A Sign of the Times – Chick Days

A sign of the times...Chick Days.

A sign of the times…Chick Days.

This week a colleague shared here joy in stopping by the local post office and hearing boxes of baby chicks peeping away.   She shared how much hope it gave her that indeed spring was coming.     It made me wish they were on their way to me.   Instead I will be picking this year’s chicks up at the local ranch supply.

Chick days are just starting in Montana.   For those of unfamiliar with Chick Days, it is when baby chicks are shipped in mass to farm and ranch supply stores for purchase by the locals that don’t order their own from hatcheries.       The weather here is just beginning to be warm enough for the little critters to make their way to the great white North.

Planning for the baby chicks is definitely a process that has to take place before you bring home your little ones.    You need to make sure that your equipment is all in good working order to keep those babies draft free and warm.   Here is my check list.   It is good for seasoned chicken wranglers and first time chick raising alike.

  • Food and Water   I need to pull down all the little-size feeders and water fountains for the bundles of fluff.   The little critters can actually drown in adult sized equipment.   So you need chick sized equipment that they will outgrown in a month or so.   Be prepared if you are new to the chick  raising you will need both sizes.
  • Heat I always have two heat lamps, but they need to be plugged in and the bulbs need to be tested.   I always keep a spare bulb in the box on the shelf in the chicken coop.  The first week your chicks need to have an ambient room temperature of 90-95 degrees.   You lower it approximately 5 degrees a week.   I have never seen a big jump in my electric bill from baby chicks, but until they are feathered they really can not keep warm, the light does it all.
  • Housing/Brooder Your brooder needs to be set up before you bring your peeps home.   It should be a warm draft-free environment.    I use a dog crate those first few weeks, with cardboard zip stripped onto the sides to prevent drafts     I cover the bottom with paper towels the first few days and then move over to shavings.  People have everything from fancy special made brooders  to a washtub in the basement with heat lamps on the top.
  • Growth As your chicks grow you will need to expand the size of their living quarters.    Each of us does it in our own way.   My chicks move from the house to a shelter separate corner of the coop no later than  the third or fourth week.    It requires all sorts of modifications to the coop to get the heat lamps set up, protection from the big girls, ensuring they are draft free and more.  It sounds worse than it is because after years of doing this I know how to make it happen.   Some of the hooks that are set up to support this each spring are already there waiting for this year’s flock.

First and foremost is planning is the key to success in.  Chick are not and should not be an impulse “oh so cute” purchase.  If this is your first time there is a host of purchases that needs to be done before you get your chicks.   If you are like me and a seasoned chicken wrangler then this process is another of the rights of passage into  spring you do each year.