New at all things chicken


In the Brooder
8 Years
Sep 5, 2011
South Africa
Hi I am new here
I have always wanted chickens but have landed up getting them a little soon than expected. A friend who stays on a farm and has chickens ordered me some chicks that were a few days old when they had a community fund raising event on Friday night. I did a bit of reading before and took our shoe box with hot water bottle and food along as it was a chilly night even though it is spring here in South Africa. The chicks were being sold in plastic cola bottles with the tops cut off. One chick to a bottle on some straw and food. Ours went straight into their box but some poor souls were carried around in there plastic bottles all night by excited children. It was a cold night and I am trying not to think about the poor little ones who did not make it through that first night.

Anyway I only had 2 days to prepare and hope I have not done too much wrong for my poor girls ( well I hope they are girls as we will not be able to keep boys in my neighborhood) we only have 3. They are in a box with a towel and a hot water bottle. I don't have a light heater or a thermometer. But have been changing the bottle often and there is a heater in the room at night. The first night I woke a few times to change the water and make sure they were warm. I was so paranoid they would be cold. They all survived the fist night much to my surprise. Goodness having babies is easier than this, you don't usually worry about them dying during the night.

I have ground up chicken food from the pet shop and put water a food in small bottle lids. I fill these often and have to stop my very enthusiastic 4 year old from feeding them all day and loving them to death.

I have a few questions
Do I need to try get a light and thermometer ASAP or if they have survived so far am I doing okay?
If they are in a box, is a towel on the bottom and then some straw okay?
How do I know what kind of chickens they are? I know that may sound silly but I don't even know what varieties you get - my chicks are yellow
Can they eat red wigglers from my compost bins? I heard they like worms
When I go check on them at night I turn on the light - will I disturb their day night cycle?
How do I check for them being pasted up which I read about? They eat and poop like mad so I think they are okay
What are the distress signs I should look for?
When do I need to add grit? Is sea sand okay?
How much should we interact with them? I pick them up and talk to them each whenever I bring food or warm up their hot water bottle, they will come onto my hand , they are so inquisitive and seem to want to go out and see the world. I can't imagine they will not try to jump out of the box before the 5 weeks is up. What do I keep them in before they go outside?
Is there a way that they can be free range and not fly away?
I would love a coop for them at night but let them walk around the rest of the time, is this safe for them?

Sorry for the million of questions, I have sort of fallen into being a chicken mommy, in between 3 kids one who is a 6 month old baby and 1 who has spent the last few night in hospital.
I would be gutted if I killed one of my girls by mistake, please tell me they are hardy


9 Years
Aug 19, 2010
north central indiana
My Coop
My Coop

If they are cold, they will peep loudly. If they're just peeping softly and wandering around a bit they are probably fine. They will bundle up together if they get cold or if it's dark.

A towel is fine but you'll have to change it fairly often, I think. Don't use smooth newspaper when they're little. Straw should be fine too.

The variety is harder to tell until they're bigger. White leghorns, white rocks, cornish cross (which are meat birds-hopefully you don't have those) and a few others start out as a light yellow.

If you give them worms they should have grit. But some say that wild worms can give the chicks worms (I know-worms with worms-weird).

If you can find a red light bulb, you can check on them without waking them up. They don't really seem to notice the red light. I don't think brief checks will bother their cycle though.

If they have poop actually stuck to their butt where you can see it, that's pasty butt. It's pretty easy to spot even without picking them up.

Not sure about signs of distress.

I used yard dirt for grit when ours were a couple of weeks old. Not sure how fine your sand is but don't use grit for pet birds or oyster shell as they have too much calcium for little chicks.

Some people say to leave them be for a week and some say to pick them up a lot. I guess it can go either way. We did handle ours but not all the time.

We kept ours outside with a heat lamp from the start. They were in a coop which was partitioned off with cardboard. If you're keeping them in the house, a deep box or bin with some wire over the top to keep them from flying out.

They probably wouldn't fly away but they are vulnerable to predators if they free range. They do definitely need shelter and protection at night.

sorry to hear one of your human kids was in the hospital recently.
I hope he/she is better.


In the Brooder
8 Years
Sep 5, 2011
South Africa
Thanks for the welcome. I am learning as I go. I think they might survive despite me rather than because of me.
I got pine shavings today,took the towel out. They have a hotwater bottle covered in a towel they can go sit on if they get cold.
I microwave some fine sand from my garden for grit which I hope is okay.
They are active little things and will come sit on your hand.

Amazing to watch how fast they grow and get feathers! Before on the towel they did not scratch but now suddenly with the pine shavings they are scratching and pecking and looking like real bug chicken - so sweet.

I am smitten. I hope Gertie, Jackie and Fluffy survive. I heard that not all chicks make it.

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