Hayden Homesteading: Raising chicks
July 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — From the day they are born until they start laying five or so months later, chickens are nothing but poop machines. In the three months we’ve owned them, our four chicks have gone through a 30 lb bag of feed and given us back at least that much in crap. When they’re chicks, they literally do nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. Now, as pretty big pullets, they’ve added flapping around their coop to the mix, but not much else has changed.
Raising chicks is fairly easy, once you get over the fact that most of the time you spend with them will be spent cleaning up their poop. They need a heat lamp that keeps them at around 90 degrees, a fresh supply of food and water, and enough room to wander around. We started with them in a large plastic tub. We lined that with wood shavings and gave them the small, cheap food and water dispensers that any feed store will sell you.
The most important thing for new chicks (and all chickens, really) is cleanliness. Keeping them clean isn’t as easy as it should be because all they do is poop, but if you change their water when it gets dirty, keep their food full, and check their butts a couple times a day, you should be fine.
Obviously, that last point needs expounding on. First, chickens don’t technically have butts. They have an orifice called a cloaca (or vent) from which they excrete everything: poop, pee, and eggs. Second, when they are chicks, their cloaca will get clogged up, causing an infirmity called “Pasty Butt.” Pasty butt is what happens when their poop gets caught in the down surrounding their cloaca and blocks the orifice, preventing these little poop machines from pooping. This, obviously, causes problems, up to and including death. Fortunately, pasty butt is easily remedied with a good wash in some warm water.
However, with some diligence and attention to a comfortable and clean brooder, pasty butt and other maladies will be rare and your chicks should grow into pullets without any issues.