Introduction: How to Care for Chicks (as Pets)
Chickens make amazing pets! They are sweet, loving,and unlike other pets they actually provide the owner with something(eggs). They are a huge commitment for the first few months and will require constant care. Buying chicks shouldn't be spontaneous and before you purchase your chicks make sure that you have all the supplies and enough time to care for them. This instructable will teach you everything you need to know to raise chicks. If you have a question that isn't covered in this instructable feel free to ask!
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Step 1: Research
It is imperative that you do your research before buying chickens. Many things that you will need to know will be mentioned in this instructable but there are a few things you will need to research yourself. Buy a book about chickens or go online and find out what sicknesses chickens can get and what the symptoms Are. That way if they become sick when they you can easily idenify what they have. Just knowing some common chicken diseases has saved several of my chickens.
You should also research your local laws regarding birds. In some places you can't even have chickens or there is a limit on how many you can have. Where I live, there is a limit of six chickens and roosters aren't aloud. It's important to know this information before you purchase your birds.
Step 2: Buying Your Chickens
There are 2 options for buying chickens: Buying them online or from a feed store (or any store that sells chickens). If you are buying them from a store make sure that the store has a good reputation. If you are buying them online, google the website you are buying them from and see if they are reliable or not. The first time my family bought chickens we bought them from a store that had a bad reputation but we didn't know it. They all got sick multiple times and all except 1 died before they were 1 year old. The last group of chickens we bought were from mypetchicken.com and we have had no problems with them. MAKE SURE TO VACCINATE YOUR CHICKENS FOR MERRICK DISEASE WHEN THEY ARE 1 DAY OLD. This is an awful disease that chickens can get depending on where you live. If you buy chickens from mypetchicken.com you can pay and extra dollar to have them immunized or if you buy them at a store you can have a vet do it. MAKE SURE THEY ARE IMMUNIZED WHEN THEY ARE 1 DAY OLD. We had 3 chickens die from this.
Step 3: Supplies
Before you get your chickens you will need the following supplies:
Wood Shavings (like the kind for hamsters)
Chicken Feed (starter feed mash or crumble)
Step 4: Where to Keep Your Chicks
You will need to have a box type things to have your chicks live in. The size of the box will vary depending on how many chickens you have. Each chick should get at least 2 square feet of room but I suggest a little more. The place where the chicks live should be at least 2 feet high so they cannot hop out. A few places you could keep your new pets are in a plastic storage box, a cardboard box, a bathtub, or a kiddie pool. As you can see from the pictures, my family decided to keep our chickens in the bath tub which actually worked pretty well. There are several more options for where to keep your chicks so be creative!
Step 5: Making the Perfect Enviroment
It's essential that baby chicks be kept warm. For the first week of life they should be kept at a temperature of about 95 degrees and it should be deceased by about 5 degrees every week. The temperature can be adjusted by raising the heating lamp. If the chicks are constantly by the lamp this means they are too cold and the lamp should be lowered. If they are constantly away from the heat lamp it should be raised as they are too hot.
Place newspaper on the bottom of the box and then cover it in about 1 inch of wood shavings. Remember to change the shavings at least once a week but depending on the number of chicks it may need to be changed more often. Baby chickens poop a lot! I suggest keeping their food and water near the heating lamp so that they don't have to leave the warmth to eat and drink. Their water should be changed 2-4 times a day. Somehow, the water feeder gets full of wood shavings every few hours! Make sure the chicks have water the second the arrive at their new home and that their living area is set up before they arrive. The feeder should be full of starter food for the first few weeks. Make sure that the feeder is never empty and that they have constant access to food. The chickens will also need a little bowl of grit (little rocks that can be purchased at a feed store) to help them digest their food.
Step 6: Additional Information
So that chickens become friendly when they are older, it is important that they become used to people while they are chicks. When you hold your chickens, make sure they are covered with a sheet or towel so that A) they won't poop on you and B) they stay warm. Because baby chicks need to sleep, eat and drink a lot, they shouldn't be held more than 5-10 minutes. When the chicks are about 4 weeks old, they can start going outside for short periods of time (about 15-30 minutes at one time). When they are 6-8 weeks old they can start living outside. Make sure that there coup is built by that time. Enjoy your new pets and if you have any questions feel free to ask!