Respect the boy chicks
Most people prefer girl chicks (eggies!) to boy chicks (testosterone and crowing!). But chicks are born in a 50/50 ration—or in my experience 75/25 boys to girls. At big hatcheries, the boy chicks are ground up alive, or tossed into a bin to suffocate, with hardly a second thought. But there are deeper consequences of the “let’s get some chickens so we can have eggs” you need to recognize. As with so many other of our daily choices, these “externalities” matter.
Chickens are social creatures. A solitary chicken will be lonely and depressed—or dependent on you for entertainment. You are not a chicken. It would be best for all concerned to adopt more than one chick.
You’ll need to clean their bottoms – like babies’
A pasty butt can kill a chick. Keeping it clean, like providing food and water, is your responsibility. Be prepared with toothpicks, tweezers and a bit of water to gently clean what the chick, in all its tweeting excitement in the face of life, has not managed to clean. Note, too: as chicks grow, they poop smellier and smellier poop. However we might point the finger at them for being filthy, it is actually up to us to keep things clean. That’s love!
Chickens are not made to be cooped up: Exercise! Hygiene!
They need space to get their exercise, forage and scratch, preene and dust bathe.
Preening and dust bathing are a chicken’s form of hygiene. Chickens spend a lot of time preening. They tidy their plumage, reposition their feathers, and remove parasites, dirt and dust. Dust bathing is a bird’s equivalent of taking a shower. It might look dirty, but your chickens will need to be able to burrow a hole in the ground, and toss dirt and dust on themselves, ideally while the sun is shining.
Gotta have grit
Chicks, and their adult equivalents, need grit in their gizzard to grind up the goodies that they snap up in the course of a day. Even free-range chickens need grit. As much as they want which will be as much as they need. They will figure it out. Provide it! They’ll provide grit in its other form: mental toughness, enduring summer heat, winter cold, and laying eggs.
Make their coop Fort Knox
Weasels, raccoons, fishers, snakes, rats, bobcats, bear, dogs, cats, hawk, humans: Predators of chicks and chickens abound and it is for us to be sure they are safe, if for no other reason than the carnage is awful. Latches must be raccoon proof, which likely as not means it will be human proof, too. And be prepared for the worst: Blood and feathers and not (hope for their sake) a solitary heartbeat.
Hang out with them
Spend time with the chicks, letting them know a posteriori that you are not going to hurt them. That you are their provider of baby food in the form of hard boiled eggs & adult treats in the form of mealy worms because you are. By hanging out with them, they will be more friendly and willing to peck about, amuse and be amused with you in their midst. And then there are the lessons you can learn from them.
Eggs are a gift
The eggs, when they start coming, are a gift. You might roll your eyes now but when that first egg appears, perhaps still emanating the heat of the hen’s passion, you will look at your pullets, who will look so shy and proud, bright-eyed and well, gee, shucks—and maybe more than a bit perturbed that you are taking away the egg from them—and you will likely say thank you. This is the most perfect, beautiful egg I have ever seen.
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