PART 1: MAIL ORDER CHICKS
I’ve been a backyard chicken and duck farmer for about 5 years now but I’ve never had day old chicks yet. I got my first little brood of chicks in the mail this morning, March 6 2014 and am terribly excited.
7AM TIME TO GET THE PEEPERS
I was at the post office at 7am before the first girl arrived to open the door! I got my very first box of day old mail order chicks and I know I was far more stressed then the chicks were. They were peeping up a storm from the moment I wrapped a nice blanket around the box (it’s snowing out and still cold) all the way home ( 2 blocks) I had the jeep nice and warm so they never got a chance to catch a chill.
The moment I unwrapped the box and set it in the brooder box they were all excited and peeping continually.
BETTER NOT MISS A BEAT….BEAK
It’s important when you first take them out of the box to be sure and dip each beak into the water first, they need to know where it is and they are de-hydrated. As I picked them up one at a time and showed them the water others were popping out.
“oh my gosh I was frantic to not lose track of who got their beak wet”! Well it’s 5 hours later now and they’re all still alive. They have a rhythm going on, they run around peeping eating and drinking for about 15 min then gather under the heat lamp for a 2 min snooze and start all over again.
I have checked all their fluffy butts for pasty butt and had only two with poop dried on the feathers around their little chicklet bum hole, I have also had my hand in with them constantly and they are very curious.
CHICKS “AND” EGGS!
I got an even bigger surprise today than just little peepers, they came with two dozen eggs.
I called the hatchery and told them all my peeps were alive and thanked them for the eggs (thinking this was supposed to be sample eggs of the eggs to expect) they said “what eggs, you received fertilized eggs by mistake”, I laughed and they told me to either eat them or hatch them! I am now trying to find out the quickest simplest way to make an incubator. The eggs are marked red rock so the breed is different, my chicks are Miller Brown, I will need to get an incubator going soon.
I found this really great site while preparing for my first brood.
I’VE READ IT’S NOT A GOOD IDEA TO KEEP THE BROODER IN THE KITCHEN
So I decided to build my brooder in the kitchen.
And I use my kitchen table as the brooder floor. I got a very beautiful dining room table and chairs suite from my “VERY MOST FAVORITE!!!” sister last Christmas, I use it for my kitchen table so it now doubles as a chick brooder and if my sister is reading this right now, I know you are probably flipping out a little bit…eyes wider then normal, eye brows raised in shock and horror, ready to pick up the phone and tear me a new one! haha don’t worry my little chick, I got things covered.
I measured my table and it is the exact size to sit an old t.v. cabinet on that isn’t in use. I went upstairs, took it apart and re-assembled it on the table. The table was first protected with a thick heavy layer of cardboard, then heavy gauge plastic then a thick layer of newspaper then 2 inches of shavings then layers of paper towel….I think I got it “covered”. I bet my sister is relieved the fancy hutch didn’t fit in the truck with the table and chairs 🙄
MY COMFY CHICK CRIB
The cute thing about this brooder cabinet is it has the shape of a baby crib and sitting on the table it is the perfect height for me. In the kitchen is extremely convenient for me as I spend most my day here…as I write this post 🙂 I keep a Mother hen eye on my chicks at all times and I even managed yesterday on the first day with my chicks to get a nice potato soup done for supper.
FEED WATER MARBLES, CHECK CHECK AND CHECK
When you first order chicks you have a choice of vaccinated or not. I chose not and then I buy medicated chick starter. You can also choose to have them de-beaked, I chose “NOT”. When your chicks are just itty bitty babies they can drown so you fill their water trough with marbles; this helps to ensure they don’t get soaked when they walk in the trough and keeps them from drowning. It’s also best to add stress-aid electrolytes in the beginning in the water. This vitamin powder is essential and very helpful for the condition of pasty butt.
“TEMPERATURE IS EVERYTHING”
The temperature under the heat lamp is key to these little cotton balls. They need to have it 95F for survival. The hatchery told me the surrounding air temp should be no less than 85F but in my brooder that is not the case with such ample space and the chicks are doing just fine. For each week of age temperature should decrease by 5 degrees and to do this the heat lamp is raised up accordingly.
HURRY RUN RUN RUN
They are actually far more active and hardy then I expected and “CUTE”. When hens have chicks outside they are in far more extreme temperature ranges so I figure the range they have is really quite good, they spend the majority of their time under the lamp, running to the food and water and only on sudden freak episodes make a mad dash to “no where” at the far end and back again, they really do like all this running room.
At the end of day one my now two day old chicks made it through the night and so did I, just barely though. I am exhausted partly from doing it wrong stress and partly from totally thrilled and excited.
MAIL ORDER CHICKS NOW TWO DAYS OLD
DOING IT WRONG
While under understandable distress as a new baby hen Mother my brain was not processing information properly. I had called the hatchery for the proper measurement to mix the stress-aid solution with water. I was really in quite a panic as I knew how important these electrolytes were and I hadn’t expected the measurements for a small amount of 1 gallon of water to “NOT” be included on the package. Indeed their were directions for mixing up a batch for 364 liters of water which was the entire package, so, how do you measure 1grm of powder with how much water ? I had to wait until the hatchery opened at 9am, that meant my little chicks would go a whole 2 hours without vitamin srtess aid in their water so of course I panicked.
CHICKS ON STEROIDS
The hatchery calmly told me simply mix 1 level teaspoon in 1 gallon of water. I was so relieved they had the answer and I promptly mixed 1 level teaspoon into 1 quart of water and watched my chicks navigate run preform and bounce from food to water for 5 hours but didn’t realize this was not normal? I finally tried to lay down for a snooze and in doing so my anxious mind began to settle down. It was at that point my brain re-played the conversation with the hatchery and I shot up and thought “OH MY GOD I KILLED MY CHICKS” I ran to the phone and speed dialed the hatchery and frantically inquired with them once again the correct water measurement. I told them of my mistake and asked if I had just mixed a concoction that was going to slaughter my chicks in a few hours, they laughed and said “no” but they might be hyper for a bit.
PASTY LITTLE CHICKEN BUTT
Stress-aid electrolytes are helpful but not a preventative cure for little chicks and pooping problems. Care needs to be taken to check the little butts for dried poop every couple of hours or as in my case as an extreme anxious attentive mother hen here in the kitchen every time I walk by the brooder.
It’s easy to spot really, just watch the little chicks every move and when you see a dark butt pick up the chick and take a closer look. I’m not an expert so I don’t know why but the poop sometimes sits and sticks to the little bum feathers hence the name “pasty butt“ then collects blocking the pooping hole. Warm water and a soft tissue or Q-tip are the medical tools needed along with a warm hand and firm but gentle grip.
Hold the little chick in good light, butt end facing up or your head crooked at an awkward uncomfortable angle facing down because the chicks comfort is more important than yours; butt up is much better. Soak the little turd until it softens and breaks free of the hole. Dry the little bum as gently as possible and place the little yellow pooper back in the brooder.
I have been doing this for the past day and a half and it is exhausting with the crew I have, 26 little chicks. Their bums are not as bad as day one and now not as bad as this morning. Looking after your mail order chicks properly and consistently is not only the right thing to do with animal husbandry but rewarding in the long run. The chicks have the best chance of all making it and will become much nicer pets as they grow up and used to your attention. Ever have a chicken come running to see you? it’s simply priceless.
You can also go visit www.backyardchickens.com and find lots of info and help with your back yard flock.