It’s that time of year again: The sun is shining more. Flowers are beginning to bloom. People are getting ready for Easter. Baby animals are being born.
Baby chicks for sale are readily available.
Before the Easter Bunny decides to bring some cute, fuzzy chicks to your house, there are a few things to consider about those adorable, cheeping balls of fluff.
Chicks require special care and handling.
Chicks are not animals appropriate for most toddlers. Puppies and kittens are able to wriggle, and even scratch or bite if they feel uncomfortable or threatened by children. Chicks are pretty helpless and are fairly susceptible to sustaining internal injury if not properly handled.
Anyone handling chicks should always thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water afterward—something that is sometimes difficult to achieve with young children.
Chicks also require frequent monitoring for unusual behaviors that can indicate illness.
Chicks grow up—fast!
Just like puppies and kittens, chicks grow—and grow quickly. They may be cute and fluffy and able to fit in a box in your bathroom today, but by the time they are five weeks old, some breeds may have more than tripled in size. They are not-so-cute and fluffy any more. And they are not content to stay inside all day, especially not in a box with a bunch of others. If you end up with a cockerel (male adolescent chicken), he might just start crowing by the time he is eight weeks old.
Chicks are a commitment for their lifetime.
Also like puppies and kittens, you need to think long term. Most of the animals I have owned have lived between 13 and 17 years. For some pet owners, my pets would have still been considered young. Realize that a chicken can easily live 8-10 years, but a healthy, well-cared for backyard chicken can live up to 20 years!
Chickens may not be legal in your area.
Just because a store or a farmer in your area may be selling chicks doesn’t make them legal where you live. Don’t just take the word of a friend, either. In some cities and counties, adjacent properties may have different sets of laws governing them because of things such as zoning. Personally check the laws where you live before making a purchase AND check with the local animal control, code enforcement, or extension office. They will be able to prove to you the legality of chickens in your area.
You might be wondering by now, “Why the negativity about chickens?”
It’s not negative. It’s realistic. Chicks can be a lot of fun, but their keeping needs to be seriously considered.
So how do you do it right?
Do your homework.
After making sure that you may legally own chickens, learn about different breeds to find what will best meet your family’s needs once they are grown. Are you looking for a reliable egg-layer? A docile companion? Something with personality? Each breed has unique characteristics, just like dogs or cats.
You also need to know what equipment you will need. You don’t usually buy a puppy without buying food, food and water dishes, a collar, a bed, and toys. Chicks will need some kind of container and a heat source in which to keep safe and warm, as well as feeder, water container, starter feed, and disposable bedding. When they are older and bigger, and are kept outside, they will need a safe shelter complete with roost and nesting areas; bedding; feed; feeder; and watering container, along with access to sunlight and dirt. That’s just the beginning.
Know what you are getting.
Are you looking for girl chicks (pullets) only? Then it is best to avoid buying your chicks “straight run.” Buying straight run basically means that girls and boys are all put in together, and you don’t know what you’re going to get. (General rule is that half will be boys and half will be girls—IF you’re lucky!) Try to make sure the chicks have been “sexed;” that is, they have been separated according to gender. It is possible for trained individuals to tell the difference even at a young age.
It is also a good idea to try to buy local, especially if you are looking for a specific breed. You may end up paying a little more per chick, but chances are, the chick will be healthier and of better breeding than those at feed stores. But make sure to ask the seller for your gender preference to see if he/she will honor it.
Ask for help if you need it.
If you have already purchased chicks and are reconsidering a little too late, DO NOT abandon your chickens! Contact us for assistance. We are passionate about chicken keeping and want what is best for families and for chickens. We might be able to provide ideas on how to make chicken owning less overwhelming for you. We also might be able to assist you in finding a home for unwanted chickens—especially the unexpected cockerels.
Backyard chicken keeping is a rewarding endeavor, but it takes dedication. As with owning any other animal, you must be well acquainted with the needs of the animal and the responsibilities of ownership you will face.