You're a first-time chicken owner. You know nothing about raising chicks. If you need help with that, you've come to the right place!
"From Chick to Chicken" is an article helping new chicken owners learn about how to properly care for chicks in order for them to grow up to be big, healthy chickens. I am not a certified expert, nor a veterinary professional. I am just sharing my knowledge about what I have learned while raising chickens.
1: Getting the Chicks
You've decided you want chickens. You have gone over some things and decided you have the money and time in order to take care of them. You just don't know where you will find chicks for sale. Well, chicks are available Feb-Aug at most farm stores such as Tractor Supply Co. or Rural King. If you don't have any nearby farm stores, you can always order online from hatcheries. There is a great online hatchery called Cackle Hatchery. It is a popular place to get chicks from. Link: https://www.cacklehatchery.com Ordering online means your chicks will come in the mail, however from ordering online increases the chicks risk of dying. Online hatcheries sometimes include a shipping and handling fee as well.
2: Getting the Supplies
Okay. You've got the chicks, now it's time to get supplies. Most people choose to get the supplies before they get the chicks, but if this is not your case, this is what you'll need.
1 Large, plastic tub https://www.amazon.com/Tuff-Stuff-P...id=1496605795&sr=8-11&keywords=Tuff+stuff+tub
1 Heat lamp & 1 bulb https://www.amazon.com/Woods-0151-150-Watt-8-5-Inch-Reflector/dp/B000HHQ94C/ref=sr_1_2?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1496604887&sr=1-2&keywords=Heat+lamp&th=1 https://www.amazon.com/WATT-BROODER...UTF8&qid=1496604887&sr=1-6&keywords=Heat+lamp
1 Bag of bedding or pine shavings https://www.amazon.com/Kaytee-Pine-Bedding-1200-Cubic/dp/B000LNQNHK/ref=sr_1_9?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1496605085&sr=1-9&keywords=kaytee+bedding&th=1
1 Feeder & 1 waterer https://www.amazon.com/PRODUCTS-FEE...d=1496605393&sr=1-27&keywords=Chicken+waterer
1 Thermometer https://www.amazon.com/Timex-6-5-In...F8&qid=1496605494&sr=1-8&keywords=Thermometer
1 Bag of food https://www.amazon.com/Manna-Pro-Me...rd_wg=CcW1i&psc=1&refRID=KZX1G1CFN2FPR5YY97GA
The size of these items are based on if you only have 6 or less chicks. It's good to only start off with 6 just to see if this is what you really want. If you have raised chickens in the past, then starting off with 12 may be better since you know what you're doing, however you will need a bigger tub, another feeder & waterer, you will go through more bedding, and you will need a larger bag of food.
3: Setting Up the Supplies
You've got everything. The tub, the lamp and the bulb, the bedding, the feeder and the waterer, the thermometer, and the bag of food. How do I set this stuff up? Get the tub either on a porch or inside the house since the chicks are still little. Begin to pour the bedding in the tub, do not go overboard on the bedding. Next, if your chicks have been waiting to eat for a day or two, pour the food into the feeder and place it in the tub. If you just got your chicks, wait an hour before pouring the food in the feeder and letting them eat. Fill the waterer up and place it into the tub. Screw the bulb into the lamp and then clip on the lamp to the side of tub. The chicks should be able to get away from the heat if they choose to do so. Plug the cord into an outlet. Place the thermometer inside the tub near the heat lamp. Place your chicks in the tub, and voila! You're all set! (Note: Chicks shouldn't be out of a heat source for too long. If you have the chicks before the supplies, keep the chicks warm as best as you can. Chicks can also go for only 3 days without eating or drinking. If you're ordering your supplies online, make sure to choose 1 day shipping if you can.)
4: Watching Temperatures
Within the first week of having your chicks, make sure the temperatures stay in the 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit area. Each week, you can decrease the temperature by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, since each week they will get more adult feathers. By week 3, you can move your chicks into your garage. By week 6, it will be coop time.
5: Feeding and Watering
The first thing I'm going to say is DO NOT let feeders and waterers become empty. Wash your feeders and waterers often, as well. You do not have to do this, but buying medicated chick feed may be a better option for your chicks. Medicated feed helps prevent diseases that chicks can develop, but medicated feed usually costs a bit more. The decision is yours! Don't buy layer feed for young chicks, as it can contain too much calcium for a growing chick. It is important to grow them slow, keep the protein percentage in the 18% area. Switch to layer feed around 4-6 months of age.
6: Buying a Coop
It's time for your chicks to kiss that little tub in the garage goodbye and move into a nice, cozy coop! What coop will you get though? Which coop design is best for you and your chickens? If you plan on having a maximum 6-12 chickens, a smaller coop would be dandy! If you plan on having a chicken party, which means anywhere from 12-50 chickens, 50 being the max, an extra large coop may suit your needs better. I recommend either having people build the coop for you, or you building the coop yourself. I don't recommend buying a coop at a store, as they may be lower quality. Some Amish people built our coop, our coop fits about 50 birds and was around $2000. It has all the bells and whistles, and it's predator proof! Make sure if you have people build it, it will be at your house by the time the chicks are 6 weeks old. Also, if you plan ordering a coop online, make sure that you get it from a site that specializes in selling coops. They usually build it and design it themselves then deliver it to your household. Don't be afraid to ask them questions! Your chickens are important!
7: Moving Into the Coop
They're 6 weeks old and ready to go! Make sure to buy a bigger feeder and waterer for them, since they're not babies anymore! Continue to keep them on chick crumbles though, until they are 16 weeks old, then switch to layer feed. If they're out in the coop and it's below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need a portable outlet, unless your coop has an outlet built in to it, to plug the heat lamp in. The chicks will no longer need a heat lamp by the time they are 10 weeks old. Also, don't forget they need a bigger bag of bedding!
8: Free Ranging
At 6-8 weeks old, it is appropriate to let the chicks free range. If you're comfortable letting them free range without your supervision, then do it! If you're uncomfortable with that, let them free range only when you're around. Chickens are smart creatures. When it gets dark, they will most likely find their way back into the coop. If they don't, then it may be good to keep a net around so you can snatch them and put them back into the coop. If you're worried about predators, then a large, possibly electric, fence would be better to let them run around in. Make sure to include fencing on the top so hawks and eagles can't get in.
9: Determining the Sex of the Chicken
It is very easy to determine the sex of a chicken that is 8-11 weeks old. You may have a cockerel (young rooster) if he is acting aggressively toward the other chickens and maybe even you. He may have a bigger crown that is red and he will have more "peas" on his crown than a pullet. He may show signs of having a wattle. You may have a pullet if she is showing no signs of aggression, has a small, pink crown with about 3 peas on it. She will show no signs of having a wattle. Sometimes the feather color is a complete giveaway of the gender, but it's not always that way.
10: Hurt/Sick Chicken
Oh no! Your chicken doesn't look too good. What should you do? The answer is set it up a place in your garage or on your porch. Use old newspapers to set the chicken on, give it some of its own food and water. It's important to separate the hurt or sick chicken from the rest of the flock to avoid the chicken being pecked at or its sickness spreading to the rest of the flock. Look up the symptoms of your chickens illness, or where on its self it was hurt and how to fix it. Read articles. Research. Try remedies. Whatever you can do to make your chicken better! You may even try taking it to the vet.
11: First Egg(s)/Spurs
Congratulations! Your pullets are now laying! They are now officially hens! Your cockerel has his spurs! In 6 more months, he'll be a rooster! You've had these guys and gals since day one and you plan on having them until they die. You've watched them grow and now you are a genius on raising chickens. You've experienced it! Their life, from chick to chicken.
From Chick to Chicken
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