Preparing for Chick Season

Feb 05, 2024

Chick season is almost upon us. Chicks will start showing up in stores mid- to late-February. The idea of raising a flock can be both exciting and intimidating for first-time chicken owners. With a little preparation, though, it’s easy to master the technicalities of poultry care.
By following the steps outlined below, you can lay the groundwork for a rewarding and successful experience in the world of backyard poultry keeping.
Research breeds and local regulations
         Before getting carried away in the excitement of chick season, take some time to research different chicken breeds and local regulations regarding backyard poultry. Some breeds are better suited for beginners, while others may require more experience. Additionally, familiarize yourself with zoning laws, permits, and any restrictions that may apply to keeping chickens in your area, especially if you are part of a homeowners’ association.
Prepare a brooder
         Chicks need a warm and secure environment to thrive. Set up a brooder — a designated space equipped with a heat lamp, bedding, and water source. Ensure the brooder is placed in an area that is draft-free and large enough to accommodate the growing chicks. Adequate space is crucial to prevent overcrowding and ensure that chicks can move around comfortably. Equip the brooder with a heat lamp that can maintain a temperature of approximately 95°F during the first week, while gradually decreasing by 5°F each subsequent week.
Understand nutritional needs
         Proper nutrition is vital for the health of your chicks. Consider starting your chicks with Co-op’s All Natural Chick Starter/Grower feed, which contains 19% protein to support muscle growth and development and is offered in crumble form, which is highly palatable for young birds. Supplement their diet with a chick probiotic to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Your local Co-op offers a selection of feeders that are specially designed to minimize waste and ensure controlled access. Always provide fresh water and avoid feeding them scraps until they are a bit older.
Establish a routine
         Chickens thrive on routine, so start establishing a daily routine from day one. This includes establishing regular times for feeding, cleaning the brooder, and monitoring for signs of illness. Consistency will help your chicks feel secure and contribute to their overall well-being. Having a detailed cleaning routine is also critical for chick care to prevent the buildup of waste and mitigate health risks. Regularly remove soiled bedding, disinfect the brooder space, and monitor for signs of disease.
Introduce socialization
         Chickens are social animals, and early socialization is crucial for their development. Invest time in a daily handling routine to acclimate them to human interaction and build their trust. Remember to move slowly, as fast movements can easily alarm the babies. At the end of the first week, you can start offering feed out of your hand; talk softly to them as they eat so that they not only get used to your voice, but also associate your voice with food. This interaction will make your chicks friendlier and easier to manage as they grow.
Anticipate growth
         Your chicks will soon outgrow the brooder. Plan for your chicks’ transition to a larger coop by investing in a predator-resistant, outdoor structure. Make sure your coop is well-ventilated and draft-free, and strategically position perches and nesting boxes to accommodate your hens as they get to egg-laying age. Planning will ensure a smooth transition for your growing flock.
   Your local Co-op is here to help you every step of the way in your chick-rearing journey. Visit us for a variety of chick supplies such as feed, heat lamps, waterers, and more. Many of our stores even offer the chicks themselves. Find the nearest location here and give us a call with any questions!
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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