Help! New to Chickens...

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by thejackson5ms, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. thejackson5ms

    thejackson5ms New Egg

    Jan 27, 2013
    Gulfport, MS
    Help us please! :) We are getting our first chicks ever in about 3 to 5 days at a local feed store. I've been doing research on everything chicken for months, and we have 2 friends who also have chickens who told us a few things. I feel comfortable about having chicks for the first time since I, the 14 year old middle child, did ALL the research. I read about how to care for them until I thought my eyes would melt out of my head. I'm wondering if there's anything we should know that you can only learn from experience. Maybe warnings of things or helpful suggestions? It would be greatly appreciated! :) (from coastal MS)
  2. dorklingmomma

    dorklingmomma Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 23, 2013
    citrus county
    Hand feed and handle them as much as possible it cuts down on chases when you have to get them in their coop in a hurry. and beyond that they are a trip to watch specially when they chase their first grasshopper!!!
  3. Michael Apple

    Michael Apple Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 6, 2008
    Northern California
    I've sorted through some junk literature pertaining to chickens over the years. I suggest you get hold of Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon (Norton Creek Press). Lots of useful information for new folks and experienced folks alike.
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    First--relax. They're tougher than you think.

    biggest mistake I see newbies make is overheating the chicks. Someone on here is fond of saying when a chick is raised by a momma hen, the hen doesn't make the whole world 95 degrees for that baby. Just the one spot under her body. So, when you brood chicks, have a warm spot for them under a heat lamp, but then be sure there is also a lot of space away from the heat, at ambient temperature of wherever you're brooding. Even in an unheated garage/shed/barn, they'll be fine.

    Practical tip--set the waterer on some bricks or 2x4s or something to elevate it a little, this keeps them from filling it with shavings.

    When you get your chicks, get healthy looking, active chicks. Don't go for the quiet, sleepy looking one all off by itself who doesn't make a sound when you pick it up--that chick is quite likely not going to survive.

    I personally don't handle my chicks much as my birds aren't pets, but if you want to handle them, cup them in one hand and cover them, head included, with the other. Then take the hand on top and use a finger to gently stroke their head/neck/back, they'll think their momma is grooming them and just love on you and make some of the cutest sounds!
  5. what did I do

    what did I do Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2012
    The biggest mistakes I see people make is with the temperature of the brooder. They have the brooder either too hot or too cold - these were adults who killed their chicks. You should do just fine.
  6. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    When you see all your chicks sprawled every which way, not moving, do not immediately jump to the conclusion they are dead. Instead, exhale, breathe, and tap the side of the brooder. They'll all come back to life - a miracle! No, they were just sleeping. They fall asleep in split seconds, right in the middle of eating or drinking. Sometimes standing, and the little head tips forward, lower, until it touches the ground with its beak, turning into a sleeping tripod chick.

    When you see a chick on its side, thrashing its legs and flapping one wing, do not assume it is having a seizure. It's taking a dust bath.

    Yes, that sound you hear every now and again as the chicks fall asleep DOES sound like a purr. I call it a trill. It means they feel secure and are happy.

    Chicks get The Zoomies. One chick will suddenly dash from one spot to another, and off into another direction, and then again dash madly somewhere to come to a complete and utter stop, generally to poop. This is contagious; one chick zooming can trigger the entire batch in the brooder.

    These are things not mentioned in books; you encounter them and panic - for no reason.

    One more: No, that's not a tumor on the chick's neck, it's a full crop. Check the chick again in the morning, bet the "tumor" will be gone. If not, then come to BYC for information and assistance.
    2 people like this.
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    First if you are 14, have done all that research, and are willing to take on this responsibility, you should do OK in life.

    You are getting some good stuff from others. I’ll try to take a bit of a different direction.

    We keep them in many different conditions and circumstances, have different flock make-ups, have different goals, different climates, different coops and runs, and use different management techniques. There is practically nothing where there is one right answer that covers all of us. There are no magic numbers whether that is coop space, run space, roost space, ratio of hens to nests, ratio of roosters to hens, percent humidity in the incubator or anything else. There are a tremendous number of different things that work. If someone comes on to you that you absolutely have to do things a certain way or civilization as we know it will be forever altered, especially if they don’t know your specific circumstances, I suggest you get a second opinion.

    I think it is extremely valuable for people to tell you what they do in certain circumstances but it is your responsibility to determine if those circumstances fit your situation.

    About those magic numbers. There are a lot of guidelines given on here. If you don’t have experience with chickens you need a starting point. I see people on here say things like, just use your common sense. If you don’t have experience, what can you base common sense on?

    These guidelines are not laws of nature but rather things that are intended to improve your odds of success. They are usually a good starting point but are not ironclad laws that must be followed. They are intended to keep most people out of trouble under a wide range of circumstances and can be more that some people absolutely need. I’ll use space as an example and give a guideline that is often misquoted. There is a guideline that you should provide 4 square feet per chicken in the coop along with 10 square feet in the run per chicken. When they quote this a whole lot of people forget the run portion. This will keep most of us out of trouble in a wide variety of climates, conditions and with different management techniques, but in some circumstances or with certain management techniques or certain flock make-ups it might be tight. And with certain conditions, its more than many of us truly need. Many people could get by with less space.

    But the flip side of the space issue for me is that the more space I give them, the fewer behavioral problems I see, the less hard I have to work, and the more flexibility I have to deal with problems that come up. I’m a huge proponent of providing as much space as you can instead of shoehorning as many chickens as possible in a certain space. That’s a personal preference, not a law of nature, but the way I look at it, chickens have learned to live in a flock situation. One way that they have developed is that the weaker runs away from the stronger if there is a conflict or they just avoid them to start with. For this to work they need enough room to run away or avoid.

    Chicken needs are pretty simple. They need food, water, shelter from the elements, and protection from predators. Chicks in a brooder also need heat. I’m the one Donrae was talking about that suggests making your brooder big enough that you just heat one area and let the rest cool off. As long as one area is warm enough and the rest is cool enough that they can get away from the heat, they will find their own comfort zone. I don’t have to stress out about keeping the entire brooder one perfect temperature.

    You’ll find that people feed their chicks and chickens all sorts of weird things. Most of those things won’t hurt them and a few may actually help a bit, but many of us don’t feed them any of that and the chickens do fine. Same thing with water. A lot of people add stuff but a lot of us don’t. You don’t have to feed or add any of that stuff but in moderation it won’t hurt. A lot of stuff people do for their chickens is to make the person feel better. The chickens pretty much don’t care.

    What shelter you need depends on where you live. On the Gulf Coast, cold weather will not be a problem at all once the chicks are out of the brooder. Your enemy is heat. Chickens have a down coat. They do fine in temperatures a lot colder than yours will ever see. Your heat can kill them. I don’t know your situation, urban versus rural or how important “pretty” is to you. In suburbia it could be important. But I suggest you look at an open air coop. You can enclose three sides to give them protection form those thunderstorms you will see, but make one wall out of wire, not solid. And provide a lot of ventilation over their heads so the coop can cool off at night. Warm air rises. Give it a place to rise up out of the coop.

    On the Gulf Coast you are going to have a lot of predators. They can come around during the day but most are going to be a lot more active at night. I suggest you build a really predator proof coop and lock them in their securely at night when you risk is greater.

    That’s enough typing this morning. Good luck! I’m sure you will do well.
  8. thejackson5ms

    thejackson5ms New Egg

    Jan 27, 2013
    Gulfport, MS
    Thanks for the advice on the coop! We're still thinking about how to make it. We live in a rural area but in a neighborhood, not really suburbia. We have about 1 acre of land... We put our red heat bulb from our lizard over their brooder, and they seem really happy with it. Thanks for the tip on just putting it in one spot, they like to sleep under it. The bricks under their water was really helpful too!

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