Pretty chicks.

Hooray, the chicks are here!



My family raised laying hens when I was in high school, but I haven’t had any since then.  We’ve been wanting to get some to raise for the fresh eggs, so when I was in the farm store Sunday and saw that they had gotten their spring chicks, ducklings, and poults in, I asked my husband if we could get a few, and he agreed.  We might go back on Wednesday and get a couple of ducks as well, since we have a pond and their eggs are also edible, not to mention their droppings can be composted and used in the garden.

Chickens are easy to raise, help control bugs on your property, don’t require much room, and supply you with fresh (and organic if you raise them on organic feed and kitchen scraps) eggs.  Many cities allow you to have up to four hens, so even if you don’t live out in the country, you can still raise them if you have even a little backyard.

We got four different breeds, and the children immediately set to naming them:

  • Elphaba – a Black Jersey, named after the witch in Wicked
  • Toast – an Isa Brown, so named because she’s the color of buttered toast
  • Henrietta – a Light Brahma, named after their great-great Aunt Henrietta
  • Elsa – a Buff Orpington, named after J.T. Cluck’s wife in the Hank the Cowdog series


When you get baby chicks, they’ll often be about a week old or so.  You need to make some kind of brooder for them; we’re just using a big plastic tote here, but you can put them in most anything:


They also need warmth; we’re using a 125 watt incandescent bulb with a brooder reflector, which my husband attached to the base of an old metal bar stool:


Every week or so, you raise the lamp a bit more in order to lower the temperature by 5 degrees; here is what the sheet from the farm store recommended:

  • Age of chick – temperature in °F
  • 1 week – 90°
  • 2 weeks – 85°
  • 3 weeks – 80°
  • 4 weeks – 75°
  • 5 weeks – 70°

I put a thermometer in the brooder, but the chicks will huddle under the lamp together if they’re too cold and if they’re too hot, they’ll move as far away from the lamp as possible and even pant.

In the bottom of your brooder, put in a layer about 4-6 inches thick of pine shavings:


Change the bedding every few days so that you don’t have damp bedding which harbors bacteria that can make chicks sick.

Give them clean water and food; the feeder I bought was about $8 and keeps them from getting in their food pan and soiling it:


When we got them home, I noticed one of the chicks had pasty butt:

Chicks are prone to a condition called “pasty butt” where dropings stick to their vents and clog it up, making it impossible for them to relieve themselves. If left untreated this can kill them. Check your chicks’ bottoms every few hours, especially during the first 2 weeks. If you find a pasty bottom carefully soak and remove the plug, pat the area and dry and apply a little vaseline or vegetable oil to the area. Organic ACV (apple cider vinegar) in their drink water is found to really help prevent this condition. A ratio of 3-4 tablespoons to a gallon water is recommended.

I found a helpful video that shows how to clean pasty butt:

I also found some good reading material on taking care of pasty butt here:

Treating pasty butt in baby chicks

While we wait for their feathers to grow in, my husband will be working on building them a coop and fencing in a chicken yard for them.  They should be able to be moved outside by early to mid May.  By mid to late July (16-20 weeks), we should start seeing our first eggs from these gals!

For some reason, I feel like ending this post by listening to Pick a Little, Talk a Little (Goodnight Ladies) from the Music Man. 🙂

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more