as well.