Ever since we started planning to get our mail order chicks, we have all been reading everything we can get our hands on about how to care for chickens.
Here are the basics of what I have learned from my research:
- When they are little, chicks need to be kept in a confined area with a heat lamp about 12 inches from them on one end of their little habitat. If they are too hot, they can go to the other end.
- The temperature should be kept at around 95 degrees until they are feathered.
- They should have water available at all times and chick food you can buy at a farm and ranch supply.
- When they outgrow their brooder (the confined area with heat lamp) they will still need to be kept indoors. We use an old shed that we converted to a hen house by covering the floor with 2 inches of pine shavings.
- As they get older, they will need places to roost. Because chickens naturally have a pecking order, they like to have different levels of roosts so the dominate ones can be higher up.
- Their coop needs plenty of ventilation, but the windows should be screened to keep out predators. We used hardware cloth to cover the windows since we figured a raccoon could tear through the flimsy screens.
- They should be kept confined in their coop until they are about 10 weeks old.
- When they are let out, allow them to scratch and peck for their food. Feed them inside the coop when you want them to come in. They like routine, so each time, rattle the bag, and call “Here, chick, chick, chick…”
- They will usually come inside to roost at about sunset. If you wait to feed them until this time, they will have extra motivation to follow the program.
- If they do not go in at sunset, get them in however you can and keep them locked up for a couple of days.
- Chasing chickens around the yard with a net is no fun after about the first 30 seconds, except to the children when Mother is doing it. In that case there will be hysterical laughter.
- When you let them out again, give them a stern lecture about what you expect and make sure you call them to get their food at about sunset. They should come running!
Look for the next post in this series, “Nest Boxes”!