What chicks should I buy?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Rincewind, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. Rincewind

    Rincewind New Egg

    8
    0
    7
    Nov 21, 2016
    I'm planning on buying some baby chicks to raise but I'm unsure what age is best to start with. This would be our first flock but we have kept other birds.

    I have found a reputable supplier, recommend by friends, who has a variety of breeds. They sell chicks at range of ages starting at 1 day old. I would like to raise them from a reasonably young age so we can tame them.

    Are we better off with day old chicks or slightly older more robust ones? Any recommendations?

    I have read up about rearing baby chicks and we'll be organising a heat lamp, feeders etc before purchasing.
     
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

    28,660
    14,768
    616
    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I'd say that there are many factors that can influence your breed choice - but particularly your climate and what purpose you wish to keep chickens for (eggs / meat or both, or pets). Do you plan on breeding your own chickens - if so, will you use an incubator, or broody hens? I'd suggest going to the breeds section, where you can add your desired parameters, to narrow down breed selection. This link may also help - http://www.sagehenfarmlodi.com/chooks/chooks.html

    If you manage to get chicks at around 4 weeks old (and assuming you are selecting the chicks in person, you should be able to identify the cockerels (not with some breeds, such as silkies / polish).

    If possible, I'd suggest using an alternative to heat lamps, as they are potentially dangerous in terms of being a fire hazard, but additionally, the power used is considerable when compared to heating pads (e.g. Brinsea eco-glow, or something cheaper). There's also a mama heating pad (search "mama heating pad - pic heavy") which is another option.
     
  3. Rincewind

    Rincewind New Egg

    8
    0
    7
    Nov 21, 2016
    I have come across mention of the heating pads but struggles to identify a consensus. Do you mean like this? It is summer where I am right now and in winter it doesn't drop below freezing.

    We are looking for fairly placid chooks for pets and egg production. We have a reasonable garden, for a city block, and the chickens will be able to free range for part of the day and have a pen of around 25sq feet. I have read a lot about breeds, but ultimately I think it will come down to what is locally available. I thought bantums might suit our space best, the breeds locally available are polish and pekin. The larger Australorps, barnvelders or faverolles look like they might suit us in general, but I am concerned about the amount of space they might need.

    The supplier sells 'professionally sexed' chicks. Is this likely to be reliable?
     
  4. Rincewind

    Rincewind New Egg

    8
    0
    7
    Nov 21, 2016
    I have come across mention of the heating pads but struggles to identify a consensus. Do you mean like this? It is summer where I am right now and in winter it doesn't drop below freezing.

    We are looking for fairly placid chooks for pets and egg production. We have a reasonable garden, for a city block, and the chickens will be able to free range for part of the day and have a pen of around 25sq feet. I have read a lot about breeds, but ultimately I think it will come down to what is locally available. I thought bantums might suit our space best, the breeds locally available are polish and pekin. The larger Australorps, barnvelders or faverolles look like they might suit us in general, but I am concerned about the amount of space they might need.

    The supplier sells 'professionally sexed' chicks. Is this likely to be reliable?
     
  5. Justjered

    Justjered Chillin' With My Peeps

    153
    36
    66
    Oct 4, 2016
    Galesburg, Illinois
    The older the "CHICK" the better in my opinion for being hardy and less time to get to having eggs.

    Depending on the breed, you will get less bonding time with them as chicks if you plan on handling them regularly.

    We got our first 5 silkes at 5 months of age. They started laying 2 months later (so was very nice to skip a bit of the non-production time).

    Our other 4 silkies we got between 5 and 8 weeks of age (all at the same time), they are in with the adults now (a month later) and doing well. We arent worried about getting eggs soon as we have 5 hens laying regularly right now and they were still at an age of being pretty hardy so didnt have to worry about coming out to find chicks had died (like day old chicks are more likely to have happen).

    Hope that helps.
     
  6. Rincewind

    Rincewind New Egg

    8
    0
    7
    Nov 21, 2016
    Thanks for the replies, I have looked at breeds too, it looks like faveroles or australorps might be the best match for what we are looking for- fairly chilled out chooks for eggs and garden company. Both of them are available locally - at least sometimes. I have a moderately sized garden. Bantums originally seemed like a good ideas but they appear to be either broody [pekins and silkies] or skittish [polish]. I do love the character of the bantums though. Happy to be educated further! I have read a lot about breeds. I meant to specify age in the threat title but had a brain fart.

    I will look further into the heat pads, are they the same as the one for reptiles? I have read a bit about them but found a lack of consensus.

    I think we will look at chicks a couple of weeks old so we can hopefully minimise tragedies but still get to raise them ourselves. The supplier apparently sells sexed chicks at a week old. Is this likely to be ******** on their part? I know people who have bought pullet from them but they were at six or eight weeks.
     
  7. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

    28,660
    14,768
    616
    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

    18,908
    6,330
    526
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    If you put your general location in your profile, it will help folks to give appropriate information to you. Personally, I would not choose to get chicks as you are heading into winter. A single power failure of even several hours could be the death knell for hatchlings, unless you are very well set up with an alternate option for keeping their body temp up. I am a STRONG advocate for heating pad brooding, and also a strong advocate for BROODING OUTSIDE. That means having a predator proof chick safe coop ready. Your flock will need 4 s.f. of space in the coop, and 10 s.f. of space in the run to avoid the many issues that arise from being crowded. I also suggest that you build it a bit bigger than needed to house your starter flock, as down the road, you may simply have to get some more chicks. You'll need to do so, if you want a good and constant supply of eggs. Good idea to build that coop and run with the design allowing for sectioning off an area for chicks/broody hen, and plan access to electricity.

    Topics for future reading: Mother heating pad brooder, fermented feed, deep litter in both coop and run, Henderson's chicken breeds chart.
     
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,919
    2,892
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I take it you're in the bottom half of the planet, New Zealand ? Australia? You won't need to worry about heating the chicks if you get four-week olds. Perhaps that would be a wise age to begin with.

    A pen that is only 25 square feet is only large enough for two chickens. Unless you plan to free range mostly, you will need to keep your flock to a minimum of two or three or enlarge the pen to avoid overcrowding conflicts. Chickens can be brutal if confined to a too small daytime space.

    I would start with docile breeds like Cochins or Orpingtons or Easter Eggers(Blue eggs). They all make for enjoyable pets.
     
  10. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    12,748
    5,686
    436
    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    Here are a couple of links to answer your questions about Mama Heating Pad in the Brooder and brooding outdoors. I raised one group of chicks with a heat lamp. If that was the only option available to me I'd have stopped right there and never bought another chick! Then I found out how to raise chicks by duplicating a mother hen and I've never looked back.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/956958/mama-heating-pad-in-the-brooder-picture-heavy-update

    Yes, it's a big thread, but if you go to page 4 to see the video and page 46 to see Bee's setup, that will help simplify it, I think. It's just a Sunbeam Ex-Press Heat heating pad, available either through the links on the thread to Amazon or sometimes at Walmart or Walgreens. All you have do do is make sure that you can bypass the auto-shut off feature, and it will say right on the box "With Stay On Feature" or something similar.

    Why a heating pad? Chicks need periods of cool to grow strong, to learn to see to their own comfort, and for the hours of natural darkness they don't get with a heat lamp. A lamp heats up everything around it...the walls, the brooder floor, the air, the food, the water, and chicks run themselves into exhaustion. You can try to provide a cooler end in the brooder, but it's all still too warm. They run until they drop right where they are, trying to get some much needed sleep. The problem with that is they never all take a nap at the same time - some chicks are always still running around the brooder. They see the chick laying there asleep and tromp over top of him, peck his toes and eyes, and he's up!! Who could sleep like that? With a heating pad, they duck under there for a quick warmup or if they get spooked, then they're back to exploring again. But when it starts to get dark, they amble underneath Mama Heating pad, snuggle down, and sleep all night through, ready to wake up with the sun and get back at the busy life of growing and learning. Many of us have noticed that our chicks feather out faster, are calmer, and much more confident in their ability to take care of themselves. It's not a broody hen, but it's as close are you're going to get.

    After my first experience with chicks and the heat lamp, I knew there had to be a better way and set out to find it. EcoGlow brooders are great, but they are rigid - and expensive. I wanted an alternative that seemed more like ducking under a Mama and less like ducking under a shelf, and I had a budget to be concerned with. I found Patrice Lopatin's video on raising chicks with a heating pad, and then my good friend @Beekissed filled in the blanks for me. What I've ended up with is a frame with a heating pad either draped over it or bungee corded to the inside. Easy.

    As for raising chicks outside, again, couldn't be easier. I raise mine outside in Northwestern Wyoming when our springtime temperatures are still in the teens and twenties. I couldn't be happier. Here is a link to that information.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/yes-you-certainly-can-brood-chicks-outdoors

    Breed choice is up to you. But while your organizing your brooding supplies, don't overlook getting the coop and run built! They grow fast, and will need a predator secure, weather-wise place to live before you know it. Best thing is to have it ready before you get your chicks. Good luck!! And welcome to BYC!
     
    1 person likes this.
  11. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,136
    3,341
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I suggest you talk to the breeder about how they “professionally sex” the chicks. I suspect it’s vent sexing where people that know what they are doing look inside the vent to see the chick’s exposed sexual organs. Boys and girls look different but a lot of the times that difference is not much. Obviously the person’s experience and judgment play a part in how accurate they are. Most major hatcheries in the States guarantee a 90% accuracy rate which to me means they probably do a bit better than that. I suspect that it’s easier to say “That is definitely a boy” where they are more likely to say “That is probably a girl”. It’s my experience that it is pretty rare to get a girl when you order a boy but a little more likely to get a boy when you want a girl.

    The hatcheries normally sex them at hatch. I don’t know if vent sexing gets easier or harder as the chicks get older.

    I’m not a big believer in magic numbers for chickens, space or really anything else. We are each so unique in out set-ups, management techniques, climate, and other things plus each chicken has its own individual personality. I firmly believe the more space you can give them the better off you are, to a large extent because it makes your life easier, but I don’t go by square feet per bird. You might follow the link in my signature to get some of my thoughts on space.

    I also don’t believe breed is all that important in small flocks. Breeds do have tendencies, but again each individual has its own personality. All of them don’t always have the traits the breed “should” have. You need enough of a breed for averages to mean much. I believe strain is more important. If the person selecting which chickens get to breed has the knowledge and experience to select for certain traits, those traits will be enhanced. If they do not select for certain traits, or actively select against certain traits, those traits will diminish. An example. I select for broody hens. I try to hatch eggs from hens that go broody and select which pullets I keep from the ones that had a mother that goes broody. I have a flock where the hens often go broody. If I actively selected against broody hens I’d have a flock where a hen seldom goes broody. Breed has nothing to do with that, strain does. Mine is a mixed breed flock, by the way. I don’t have any pure breed in it but the same principles apply.

    Again, I suggest you talk to the breeder. They should know their birds. Tell the breeder what your criteria is and see what they suggest. If you are after pets and eggs, you may enjoy a flock with several different breeds in it. That way it is easy to tell the chickens apart.

    Your combination of desired traits may be a bit of a challenge. Production breeds that lay a lot of eggs tend to not go broody, but they have normally not been selected to be good pets. Decorative breeds are generally more likely to go broody and not lay as well but are usually bred more for pet status. Bantams are more likely to go broody and not lay really great. But this is very general. Each chicken is an individual and you can probably train about any chicken you get to be a good pet. Many bantams lay great, though the eggs are small. Talk to the breeder, they should know their birds, but I suspect “production” breeds might suit you best. But some people really love their bantams or decorative breeds.

    Knowing where you are so we understand a bit about climate can really help, but time of year is also important. What extremes are you likely to see when the chicks are babies? Most chicks feather out by about 5 weeks and can then handle some pretty cold temperatures. I’ve had chicks less than 6 weeks old go through nights below freezing, mid 20’s Fahrenheit or -4 or so Celsius. They did have a coop with good ventilation and good breeze protection. Definitely have the facilities ready before you commit to taking the chicks. Life has a way with interfering with building schedules.

    One way to avoid all this worry over a brooder and providing heat would be to get age appropriate chicks for your weather. If you get 6 week old chicks you can still tame them. It takes a bit more effort if they are not in your house, it’s just a lot more convenient if they are right there and you don’t have to make a commitment to walk out to the coop. But food and patience will work. Some individuals will be easier than others. Another advantage of waiting is that by about 5 weeks you can usually get a real good handle on the sex of a chick by visual clues. Some are a lot more challenging than others at this age and I don’t just mean Silkies and Polish. Some chicks from breeds that are normally easy to sex at five weeks keep me guessing much later. They are all individuals.

    To sum up, my first suggestion is to talk to the breeder. Listen to them. If I were you with what I think are your goals I’d probably wind up with a 5 or 6 week old flock of chicks from several different production-type breeds or colors/patterns. And I would not crowd them, give them room. But this is just my opinion. Different people will have different opinions. Good luck!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by