another sign of spring has arrived! my baby chicks were delivered yesterday! i know it sounds so weird to have chickens come via mail but it’s kind of funny to go to the post office and hear them chirping like crazy behind the counter.
while you still can go to places like tractor supply and family farm and home to hand pick your chicks but to get unusual breeds or mass quantities it’s easier to order them online.
this round was 20 chicks of freedom rangers which will be raised for stocking my freezer. i know it sounds horribly sad when they are cute and little but i believe in raising critters ethically and humanly. i’m also becoming a conspiracy theorist of sorts when it comes to whatever big companies are putting in our food supply. most store bought chicken is gross. last year i tried my hand at raising 7 “meat birds” and it was some of the best chicken i’ve had. never mind the fact that i balled like a baby when it came time to take them to the processor…
anyway baby chicks that come in the mail or baby chicks in general are fun to have. i have ordered them from three different sources now and have had good experience with all three. with everything there is a learning curve and some mistakes are harder to swallow than others. here are some tips and tricks to raising baby chicks and some mistakes i made along the way.
#1 When you get the notification that your chicks are shipping out they will be to the nearest post office within about 12-18 hours. this latest shipment my notification of shipment came about 6pm the 15th and they were ready for pick up 9am the 16th. the clock starts when they ship. in michigan this time of year it’s cold and they need to be warm. the hatchery packs them strategically so they can sustain themselves for a short length of time on body heat. my first order of chicks i was in morning meetings thinking the shipment would come in the evening. i lost about 9 out of 20 because of the length of time they sat in the cold (it was so sad!!!) that mistake was not made again. the next two times i was there within 20 minutes and had 100% success rate with baby chicks.
#2 have the brooder box prepared ahead of time. it’s what i imagine bringing home a baby is like. make their little nest, fresh clean shavings, food and water and of course heat lamp (even if it’s summer) they need that heat lamp. if it’s too hot they will be huddled against the wall away from it. if it’s too cold they will be super tightly packed directly underneath it. let them tell you what they need.
#3 make sure they are protected from predators! i have mine in a raised box, surrounded by chicken wire fencing and in a closed stall in the barn. a bit excessive like a maximum security prison but the thought of a raccoon or rooster getting in there makes me really sad so i take extra precaution.
#4 food and beverage. make sure that your water isn’t too deep of a dish. chicks can drown fairly easily. i haven’t had this happen yet (whew) but a few of my friends did. i just get the smallest water dish that tractor supply offers and that seems to do the trick. my first round of chicks when i lost the 9 seemed a little weak from travel. if you mix a little sugar in with their water it gives them a little boost of energy. also when you pull them out of the shipping box, dip their beaks into the water so they know where the water source is.
#5 as the continue to grow make sure their space does too. my “special” coop has the brooder box that turns into a coop for 7 mature birds so once they get too big for that coop i take apart the door and they have the entire stall to roam.
#6 study up! there are some great resources out there for raising chickens. i love mcmurray hatchery (where i ordered round two of chickens), backyard chickens and chicken gardens. all great resources to answer those frantic “new parent” questions.