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Reminders for raising baby chicks

Growing up, we always had lots of animals around. Not in the zoo or crazy cat lady sense. My sister and I both did 4-H and FFA, and my Dad loved animals around because he grew up the same way. 

I have fond memories of cuddling in the pen with my market lambs and the county fair. My father also taught us the life cycle of animals, and I remember watching my first sheep be harvested. It was an educational time where I was able to learn firsthand from our local butcher. Raising animals was a lesson of responsibility and work ethic.  Sure we bonded with our animals, but we also depended on our animals for our food. We didn't buy meat from the grocery store growing up, we grew our meat. Lamb chops is still one of my childhood comfort foods. yum!

I also have very specific memories of having chickens during my childhood. I remember going in to collect eggs and having to wear rubber boots, because the roosters would always chase me and peck at my feet. Even after being chased by roosters for years, I somehow still loved having chickens and collecting fresh eggs. It was something I always knew I wanted to do when we finally got a house in the country. Sheep, pigs and lots of chickens is my ideal farm animal experience I have had pictured for our new farmhouse.

My farmer didn’t grow up the same way. His first animal EVER, was our Labrador Retriever I bought him for our first wedding anniversary gift.  Needless to say, he wasn’t so welcoming to my farm animal fairy tale. But of course, I went out the week of Easter and bought six baby chicks anyways. He wasn’t too happy about it but I figured it was just chickens. I wasn’t coming home with a cow! How mad could he get?

It had been a good 15-20 years since I had chickens, so I needed a refresher in raising chickens. I got a little emotional when I couldn't call my Dad with my laundry list of questions I had of things I couldn't remember. After some phone calls to my sister, some great Instagram followers and advice from my local feed store, it was all coming back to me. 
Our baby chicks just a week old in their cardboard box

Raising chickens was like riding a bike, once you’ve done it once you can figure it out again. So, for those of you needing a few reminders, here are my helpful hints for starting out with baby chicks:

  1.  Get a big tub. And when I mean big, what worked best for us was a 100 gallon Rubbermaid water trough tubs they use for large animals. I quickly realized how fast those chickens outgrow the cardboard boxes. Those cardboard moving boxes aren’t going to work for more than two chickens for about a week, two weeks max. We tried multiple boxes and had some great suggestions from followers, but the 100 gallon tub worked great for us.
    Funny story here. I went looking all over town at about 5 different stores looking for a tub. I was trying to describe to my husband what I wanted and he kept saying rubbermaid tubs. In my head he was telling me to get a plastic storage tub like you hold your Christmas decorations in. I finally found this tub at Tractor Supply, and my husband tells me he has the exact tub at the farm storing parts... smh! 
  2. Check their food and water TWICE a day. Chickens are messy. They poop in their food and they won’t eat their food because there is poop in it. They aren’t smart either. Be sure to clean it out twice a day so they can eat and drink normally. The water is always getting bedding in it, so be sure to keep it clean too. 
  3.  Keep them warm. We kept our chicks in the shop for 5 weeks to keep them out of the cold and keep them inside where it was warmer. Heat lamps are a must. Those little chicks get cold and they need to stay nice and warm to stay healthy and alive. I kept the heat lamp on them for a good 3 weeks. I also used a red heat lamp. I bought chickens of different colors and breeds. To keep them from noticing they are different colors and pecking at each other, the red lamp helps them to not see color. (As a side not, if you live where it gets super cold you may want to do extra heat methods. A follower told me they put hot water in a water bottle and place it in the box with them. Just make sure those little chicks can't burn themselves from excess heat.) 
  4. Change their bedding regularly. I am going to say it again, chickens are messy! They spill water in their bedding, poop everyday and just make a mess. The first week I cleaned that box every day. They can get sick more easily and need to stay clean. Then I started every other day and every third day, as they got bigger and made less of the mess. But keeping their bedding dry and clean will help them stay healthy and strong. 
  5. Set up a chicken coop ahead of time. This is a necessity we didn't follow as well as we should have. Like I said before, my farmer wasn't a big fan of the chickens so they might have been in the tub for six weeks, a week or so more than they probably should have been. Once those baby chicks turn into teenager chicks and get their big girl feathers they can go outside. This is generally when the chicks are about 4-6 weeks old. Depending on how old the chicks are when you buy them, this could leave you with little time to set up the coop. 

teenager chicks outgrowing their tub
 Be prepared. Keep those chickens happy and healthy. Utilize your feed store. They have people that can help you out and get you all the supplies you need.
But also, have fun! Chickens are a great first animal as an introduction to farm life. But also an animal you may be able to have in your backyard in town. And they give back. Keep them happy and healthy and they reward you with delicious farm fresh eggs!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


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