I have written an “instruction” sheet I hand out with chicks people buy from me. The actual “sheet” is written in this article in Italics. The rest is here to explain why I made that instruction and to give you a bit of my background and why I wrote what I did. Yes, the instructions fit on one page, the article does not.
I enjoy hatching chicks. I am not the greatest wisest chick hatcher in the world. ( yeah I know spell check does not like hatcher, I do.) I grew up on a farm, I have always enjoyed animals. Now that I am retired I have time to enjoy them more than when I was working. Up here in the northland (Minnesota) spring seems a long ways off. Hatching chicks makes this time of year enjoyable. I turned our house into a “Zoo” which my wife reminds me daily it is not. She should not have married a farm kid. However, I see her talking to the chicks, holding them and taking care of them all the time. I can only conclude she likes them as much as I do.
I do not hatch many birds at a time. This time of the year the only thing I am hatching is Cream legbars. My other “pure” lines will be added soon. I only have a few of each hen so the hatches are small. Today for instance I have 14 eggs in the hatcher.
I have found so many want chicks. I have a waiting list with over 50 birds wanted which means at 12 a week I will sell every bird female I hatch for next 10 weeks. Most of the boys will stay here and become soup. Sad but true. I have very good stock. I will sell my hatchery quality birds later on this spring but for now it is just the special ones.
My wife and I have owned a couple businesses through the years. We found we had a knack for buying a failing business and turning it around, then selling it after a few years. I am approaching the selling of chicks with that background. I am a bird lover, but I also need to be realistic as to controlling the outcomes of the sales of my birds. I think that should be a concern of everyone that sells chicks.
I am not talking just refusing to sell chicks to the person that is obviously not fit to own them. I am talking about the good people that simply do not have the knowledge to raise them properly. That does not mean they should not. They just need a little helpful hints. I find it good for all of us when people that have no connection to farm life learn where our food comes from. Whether it be lettuce, carrots, or meat something dies for us to live. The only exception is eggs. It is the circle of life.
I happen to live close enough to the Twin Cities to get most my customers from there or the suburbs. I want to help them and make the experience as good and successful as I can for them. I also want them to not bad mouth me because their chick died from something. Those of us lucky enough to have grown up and worked on a farm our whole lives have a duty to help others learn about raising animals and food humanely. Even though I did not work 100% on a farm for 40 years, I did have to go back and help my parents during that time, so it was never far from my brothers and I.
This has gotten fairly lengthy, sorry, I just wanted you to understand my reasons and why I wrote the instructions I did. Lets get to the actual instructions. Please remember I am not saying your way is wrong, if you do it differently. I am just giving a basic primer to people with little or no experience. I hand them out to everyone as people seldom fess up to being a complete idiot at raising a chicken.
The highlighted portions are not on the sheet. They are here to help you understand what and why I said it that way.
Thank you for purchasing my chicks.
These are some helpful hints for raising healthy chicks.
Do not expose them to your other chickens or anything used by your other chicks for at least a month. If you have a pathogen that is dormant or harmless to your current birds it could kill the chicks until they are a tad older.
I know some of you experienced chicken raiser will bristle at this. The reason I include it in my instructions is to get the chicks old before something fatal hits them. I have an ulterior motive here. If the chicks get a pathogen and dies within days of delivery, I get blamed for selling an inferior bird to them. I do not want that reputation. I know my birds are healthy when they leave, convincing someone who did something silly and stupid that killed a baby is hard to do.
When you get your chicks home, please gently dip their beaks in water. They may not all drink, some will. Some won't. They will all learn where the water is and how to drink from the others. I put about about a teaspoon full of Apple cider vinegar in each quart of water.
Please start them on chick grit as soon as you can, I have found it will help them to digest feed and lower cases of pasty butt. Pasty butt is not an inherited condition.
Many will say grit is not needed. It may not be but it does not hurt. For those of you not living in the frozen northland, you can use sand/gravel/dirt from your own yard or drive. For us up north just buy a bag of gravel or granite chips for driveways or pick-up truck weight in winter. It is way cheaper than the little bags of chick grit. I know what I said in the first paragraph. But getting the chicks use to your soil could be good for them. Again keep in mind why I give this out. It is two-fold. Yes, I want them to raise healthy chicks. However, it is better for the breeder the chicks not die from something in the first 3 days!
I suggest you give them a probiotic. I give mine a little powder probiotic over their feed. Yogurt will work too, be sure it does not “sour' before they eat it. Probiotics can be mixed with the water follow the directions.
Chickens are not vegans, they are omnivorous, please give the proper feed. More protein is better than less during development of bones and muscles of young birds.
Do not put them on wood chips for a week, keep paper under them (on top of the chips”) ingesting wood chips can kill them. If you have wood chips in their brooder, cover it with newspaper or pet pads.
I find having grit available cuts down on chip eating. I do not raise mine on wood chips at all.
A dead chick is normal. 10% is not excessive. Losing one or two happens. Some simply fail to thrive, they only spend 21 days as a “fetus”. If something went wrong inside the egg they will die. It happens.
If you have excessive losses, review your procedures, did you disinfect properly? Follow safe handling of feed and implements?
Keep them warm! 95-99 degrees for the first week, then drop it about 5 degrees per week.
And I cannot emphasize this enough. DO NOT HANDLE the chicks for the first 2 weeks! Normal socialization with humans in the first two weeks is just reaching in to feed them, letting them examine your hand and that is it. Handling them more than that will kill them. They are fragile. After 2 weeks you can take them out and hold them for short periods as they get older the time can be longer.
I know many of you will hold your chicks more and to be perfectly honest it may not hurt as long as they do not get chilled. Many of the people I sell to have young kids. If the parents play with the chicks, the kids will. A little too hard of a hug or squeeze and the chick is dead. They drop the chick and internal injuries occur and the chick becomes a runt or fails to thrive and dies. Guess who gets the blame? You or I the people that sold them the chick.
If you have a concern about a chick. Leave it here! You will not hurt my feelings by refusing a chick.
They are healthy when they leave here. I am sorry I am unable to replace dead chicks, there are just too many variables that I do not control once they leave here. I charge way less than the large hatcheries that replace chicks for free. If I charged what they did I could afford to replace them too.
I did not have the last paragraph my original instruction sheet. A breeder on our surviving Minnesota thread suggested it. I think it is a good idea. As she told me too many things can happen when the chick leaves your place. In addition I charge 10 bucks for a CLB female chick. I do this as a hobby not a business. I will never get rich on this. I will be lucky to break even, I am trying to recover some costs.
If I was a business I would charge what the “big players” do. I would get 3-4 times more than I am per bird. It would make covering peoples mistakes easier.
This in a nut shell is what I give the new chick owner and why. Thanks for reading to the end,
And as always any comments are welcome.
Have a good day!