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Chicken Milestones - what to expect after getting your chicks in the mail
For many newcomers to the world of backyard poultry, receiving baby chicks in the mail is an exciting experience. However, the journey from hatchery to home can be taxing for these little creatures. As a result, understanding their development milestones and specific care needs after transit is paramount. This guide will walk you through key stages of your chicks' growth and provide actionable advice tailored for those who have received mail-ordered chicks.
1. Receiving Your Mail-Ordered Chicks (Day 1):
What's Happening: Your baby chicks have just endured a journey through the postal system, which may have been stressful.
Actionable Advice: Immediately upon receipt, carefully unpack chicks and introduce them to their new home. Gently dip their beaks into water to encourage drinking. Keep water and chick starter feed readily accessible. Ensure the brooder temperature is set at 95°F (35°C) to provide much-needed warmth.
2. First Week: Adjusting to the Brooder:
What's Happening: After the stress of travel, chicks require a warm, quiet environment to recover and grow.
Actionable Advice: Observe chicks for signs of stress, like lethargy or refusal to eat/drink. The brooder should be kept draft-free with a heat lamp to maintain temperature. As before, if chicks huddle under the lamp, raise the temperature, and if they're spread out or panting, decrease it slightly.
3. Feather Growth (Week 2-3):
What's Happening: Pin feathers begin to emerge, especially on the wingtips.
Actionable Advice: Lower the brooder temperature by 5°F each week, aiming for 85-90°F by the end of this stage. Monitor for any feather pecking and ensure chicks have ample space.
4. Learning Behaviors (Week 3-4):
What's Happening: Chicks become more explorative, trying out dust-bathing and establishing their social hierarchy.
Actionable Advice: Introduce a shallow dust bath in the brooder for cleanliness and skin and feather health. Ensure the chicks have toys or safe objects to peck at, reducing boredom and potential pecking at each other.
5. Venturing Outside (Week 4-6):
What's Happening: With more robust feathers, chicks can start enjoying the outdoors.
Actionable Advice: On a calm, sunny day, allow chicks to explore outside, starting with short 10-15 minute intervals. Always ensure they are in a predator-proof area.
6. Transitioning to Grower Feed (Week 6-8):
What's Happening: Your chicks' nutritional needs evolve as they grow.
Actionable Advice: Gradually introduce grower feed, ensuring it's suitable for pullets. Fresh water should always be available. Chickens will also enjoy crickets, superworms, or other feeder insects. A varied diet of insects is a great way to offer protein, but also to stimulate their prey drive. This can easily boost their overall happiness in their chicken coop.
7. Nearing Maturity (Week 8-16):
What's Happening: Chicks resemble adult birds more each day, with full feathers and developing combs and wattles.
Actionable Advice: Regularly monitor their living space, expanding it if necessary. Overcrowding can lead to behavioral and health issues.
8. Preparing for First Eggs (Week 18-24):
What's Happening: Pullets are almost ready to lay their initial eggs.
Actionable Advice: Transition them to layer feed for adequate calcium intake. Set up nesting boxes in a quiet, dimly lit area of the coop for egg-laying.
Receiving baby chicks in the mail can be a wonderful way to start or expand your flock. By being attentive to their needs right from the get-go, especially after the journey they've undergone, you set the stage for healthy growth and a thriving chicken community. Enjoy every chirp, feather, and egg—they're worth it!