Raising Chicks to Chickens: My Journal

how to raise care for baby chicks
This is a journal of our experience raising baby chicks to both meat birds and egg layers. I am writing it in real-time so that I capture every detail!

I am trying to document how much they eat and drink, how they are growing, and what they are doing on a daily basis. The joys and the sorrows and everything that comes with raising animals.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to raise baby chicks, here is your answer! And if you just love chickens and love to read stories about them, well then you might enjoy this too!

April 3 2014: 1 Day Old
Things started off pretty rocky because our new baby chicks were delivered to the wrong post-office and we had to drive an hour to get them. It only took one day for them to arrive from the hatchery, which I was very thankful for (the hatchery told me it would be one or two). They peeped the whole way home of course. There were two separate chambers of chicks in the box: one side with twenty Red Rangers, and the other side with six Ameracaunas and six Buff Orpingtons.

The Rangers were louder, and huddled as tight as possible into one corner. I was hoping no one would be trampled. The Ameracaunas/Buffs were much quieter, much more relaxed, and although they were also clustered in the corner, they weren’t as tightly packed.

Something interesting we observed on the ride home was that the chicks were very loud and their peeping sounded almost… alarming. Unhappy peeping. When we cranked the temperature in the car to the point that we were both sweating, the chicks peeping became less. I think they were telling us they were cold.

We got home and immediately put them into the temporary brooders: two standard Rubbermaid containers lined with several layers of paper towels. I kept them divided up, as they came in the box. We turned on their heat lights and got the water ready. One by one I took them from the box, dipped their beaks in the water, and then set them in the brooder. As soon as they got a taste of the water, they wanted more of it. I actually had to wait a little bit to introduce more birds, until the first few were done drinking and crowding the waterer.

bathrooms chicks

We put a thermometer in the corner of each box where the light was strongest in order to monitor the temperatures. We were raising and lowering the light just about every hour, as it seemed pretty unstable. I set an alarm to wake up twice in the middle of the night to check their temperatures. The brooders were small, so I feared that if it got too hot, they wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the light.

As soon as everyone was in and drinking, we got to work on their food. We had a large order of grains and seeds from Azure Standard that we also picked up that morning right after we got the chicks. Talk about a close call. We inherited a 100-year old hand-crank feed grinder from my dad that we used to grind up their first meal. It worked slick!

It didn’t take them long to find it. Turns out that chicks eat like pigs. I was just glad they were enjoying their food and weren’t rejecting it! It was after they had all eaten that I noticed a really big difference in their peeping; it sounded happy, content. Finally, full bellies and warm, safe home.

Oh, and we also gave them each a bowl of #1 size chick grit that we got from our local feed store.

2 Days Old
They are still peeping contently, and everyone seems to be eating and drinking. The best sleeping spot is in the little bowl of chick grit, given the way they fight over it!

They have been in their brooders for less than 24 hours and have already completely saturated their paper towel bedding. Probably because each group of chicks drank nearly a pint of water in one day.

We also had to clean a couple of pasty butts, I think two or three this evening.

We changed their bedding, cleaned and refreshed their water and realized that these brooders were just too small. They are nice for the first day or two, while the chicks are de-stressing from travel and getting used to us and their surroundings, but they would need to be upgraded soon.

We bought a very large deep freezer last fall and the box has been stashed in our garage for months. We didn’t know what we would do with it, but thought it would come in handy some day, and in true homesteader fashion we don’t throw away anything. It would be the perfect brooder.

We also found two pieces of closet shelving in the garage that made the perfect cover. It’s almost like they were made to be used together. Plus, the heat lights clipped to them wonderfully!

freezer brooder

And a new brooder was born! We cut it down so it would fit through the door, brought it in the house and filled one side with pine shavings and the other with straw. It now sits in our foyer/entry way. One by one we transferred the chicks over. They went nuts! It’s like the discovered they had wings and legs. They spend a lot of the day running from one end to the other while flitting their tiny wings. I imagine they were singing “Free Bird.”

I worried that for two days old, maybe it was too much room and too much excitement. They were clearly having so much fun though, that I figured it was just fine.

They are peeping so contently, loving their food, jumping around and then sleeping like logs. Everything I imagine a baby chick should be doing.

3 Days Old
The chicks definitely seem to sleep and wake with the sun, most of them at least.

They look noticeably bigger today and many of them have wing feathers coming in! I am just happy they appear to be growing rapidly, as I made my own chick starter recipe and was really hoping they would thrive on it.

I will also take their incredible liveliness as a good sign.

They are doing all sorts of funny things… they itch themselves with their back legs, the clean themselves, stretch their back legs like they are doing some kind of yoga pose, and fan out their wing feathers.

Everyone seems to be getting along well. Some are definitely bigger than others.

It seems that some prefer the hottest 101 degree area, while most prefer to stay more in the 80-90 degree zones.

We had a couple more pasty butts again, I think four. I don’t think it is lack of protein, as I was very careful about formulating their feed. It could be stress still. I wonder if the brooder is too warm. The heat lights are a little finicky, and sometimes it has gotten up to 103 in the hottest spot. They don’t seem to mind though, they aren’t trying to get away from the heat, and they have plenty of room to move away from it if they want.

35 chicks have gone through almost 1 cup of chick grit in three days! I had no idea they used so much of it. I’m sure they’ve spilled a little of it, but not that much. They also love to sleep in the little bowls of grit, and it is adorable.

sleeping chick

And some sad news to round out day three… we lost a chick tonight, one of the Buff Orpingtons. We found him breathing, but unresponsive and laying on the floor of the brooder. He would chirp when touched or moved, but wouldn’t open his eyes. We took him in the living room and I sat with him in hands to warm him up. We thought maybe he got too far from the light, fell asleep and got cold. But after an hour of being warmed, there was no change in his condition.

We mixed up a little sugar water and tried to feed it to him, but we had to pry open his beak to give it to him. We didn’t have a dropper so we had to use a plastic straw. We gave him some more and I think accidently got it down his lungs. He left the world about five minutes after that. I felt pretty horrible, as I think we actually drowned him. I don’t think he was long for this world anyways, but still, it was a bit of an “oops.” I’m sharing this so somebody else doesn’t make the same mistake.

After he passed, I examined him and found his skin broken in a couple places. Was he attacked by the other chicks, or trampled or something? His crop felt fine, there was no pasty butt. I have no idea what happened to him- which I hear is often the case with chick death.

This was our first homestead loss.

4 Days Old
I am a little paranoid today. Not knowing what exactly happened to the chick last night has me watching the other ones carefully for any signs of trouble. They all seem lively and normal.

It seems like they have grown a half inch of wing feathers overnight! They are getting noticeably bigger every day. I wish I would have weighed a couple of them, as I am curious just how much they have grown.

red ranger with wing

It is becoming easy to tell the Red Rangers from the Buff Orpingtons. The Rangers have much bigger thighs, stand taller, and in general are just bigger than the Buffs (I can also tell who the Buffs are because they have a really bright red color on their faces).

We have one random yellow chick who is starting to grow white wings. A hatchery throw-in. He is the smallest one of the group. I thought that the hatchery would add more of the same kind of chicks (to make up for any losses) and not add a completely different breed. Oh well, he’s cute.

One or two pasty butts today. We’ve cleaned at least one butt of each breed, but it seems like the Ameracaunas have it the most. I think they are fluffier than the others too, which might be why they are more susceptible.

They are drinking nearly two pints of water per day. I started off making a 5-lb batch of food, which they have almost eaten through already.

5 Days Old
Today I put a couple of short branches in the brooder for them to climb on, but they didn’t seem to really care or even notice them.

I also gave them an organic strawberry to inspect. They were more scared of it than anything. A few of the more aggressive guys came over and looked at it, but nobody pecked it. I gauged out a chunk with my fingernail, hoping that would make it more aromatic, but still nothing. After a couple minutes they totally ignored it. I touched one of the chick’s beaks to it. He didn’t care. Haha.

They are having noticeably different poop, and more of it. There are lots of little formed chick poo logs, rather than loose piles.

On a related note, I cleaned the brooder for the first time. They didn’t like that. I shoed them all to the straw side (which they don’t spend much time on… there is not a heat light there). I used a couple pieces of cardboard to scrape up all of the pine shaving litter and put it into a paper bag (it will go out to the compost). I put new pine bedding down, and after I left they all came back over and immediately started digging in it and kicking it all over the place.

chick close up

I cut a small peep hole. Haha, get it? Literally a peep hole in the side of the box so I could take candid pictures of the chicks. They keep photo-bombing me, and I’ve got some pretty hilarious pictures.

6 Days Old
It looks like they all have full wings. They are using them too. They flap them as they run from one side of the brooder to the other. It is really funny. I think they think they are going to take off. They don’t though; I haven’t seen anyone really airborne yet. Thank goodness.

Two chicks had poop beneath their vents- not blocking the vents, but stuck on their feathers below. We cleaned it off the same way we clean a pasty butt (holding the chick gently but firmly, turning them on their side and running warm water over the poo while we try to gently loosen it with a finger, which usually takes just a minute).

We have two pint-waterers, which we are having to fill twice a day now. Will switch to quart jars soon (I started with pints so they would take up less room in the original small brooders).

I had another bad-chick-mom moment today. There is a flap on the end of the cardboard brooder box that they sometimes jump up at. I was worried that they would pull it down, then a chick would get stuck in it when it flapped back up (I hope that makes sense).  So, I put a piece of duck tape on it to hold it up. I came back in no later than an hour to find that they had pulled the duct tape halfway off and there was a chick sprawled out on the floor of the brooder with his foot and ankle wrapped in the duct tape.

My heart just sank as I went into panic mode.

As quick as possible, I removed the brooder cover (but had to remove the heat lights first). I grasped the chick firmly so he wouldn’t flail and then tore the remaining tape loose from the box. I ran over to the couch and put the chick on my lap. He was actually very calm at this point. I wasn’t, but I’m glad he was. The tape was extra sticky because it had been heated by the heat lights.

I really felt like a dummy. I didn’t think they would pull the tape down like that, and so quickly. And I didn’t even think about the heat lights affecting the tape adhesive either.

I was able to get the tape off of his foot without damaging any skin (it was stuck pretty good though). I feared that he pulled his leg out of the socket trying to get out of the tape. At the very least I thought he broke an ankle or toe. I stood him up on my lap to see how he was. He wouldn’t stand on that leg and kind of fell to the side when I let go of him. Oh gosh I felt terrible.

I brought him back over to the brooder and set him in it. To my surprise he stood just fine on both legs. Then he took off across the brooder like nothing was wrong. I was so relieved. 

I watched the chicks very closely for the rest of the day, looking for any signs of anyone limping or looking lethargic. Everyone looks great. Crisis averted.

April 10, 2014: 7 Days Old
Happy one-week birthday chicks! I can’t believe it has been a week already.

I haven’t commented yet on their smell. They don’t really smell at all. The most prominent odor is that of the pine shavings and just a touch of grain. I fear this will get worse as they get older though.

There is one Red Ranger chick who has emerged as the clear leader. He is one of the three largest, and a couple times now he has given a very loud, shrill and beckoning call. I’ve seen him do it. He is in a central location, and his call makes the other chicks gather into groups. One time I think he was warning them of me when I was messing around with the brooder. I wonder what he is saying?!

There are clearly some aggressive and some very shy and more scared chicks. Some of them really like my ring and like to peck at it when I have my hands in there. Others cower in the corners when I make racket filling the feeders.

Karl and I both make it a point to say “hello Chicks!” every single time we walk into or through the room they are in. I try to constantly talk while I am with them, so that they know my voice well. Nobody is scared of my voice or my presence standing over them. A few do get scared when I am messing with things in the brooder though. 

So far I haven’t held many of them, just for the sake of holding them. The brooder is big and they are hard to catch now. A lot harder than before actually! They are getting quick and definitely more observant. I don’t need “lap chickens” but when they are older I at least want them to be friendly and not afraid of me. I hope that I am on the right track with this even though I don’t hold them all the time.

Today they finished their first five pounds of food.

And I would estimate that they are drinking a total of three pints of water per day now.

8 Days Old
The chicks had a great day today. I had read about chick “boredom busters” and wanted to try giving them something to play with. You know how kids can get into trouble when they are bored. So I went out to the corner of the yard and dug up a 8″ square of grass and dirt and then put it on the straw (unheated) side of the brooder.

They went nuts! It took about 10 minutes, but once a couple discovered it, most of them participated in the shenanigans. This video pretty much sums it up. They did this all day long. It was such a joy to watch them having so much fun and completely enjoying themselves, acting like “real” chickens.

If you can’t watch the video, it is them playing a relay game of keep-away. There are a couple hilarious moments, like when one of the Ameracaunas spins in circles to try to get away from the others. Karl’s favorite is at the end when one of the Red Rangers t-bones one of the other little chicks.

9 Days Old
I cleaned out the big brooder again today (for the second time) and put all new pine shavings down. The straw side of the brooder wasn’t soiled much at all, so I left that. As soon as I put the new shavings in, one of the chicks tried to take a dust bath in it. Of course it was adorable. I plan on bringing them in a pan of dirt soon, for bathing.

We have upgraded from pint mason jars to quarts and they are going through about 1.5 quarts of water per day.

chicks on grass

I am having to refill their long chick feeder every day. They really really love the fresh food. They pack themselves at the feeder just about as tight as can be whenever I fill it with fresh food.

Their poop looks stellar. It is mostly a darker green (I presume from the kelp and alfalfa they are fed) and is formed but soft. The few I have actually seen in the act looked great too; no explosiveness (which I have heard others describe their chicks doing). It came out like squeeze cheese in can. You shouldn’t be eating cheese in a can anyways- don’t be mad at me for that visual.

10 Days Old
Karl and I were both gone almost the entire day and night, so it was just the cat and chicks alone to fend for themselves. This was the first time since getting the chicks that we have both been gone from the house for more than an hour.

And everything was just fine when we got home.

Actually, I am very happy that our cat has show absolutely no interest in the big box of peeping critters in the entry way. If anything I’d say he seems scared of them. Thankful for that. We have it covered, so even if he did try to jump in, he couldn’t.

I think that I am just paranoid (which I blame on being in the health care profession). I think sometimes one or two chicks just get really sleepy and act kind of funny. Like sleep standing up, which makes them look wobbly or a little sick. Or when they are sleeping on the floor, then another chick runs into them and they wake for a second, get up to move ¼” and then fall back asleep. I think sometimes this kind of behavior makes them look lethargic. So I am standing there wondering, are they dying or are they just sleepy.

I’ve got my eye on one chick (I think… it is hard to tell most of the 20 Red Rangers apart) who might be a little more tired than the rest of the chicks. When I took the cover off the brooder and riled everyone up, he got up and went over to the food and looked fine. Who knows. Everyone seems really good still. Eating a ton, drinking, playing, and pooping.

11 Days Old
Days 1-7: five pounds of food
Days 8-11: five pounds of food

Our piglets chicks went from eating five pounds of food in a week’s time, to eating five pounds of food in three days time. Sheesh.

More eating = more pooping. Their bedding that I changed just two days ago is already looking pretty dirty. I threw another layer of pine shavings on top of the existing dirty layer in hopes that would buy me another day. They kicked it up a little bit but didn’t mix the old dirty with the new shavings like I feared they might.

I have a feeling I am going to need to fully change their pine shavings just about every day. We got a big compressed bag of pine shavings and have gone through about 1/6 of it so far, which isn’t too bad. We’ve went through a few handfuls of straw also.

One of our red heat lights burned out today (we have two in the brooder). The temp is staying about 90 degrees F where the one light shines, which I think will be fine… They are a week and half old now. Plus, they spend plenty of time in the unheated (room temperature) side of the brooder playing with the dirt and grass clod, so it seems they don’t mind being a little cooler.

chick wings

Look at those wing feathers! They have really come in. They look like little angel wings.

12 Days Old
Changed the bedding this morning. Poop-machines, they are. Which is actually a feature that I like about chickens (for my garden’s sake) but maybe just not when the chicks are still in the house.

I have started a fun new thing. I have a mix of sesame and hemp seeds that I put in my hand and lower into the brooder. A bunch of them come running and go crazy trying to get the seeds, boxing each other out. Some of them jump on my hand and try to jump on my arm. Most don’t seem to mind me touching them at this time either. I’m glad they aren’t all totally terrified of me.

It is mostly the Red Rangers and one or sometimes two of the Buff Orpingtons that participate in treat-time. Not once has one of the Ameracaunas seemed interested.

I wish the Ameracaunas were as social as the Rangers, since the Ameracaunas will be my long-term egg-layers and the Rangers are destined for the freezer. I am trying to not get attached to them, which I see is going to be hard…

13 Days Old
There was one chick I was keeping an eye on because he seemed tired. I probed him to get up today so that I could see him move, and it turns out there is something wrong with him.

He is having trouble walking, and it looks as though it is hard for him to straighten his legs. He is also wobbly when he stands up. Poor little thing. I put him in an isolation brooder to watch him.

I researched chick leg problems all day long and am really not sure what to think There is not one obvious diagnosis.

April 17, 2014: 14 Days Old
Two weeks old today!

The Buffs and Ameracaunas are all pretty similar in size and definitely smaller than the Rangers. I really hope that they don’t start getting beat up on by the bigger birds. I have been trying to keep an eye on that, and so far haven’t seen any bullying.

I love when I go to check on the chicks and they are all fast asleep, every single one of them. They are so peaceful, sleeping together in various piles around the brooder, there heads resting on each other.

My chick in the isolation brooder seems to be doing okay. I am dropper feeding him vitamin water multiple times per day, just to make sure he is getting enough. He will take food from my hand also, which is a good sign.

16 Days Old
Things have gone down hill… I now have a second chick in the isolation brooder, also with walking/leg problems. The two in the isolation brooder seem to be some of the smaller chicks of the bunch. They are just breaking my heart, poor things look so sad.

I’ve got my eye on the rest of the chicks and am feeling worried/paranoid that more of them are going to start developing the same thing. And I still have no idea what is wrong with them. I’ve been on every chicken website and forum that exists, and I’ve got nothing. The best guess I can make is some sort of vitamin deficiency (maybe they aren’t eating enough or being bullied away from the food?) or they have perosis, or a slipped tendon (equivalent of an achilles tendon problem in a human).

I ran into town to the feed store and found some chicken (general livestock) vitamin, mineral and electrolyte powder to put in the water. Hopefully that will pep them up.

17 Days Old
Well, one of my sick chicks is no longer with us. It seemed at some times that he was getting better, but yesterday and this morning he really went down hill. He couldn’t even stand or sit comfortably anymore. Karl was at work, so I had to do the deed. I couldn’t let him suffer like that. Tough day on the homestead…

On a positive note, the other chick that was in the isolation brooder is really doing well, so I moved him back to the big brooder with everyone else (I marked his head so I could keep an eye on him).

18 Days Old
Now, two new chicks aren’t looking good. One has sort of a limp/wobbly walk, and one was acting really lethargic and out of it. Into the isolation brooder they went and were dropper-fed chick vitamin water. This is getting a little ridiculous.

I called the hatchery to inquire if 1. there have been any other reported problems with their Red Rangers lately, and 2. if this was normal for two-week old chicks. The answers were no and no.

The rest of the chicks look great and lively as ever. I brought in several cups of dirt and sand from outside and put it in one of the corners of the brooder. They went nuts! Dust bath city. I had seen one a couple days ago trying to bathe in the pine shavings, so I knew they were ready for it. By the end of the day, the dirt was gone; they kicked it all over and it disappeared into the straw.

They are drinking 1.5 quarts of water per day and eating about 5lbs of food every 2-3 days.

19 Days Old
Lost a chick today (this would be #3). Sorry for the grim reports lately, but you have to take the bad with the good, I suppose. I walked by the big brooder and saw a chick belly up, feet in the air, stiff-dead. It wasn’t even one of the chicks in the isolation brooder! After researching, my guess is that it was a heart attack, or “spontaneous chick death.”

I just don’t know what is up with these Red Rangers. The Buff Orpingtons and Ameracaunas have not had a single problem, not one. Which makes me believe that it is not something I am doing. These chicks are about as well taken care of as can be…

My two isolation brooder chicks are doing well today, especially one of them, so I moved him back to the big brooder. Then I noticed that one of the chicks that was previously in the isolation brooder but moved back to the big brooder is now limping pretty badly. (sigh)

I don’t know if I was just naïve, but I thought raising chicks was going to be a lot more fun than this. I knew there could be some death, but thought that was more likely in the first few days. I am definitely enjoying the many healthy chicks that we have; they are just a hoot to watch and interact with, but all these chicks in and out of the sick brooder is starting to wear on me a little bit.

20 Days Old
Things are stable. The two chicks in the isolation brooder are doing well. They are so sweet. Every time I go into the bathroom (which is where the isolation brooder is) I ask them, “how are my two favorite chickies doing?” And then they make the softest, sweetest peeping.

I also love that the two in the isolation brooder are best buddies. They always sleep next to each other, and they gently peck one another if one has something on his feathers. And whenever I take one of them out to examine him, the other one calls out loudly for his missing buddy.

I found the perfect-sized stick outside to make a roost in the big brooder. It took them a day or two to take to it, but now I find at least one or two chicks on it most of the time.

April 24, 2014: Day 21
3 weeks old today. The chicks, if I can even call them that anymore, are still in the house in their freezer box brooder. They haven’t out grown it yet, but it is only a matter of time.

They are definitely starting to smell stronger. I have to clean out their brooder every other day in order to prevent chicken-stench. 

I have a new little chick buddy… one of the Red Rangers. Whenever I go over to the brooder he comes running. When I lower my hand into the brooder box he jumps right on to it and lets me lift him up. In fact, I think he loves it. I have started giving him a shelled sunflower seed treat every time I pick him up (which is several times per day) in order to encourage the friendly behavior. I’m not above bribery. And if he keeps up the friendliness, he will probably be spared the axe.

22 Days Old
Entertainment day for the chicks today! I brought in a couple more cups of dirt for the dirt box, plus a handful of fresh grass, plus a handful of dried leaves. Of course they all went nuts and loved every minute of it.

23 Days Old
I haven’t noticed any outward bullying, but I have noticed a little more confrontation between some of the chicks, mainly the larger ones. I have seen a couple of them puff out their chests and “face off” and jump up at each other, but that was all. It was a “who you lookin’ at?” kind of thing.

24 Days Old
I try to keep rough track of how much food the little chicks are eating. I swear in the past three days they went from eating five pounds in two to three days, to five pounds in one day (that is for 32 chicks) Sheesh. And we’re grinding it by hand with an old-fashioned hand crank grinder, so our arms are now getting quite the work out!

Also, I am having to fill two quart-sized waterers twice per day.

Our new coop is well on its way, Karl had his friend and dad here this weekend to help, which was much, much needed! It is not finished, but it is almost ready to hold chickens, which is quite a relief.

25 Days Old
Knock on wood- all the chicks are doing really well. It seemed a week ago there were some chicks who appeared to like to sleep when the others were playing, which I tried not to read into too much, but definitely kept my eye on. I feel that in the past week they have all been really active, and there have been no chicks that are making me worry even the slightest bit, so I am thankful for that.

I still have two in the infirmary. The first one, who was initially a little wobbly on his feet, is probably well enough to go back to the big brooder, but I need him to keep the other guy company, so he will stay there for now. The second chick, the limper, seems to be doing better. He definitely still hobbles, but he appears to get around fine. I can’t find anything physically wrong with his leg, which puzzles me. I started a little chick therapy/chiropractic and am stretching his bad leg out backwards behind him gently and massaging the joints. And you know, I think its helping him!

They are both eating and drinking a ton, which I take as a good sign.

26 Days Old
Good news- this morning when I went to check on the two chicks in the infirmary they were both walking really well. I gave them a 90% and 95% healed, respectively, so I moved them back to the big brooder. At first they were a little unsure, but then they started exploring everything. One of the chicks was calling out loudly for several minutes, but then calmed down.
sick chick buddies
I hope they don’t overdo it and re-hurt themselves. I marked their heads with a blue (sharpie marker) dot so that I can keep on eye on them (it should be visible for just a few days, then fade).

When I cleaned out the brooder today, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of food mixed into the bedding. Those little buggers- they aren’t eating it all, they are throwing it around! I will be putting less food in their trough, but more often.

May 1, 2014: 28 Days Old
4 weeks old today!

Putting less food in their trough and filling it more often is definitely helping keep the wasted food to a minimum. I’ve outsmarted them!

The two chicks that were in the infirmary and reintroduced to the flock a couple days ago are physically doing very well, but they seem scared. They have been sticking together and huddling in the corners of the brooder, and generally seem uneasy. I haven’t seen any of the other chicks being mean to them (although they could have and I missed it). They are eating and drinking, so I will keep an eye on them and hope they become more comfortable.

There was one Red Ranger who was extremely friendly towards me…and he still is! There are other chicks that are friendly, but I can tell it is only because they want treats. This chick, “Buddy” genuinely just wants to be held and loved. Today I let him sit in my lap and he fell asleep after about five minutes. He is quite adorable.

29 Days Old
I’ve got airborne chicks. They are still in the refrigerator box in the foyer and when I take the cover (a piece of metal shelving) off of the box, there are a few chicks that are able to jump up onto to the top edge of the box. And they’re pretty proud of themselves! Of course, it doesn’t help that I give them treats when they do it. I know, I know, but I can’t help it. They are so cute and full of expression when they jump out of the box.

Take a look at the size difference in these birds! This is one the biggest Red Ranger and the smallest Buff Orpington. Isn’t that crazy how they can grow at such different rates?!
chick big small
Also, I broke down and bought a bag of dried mealworms. They go crazy for them.

May 8, 2014: 35 Days Old
5 weeks old today! (And still in the house…)

On one hand I am really looking forward to having the chicks outside soon. But I think that I am going to miss having them so close. I talk to them all day long and open their brooder several times per day to give them treats, fill their water and food, or just to pet them. Becoming waaaay too attached to the meat birds, I am.

Even if we had the coop finished, I think it still might be too cold. It is in the low 30s at night here lately. I just couldn’t do that to them. They all have what I think is a good amount of feathers, but 30s is just a little too cold.

May 15, 2014: 42 Days Old
6 weeks old today! (And still in the house…)

Everything has been normal and low-key here, which is great! All the chicks miniature chickens seem to be healthy, happy and doing very well. They are getting so, so big!
karl with chick
We’ve been dabbling in earth worms lately. Turns out we have a ton of worms in our thick clay soil. The chicks turn into greedy, crazy monsters when I bring in a handful of those slimy little things. Maybe it doesn’t help that I shout “Woooorms! I’ve got wooooorms!” I try to distribute the worms in a way that makes the least amount of chaos as possible, but it’s really no use. They all grab one and run as fast as they can in circles around the brooder, trampling whoever gets in their way.

Speaking of eating… how can you eat an entire nightcrawler in three gulps but won’t eat a whole lentil or piece of wheat? Because you are stubborn and spoiled, thats why.

We hand-grind all the chick’s feed. It isn’t a horrible task, but it is getting kind of old. We planned on grinding the feed all along, I just didn’t know at what age they could go from ground feed to larger pieces. I think they are getting close. I have been using the smallest chicks as test subjects, offering them a handful of whole oats or wheat, and it appears that they can eat them just fine. Yet, when I try putting them in the feed, they pick around them. I think I will just start to introduce bigger particle size slowly over the next week.

44 Days Old
Finally… the chicks have left the building!

We put them out in the coop early this evening, around 4pm. I would have liked to put them out a tad earlier in the day, but that was what our schedules allowed. It doesn’t get dark until well after 8pm, so they had a few good hours of daylight. It probably isn’t a big deal anyways, because I turned on their red heat light, so there was plenty of light all night.

I wasn’t really sure how we would move 30-some chicks from the house, all the way outside to the coop… We went with a big Rubbermade tote. I lifted one chick out of the brooder at a time and placed it in the tote. Then Karl would quickly but gently put the cover on so it couldn’t jump out. Then I would get the next chick and Karl would slide the cover of the tote just slightly off so that I could put him. Over and over. We got about six chicks in the tote at a time and made five trips out to the coop.

I wasn’t sure how they would react when placed into the coop- if they would love it or if they would cower in the corner. I’d say it went really well. As soon as I lifted them out of tote and placed them on the fresh straw, they immediately took off exploring. Didn’t seem scared at all.

45 Days Old
The first night in the coop appeared to go well, that is, all of our chicks survived their first night outside. They are so sweet… I went out to check on them first thing this morning. I opened their window and said good morning- they all got bright-eyed and started making their little cooing and trilling noises.

We are still working on the enclosed run, so it will be a few more days until they go outside, outside. I can’t wait to let them out on the ground. They love a box filled with dirt so much that I think they will go wild on actual dirt ground.

46 Days Old
Ugh, I have a limping chick again. He is eating and drinking just fine, has no other symptoms that I can see, and is just hobbling around the coop. I brought him in the house to keep him quiet for a few days. I have looked him over and there is nothing wrong with him that I can see. Just like when they were younger and a couple of them were having difficulty walking… it is so bizarre.

47 Days Old
My limping chick seems to being doing about the same. He sits quietly in his box, and he trills whenever I come into the room.

The rest of the chicks in the coop are doing well. No one is getting into trouble. They love their new, bigger space and the bright sun shining on them during the day.

Feed update: I am now only grinding the field peas and lentils. I am leaving the wheat and oats whole and they are eating them just fine. It does appear that they pick out some of the better morsels first- like the alphalpha and flax, but they do eventually eat everything.

48 Days Old
Ahh! Another limping chick, and this one is even worse than the first one. Are they running too fast and hurting themselves? What is going on? Same thing, nothing visibly wrong other than a limp. I thought we were passed this…

I moved her into the infirmary box in the house with the other limping chick. And something interesting happened- limping chick #1 really perked up! I think he was lonely and depressed these last two days by himself. He went over to her, (I thought he was going to step on her and peck her) but he plopped down right next to her and laid his head on her neck. It might have been the sweetest thing I’ve seen.

So, now I have two chicks back in the house…

Aaaand, I got pecked in the eye today. I was filling the feeder and one of the chicks jumped up on me (which is normal, there are a couple that like to climb on me). He stood on my shoulder, and I was doing something else so I wasn’t totally monitoring him. I know it wasn’t malicious, he just saw something shiny and pecked at it. He got me right on lip of my lower eyelid, enough to draw a bit of blood and make my eye slightly puffy. I am so grateful that he didn’t get me in the actual eyeball. I will watch for any signs of infection, but I am thinking I will be just fine.

May 21, 2014: 49 Days Old
Limping chick #1 seems to be doing better, walking with just a small limp. Limping chick #2 looks to be the same as yesterday.

And, I am happy to report that the rest of the chicks enjoyed their first day outside today! I put the finishing touches on the enclosed run this morning and let them out. It was pretty entertaining. They stood at the threshold of the coop, looking down onto the ramp, and it only took the first couple chicks a couple minutes to muster the courage to walk down it.
chicks poking head out
There were a handful of chicks that stood at the door, too scared to go further, so I helped them by picking them up and placing them on the ground. And I soon as I did, they were off scratching and digging in the dirt.

Perhaps my favorite part was when many of them sprawled out in the sunshine, totally relaxed and just soaking it up. I am sure it was the best day of their lives.


  1. says

    I saw you on the Chicken Chick’s Blog roll too. I am receiving my chicks today (screaming inside) so your journal was perfect timing. You can check out my experiences at my blog: Devhensbrood.wordpress.com

  2. says

    I love this look at your first time experience, Crystal! I have a little dream to add a few “ladies” and a sweet little coop to my little urban plot….one day! {Visiting from Simple Lives Thursday}

  3. says

    I really loved reading this. I don’t have chickens now but I have had them in the past, this brought back good memories. I hope all your chickens are doing great!

  4. Ethan Minney says

    Enjoyed reading this article. Did you ever find out about the lethargic death? My wife and I are on our 4th batch of chickens and guineas. We have 15 guinea keets and 10 chicks. Not including the 5 lost from some unknown cause. The were looking lethargic so we isolated them and then they died. I am not sure if they were being trampled or what the cause was.

    Our fist two batches of chicks and guineas died from a coop that wasn’t fully secured. I finally found all the holes and sealed them. Raccoons are very clever. Our 3rd batch did really well. The chickens seemed to injure themselves (limping and broken toes) when they would jump from their roost to the floor. Once the figured out how to jump down we didn’t have anymore casualties.

    Out 10 guineas from our 3rd batch we have 1 left. The others were claimed by owls when the guineas decided to roost in the tree outside the coop instead of in the coop. The one guinea has given us 24 keets which we are currently raising in our foyer. And we ordered 10 Faverolle that we are raising as well. We have axed all our other chickens to try this new breed. I haven’t decided what to do with our last adult guinea.

    Anyways Thanks Again.

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      Thanks Ethan!

      No, we never did get a definitive answer on the lethargic death. From what I have read, it seems that when there is just one or two out of a group of chicks, it is often something they were born with, and nothing you can do anything about. Just nature, I guess. :)

      Sounds like you have you hands full over there with all those little ones!

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