Chickens are a great way to introduce animals to your homestead journey. From a financial and time-cost perspective, they can help ease you into the idea of caring for a large number of living critters.
After we moved, a month and a half went by on the farm and we realized we didn’t have any animals. In our opinion it wasn’t really a farm without some sort of “farm animal”. So we decided to get some baby chicks. After lots of google searches, forum reading and many hours chatting with Sue, the owner of a nearby chicken store, we decided to get 8 baby chicks from an online order hatchery (mypetchicken.com). We ordered 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Golden Laced Wyandottes and 2 Welsummers. We decided we were going to raise these chicks antibiotic and medicine free so we did not get the optional vaccinations, (definitely a mistake as you’ll read in other posts). Most vaccinations for chickens seem to be done within the first few hours of their lives or even when they are still in the egg.
When you order chicks online, most hatcheries have a minimum order. New chicks require lots of heat to stay warm so the more you can ship together the better the chances of their survival. In fact, most hatcheries up the minimum in colder or winter months to ensure survival.
Day-old chicks can survive up to 72 hours without food or water after they hatch because baby chicks are still ingesting their yolk sacs. This provides them all the nourishment they need for those first few days. After 72 hours, their yolk sacs are gone and they need immediate access to food and water. It is extremely important that when you get your new bundles of fluff home and into their brooding box that you dip their beaks in water so they know where the water is. Access to food should be available, however some suggest giving them an hour or two with access to only water so they re-hydrate before eating.
It’s also recommended you not allow small kids to watch you open the box of chicks from the hatchery. It is always possible some of the chicks didn’t survive the journey. Out of the 8 we ordered we did have one that didn’t make it. Most hatcheries will credit or send you new chicks if you report it to them within 48 hours of receiving your chicks.
Here’s our little chickies when they first reached our farm in 2014!