Monday, January 5, 2015

Preparing to Bring Home Baby Chicks

In Southern California it is almost chick time and we are preparing to bring home baby chicks. Our local feed store starts selling chicks in February and of course I am already getting the urge to bring home a couple of new chicks. This will be our fourth spring with new chicks. 

Egg prices have skyrocketed in California due to legislation that went into effect on January 1st requiring a doubling of the space egg producers must give each chicken. I now see that it may actually be cost effective to raise enough chickens to produce most if not all of our eggs.
 In preparation of new chickens occupying the coop I will talk about things you need to do if you are going to bring home chickens.

First of course, is to make sure you have a secure coop. Even if you bring home day old chicks you will want them out of your house as soon as possible trust me. Chicks are cute but grow quickly and are messy. We raised our first two sets of chicks in a box that sat in one of our showers that had clear glass doors. We chose this because we have cats and this offered them an extra barrier of protection if one of the kids left the bathroom door open. As of last year, I never even had the chicks in our home. I raised them in a galvanized tub in the garage with a heat lamp.
When building or buying a coop make sure to use the half inch hardware cloth to protect your chickens. Chicken wire is not strong enough and vermin can squeeze in as well and you don’t want that.
We have a small coop because we only keep a few chickens and it fits in our small yard. A fenced run now encloses the coop area so the chickens can roam a large secure area. You can see our chicken run fencing and where we found it here.
When chickens are young you may want to fence off the nesting boxes, otherwise they will try and sleep in them and that is bad habit because they soil the boxes where your eggs will be laid. I fit a piece of hardware cloth in front of mine making sure it is snug so they don’t try and squeeze around it and get hurt. When they are older at about 4-5 months or if I see any of them starting the egg squat, I will remove the wire and put a fake egg in the boxes.

Because our coop had sat empty I gave it a thorough cleaning with hot water, white vinegar and a couple drops of dish soap. I put down fresh shavings and while they are little, I will keep water in the upper and lower portions. Have the water ready before you go to pick them up so they can drink as soon as you get home. It was very hot the day I picked up mine so I added some ice as chickens like cool water. As soon as I place the chickens in the coop I dip their beaks in the water so give them a drink but so they realize this is where their water is.

They say it is best to not let the chickens out of the coop the first few days but since my coop is on the small side, I let them out for a few hours in the evening for the first few nights while I sat in there watching them and letting them get to know me. One thing about new chickens is it takes a while for them to learn to head back to the coop at night. Don’t get discouraged. Be prepared to have to catch them or herd them into the coop for a bit until they start to get it. It can be frustrating but every chicken I have had has figured it out so be patient and have someone help you to round them up and shoo them into the coop as calmly as you can. I say that tongue in cheek as it is hard sometimes.


  1. Wow, already?! That means my hens are 1 year old next week! Wont be getting babies this year. Thanks for all the tips Elaine! Always love hearing about chickens from you! xox

    1. Hi Maryjane. I saw you all had snow down there. How fun.

  2. Elaine, you have become quite the chicken info gal. Wish I could have some, but doubt the apartment management would like that. I grew up with chickens and they're so precious. You ought to maybe write an ebook on this chicken stuff.

  3. I loved this informative post, Elaine! I see that we got our Murray Mc Murray catalog in the mail today. It's always so exciting! The only thing keeping me from getting chickens is the thought of them getting cold, even in a heated coop, in our bitterly cold winters... and the thought of trudging through the snow to take care of them. Think anyone would notice if I kept them in one of the upstairs bedrooms?? JUST KIDDING. :-))

  4. That sounds like both a lot of work and a lot of fun!

  5. Isn't it hard to determine the sex of baby chicks?
    When you get them this young, how can you be certain you have hens and not roosters?

  6. @ rosekraft
    Most chicks are sexed right after hatching. Some breeds, like the silkie I had last year, are harder to sex so you have to buy them straight run, meaning unsexed. Ours did turn out to be a roo and we found him a new home. Other than that we have ended up with all hens so far.

  7. So excited for you. Great, simple advice for the beginning chicken farmer. We are looking forward to getting ours when we move.
    I'd love for you to share this outdoor post on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

  8. Love having baby chicks around! And then the hens for eggs. Last winter we got rid of our laying hens and then did not replace them this past spring because I was pregnant, and knew that having hens this winter with a new baby would not be easy. I'm hoping (as well as the two older kids) that we will be getting more this spring!

  9. Thanks for the excellent info! We're just finishing our coop and getting pullets in April. We opted for pullets instead of chicks but I'm pretty sure I might have to get baby chicks one of these days!

    Brett @

  10. Hi Brett,
    We have done both. I have mostly done chicks but one summer I did pullets and got the three bantams. Saves on the work of chicks so you will be great for your first time cause you won't probably need the whole heat lamp thing.