Gonna get me some baby chicks. Now what?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by whitejerabias, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. whitejerabias

    whitejerabias Out Of The Brooder

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    We are finally moving into our dream home and what kind of home would it be without some good ole homegrown eggs. So now what? We move the first of the year. Can I just get really cute little fluffy, peepy balls of fun and put em in a box or what? How long until they have to have a real live chicken coop in the yard (ie, should I build the coop before getting the babies?) What time of year does one get chicks? How long does it take until they lay? What should I figure for a start up cost and how much should I budget for them monthly?

    What is the best way to use this forum without asking a ton of newb questions that have been answered succinctly time and time again?
     
  2. TheSpiceGirls

    TheSpiceGirls Overrun With Chickens

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    Bay Area, CA
    My best advice if to hit the library or bookstore and pick up Raising Chickens for Dummies and give it a quick read. Raising chickens is not difficult. But there are some things you are going to want to fully understand before you jump in and information is key.

    If you start with day old chicks, they are probably going to be kept in a brooder in your garage for about two months until they go outside. Depending on the outside temperature. Day old chicks need to be kept under a heat lamp at 95 degrees for that first week. Back of 5 degrees each week till you get down to 70. By then, they should have feathers and be able to regulate their temperature. BUT that said, if the outside temps are much below 60, you may want to supplement their night time temp to 60 degrees for another week or so till they have fully adjusted.

    And you'll want to read about the different breeds here on BYC. Do you want chickens that are egg laying machines? With that, you will likely get rather flighty, unfriendly chickens. If you want docile, super friendly chickens, then you may only get eggs 4-5 days a week from your girls. But do the math. Four hens at 4-5 days a week. That's about a dozen and a half eggs a week. Maybe that's enough. You can also go the route of having a colorful egg basket. There are hens that lay green, blue, dark brown, lt brown and speckled eggs. They all taste the same to me once you crack them into the pan but they sure are fun to look at.

    You don't have to have your coop ready the day you bring home your chicks, unless you are going to brood them in there. But chicks grow up fast so you need to have a plan.

    One thing I did was to have a contractor build out a predator proof run. My coop sits in the middle of that run. The beauty there is that I don't have to lock them up at night or let them out in the morning. But if you are going to free range your girls, then you need to come up with a plan to make sure they are safe at night. There are automatic doors that some people love. But that may require you running power to your run. Just something else to consider.

    This group is a WEALTH of info. But I suggest you start with a book that organizes everything in a digestible format. Good Luck and welcome to BYC!
     
  3. TrystInn

    TrystInn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 16, 2009
    Southern Arizona
    Ditto!

    Also, put together your Chicken First Aid Kit BEFORE you need it. Chicks can have a host of health concerns and you need to be prepared at 2am when the worst occurs.
     
  4. Stephanie739

    Stephanie739 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Congratulations [​IMG]

    I think you should start planning and building your coop before you get your chicks. I put my baby chicks in an unused tub with a heat lamp hanging overhead, but they get stinky fast and by three to four weeks of age, I am really hoping for warm days when I can put them out. I think everyone is finally out in the coop for good now. I think a lot of people use boxes and rubbermaid containers for the brooders.

    You can still buy from some hatcheries in the winter, but I would think the cold could be an issue [​IMG] Perhaps not,
    since they do it!

    Mine started laying around 5 months of age I think...maybe a little longer. I think anywhere between 18- 30 weeks is pretty normal.

    My start up cost has mostly consisted on the cost of the chicks, food, and the heat lamp. I have bought some tarps, chicken wire, and netting a long the way. I probably spend about $20 a month on food I suppose. They eat less commercial food when they are free to roam the yard eating grass and bugs. [​IMG]
     
  5. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Get out your pocketbook now [​IMG]

    Not that I don't like keeping chickens. But done right it will cost you. Don't try to cut too many corners, our you will probably pay for it in the long run. There is lots of great info right here on BYC.

    And welcome to BYC [​IMG]
     
  6. whitejerabias

    whitejerabias Out Of The Brooder

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    Chickens for dummies. Check. Reminds me, we have some over due books...
    Chicken fist aid kit. Check. Getting out the teeny tiny band aids.

    Of course you would have said build the coop and get out the check book first. Two things I cannot do righthissecond. Okay then, I can plan still!

    Sounds like we need about a dozen birds to suit our family's egg needs. How big a pen would that sized flock need and does each hen need a nest?
     
  7. TrystInn

    TrystInn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 16, 2009
    Southern Arizona
    Storey's Guide to Chickens is awesome, I'd really recommend you buy a copy to read and keep as a reference.

    Hens will share nests, you likely only need 1 per 3/4 birds. For a flock of a dozen, you'd really only need 4. Chances are, they'll find one they really like and use it constantly, while you may only have 1 or 2 birds using the alternates.

    The pen will need 4-6 square feet per bird. We always say build the biggest you can, because chickens are addictive and you will likely end up with more than you originally planned - 72 square feet minimum for twelve birds.
     
  8. Tam'ra of Rainbow Vortex

    Tam'ra of Rainbow Vortex Chillin' With My Peeps

    My advice is to get peeps in prime chick season (there is a reason chicks are part of Easter decor!) because nature inteded for them to be hatched in spring. Late March/ early April is ideal chick getting time, at least it is for my climate. The timing works well: while the chicks are in the brooder inside, the weather is hospitible enough for you to build a coop outside. By the time 8 weeks has past you will (hopefully) have finished your coop and run, the chicks will be bigger and feathered (ready to go outside!) and the temps will have warmed up (but not yet gotten hot). And all sorts of 'tastey' things will be available for free ranging birds. Your chicks then have the end of spring and all summer to enjoy the great outdoors, and many breeds will begin laying end of Summer/beginning of Autumn if hatched in early Spring.

    Order chicks too early and cold is an issue (both for shipping chicks- way increased mortality rate, and putting the little ones outside) order too late and its likely no one will lay for you till next Spring (they take a big break in winter if you don't light their coop, which I do not for a variety of reasons)

    As to costs... I am cheap and built my coops from used/free/scrap materials, but they can be spendy if you dont! The coop pages here at BYC are great for ideas. Food costs vary, but I can say that during the winter when I unfortunately had to keep my flock confined to the run the 16 of them ate 50 lbs/week which added up to about $50/month. Free ranging chickens will eat less, smaller chickens will eat less, and in the spring they will eat less, but better to plan for the worst, right? Fortunately, aside from feed costs, most of the chicken keepers' expenses are one-time deals (coop, run, feders, waterers, chickens, heat lamps) and they are super low maintainence once they go outside-provided your run is secure.

    Whatever you do, if you plan to pick out breeds you want from a hatchery ORDER NOW!!!! You can set your ship date (hatch date) when you place your order, but they sell out FAST. Last year I had an order complication and had to wait till June for my chickies and not one of my June pullets has laid me an egg yet.
    I can't speak for many hatcheries, but I have ordered from both McMurray and Ideal and was pleased with both.

    My flock is all dual purpose (big enough to eat, decent layers) and all my spring babies began laying at about 6 months old. I picked all my breeds for looks, temperment, and usefulness and am glad I did. I love them.

    My top recommendations as to breed would be:
    *Speckled Sussex- mine are from Ideal and they are THE friendliest chickens I have EVER met and so pretty!
    *Blue laced red Wyandottes- mine are from McMurray and they are so unique and lovely and if you plan to keep a rooster, I can't say enough about how calm, mellow, and non-aggressive ALL the roosters have been. And HUGE. They are still very watchful and look out for the ladies (and any new chicks) but I have never had one show me any aggression, even as a 'teenager'. My most successful broody was also a BLRW.
    *As far as Durability goes, the winner is Gold laced Wyandottes- again McMurray stock. I didn't keep the roo, but my ladies are top of the pecking order (ok, they're bossy!) but they are beautiful and so well camoflaged. I have never had one get sick and in over 3 years not a single predator attack has touched them. I had half my flock killed/maimed in one day and these ladies were totally unscathed. Out of my 15 original hens, only the golds have never gotten sick or injured. They lay well and aren't annoyingly broody, though one is a kidnapper who wants to raise everyone else's babies for them.
    *If I were you I would not get Plymouth Rocks from McMurray. I did and though my hen is a darling, ALL the roosters were meanies.

    Good luck!
     
  9. whitejerabias

    whitejerabias Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks, that is very helpful! Those Wyandottes are cute!
     
  10. TheSpiceGirls

    TheSpiceGirls Overrun With Chickens

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    Bay Area, CA
    I'll put in a plug for the Buff Orpington. Fat, happy, docile and down right affectionate birds. But to a determent. If you are only going to have BO's, then you are good. If you are going to do a mixed flock, they are so docile, they will get picked on. And I would shy away from them.

    But my Ginger is just the sweetest thing you can imagine. She comes when I call her name. Hops right in my lap. Loves to peck at my hair and peck at my pockets and clothing seams to see if I have treats.
     

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