This story begins, like all good things, with an egg. Specifically, it begins with the lack of an egg. The repeated lack of an egg, for the next three months, from a chicken who had been poor layer to begin with. At this point we are done waiting for her to lay and instead she's going to feed us...differently. We raised a set of buff orpingtons from chicks and they are laying machines and incredibly friendly. The wife, on the other hand, likes our bantam cochins. They are tiny black balls of feathers and they do not run in fear from my kids (who happily let themselves in to feed, water and play with the chickens). So the wife decides "You should replace her with another black cochin or three." Makes chickens sound like light bulbs, doesn't it? "I'm just going to nip off to the breeder to pick up a spare hen, darling. Back in a bit" I love the bantam eggs (tiny but delicious) so I agreed, and drove out to pick up them from a breeder (a trip that was over an hour long). Three black bantam cochins, beautiful little birds that will be great hens. Then I was admiring the owner's setup (more chickens than I've ever seen in one place) and he said "You should see the brooders." We brooded ours in a rabbit cage with cardboard to block drafts. He brooded chicks in 8x8 plywood boxes with massive heat lamps and each of them full of chicks. His garage was like someone had made solid peep and packaged it. We were talking about how hard it was to take care of that many and he said "Some make it. Some don't. Don't have time to waste on weaklings." Then he pointed into one of the brooders and says, "See those? Not getting food. Not getting water. Now they're getting pushed to the outside of the pile." He reached in with both hands and pulled out a couple of protesting chicks. They were easily half the size of the others, with fewer feathers. "You going to put them in a separate cage?" I asked. "Nah, I just scoop them out in the morning," he said. I guess the look on my face said it all, because he said "Here. You want 'em?" I did not come prepared for chicks. I had no water bottle. I didn't have a heating pad or even a styrofoam box, or one of those "squeeze for heat" things. And it was cold. Then he said "Don't worry 'bout it. Nature takes care of things." I plead insanity. I drove home with the chicks in my inside pocket of my shirt. Over an hour with an occasional "peep! peep!" from inside my shirt. The only panic moment was when I stopped at a light and both chicks squirmed out. I had to keep my eyes on the road as the light changed but I realized they were not making a break for it. They had climbed out of the shirt pocket and were nestled down under the shirt right up against my skin. Just don't ask me to hatch eggs. I got home and told my wife "You are going to kill me." Then I got smart. I showed the chicks to the kids first. Now the wife was on the hook for helping me out. We already had the heat lamp and rabbit cage ready (for the cochins) and with a little work we made a "mini brooder" for the chicks. If you have ever wondered how much a tennis ball sized chick can eat, the answer is "A lot more than you would think." The chicks positioned themselves between the feeder and the waterer and proceeded to spend the next two hours doing this: EAT EAT EAT DRINK Then they passed out in the litter directly under the heat lamp. Today they are behaving much more "chick like" in that they stretch, walk around, scratch. Occasionally eat or drink. They move themselves further under or away from the lamp to keep comfortable. So, I'm raising a couple of runts in the middle of the fall when it's cold, wet and nasty outside. These chicks could have diseases that made them small or weak - I do not know. I've warned the kids that these chicks might not make it. That they could be sick and die and that it's no one's fault (other than mine for bringing them home in the first place). Or that they might turn out to be roosters. In this neighborhood, rooster is an alternate spelling for "dinner." So - Runt care: is it any different than usual chick care? They have a heat lamp that keeps them warm, fresh water, food and clean shavings. Anything else I should do for my "What on earth were you thinking" chicks? One is half the size of the other (and the other was tiny by comparison to its other flock mates). I figure I'll feed them and see what happens. I let my kids hold the buffs as often as they liked, with the result that the buffs hop up in your lap to be petted. I'm not so sure with these just because they've had a rough start and I don't want to add more stress.