The chicks are shipping today but are you ready? You ordered chicks a year in advance or a week in advance or like we did just a few days in advance...did you make a list and check it twice!?
What should be on the list? Read Ready, Set, Chicks
Here's what I do in the 72-hours before the chicks arrive:
- Pull out the "chick book"! Yay, the chicks are coming! I highly recommend keeping a chick notebook: Take note of feed consumption, activity level, health issues or deaths, and so forth.
- Look at the "List for 20XX Chicks" and determine if there are any last minute errands. [Edit 10/01/2015: depending on your situation you might do this even sooner.]
- Leave a "Dear Postal Carrier" note for our carrier to alert him or her that we are expecting chicks. [Edit 10/01/2015: You may want to call your or stop by your local post office to be sure that they know you are expecting chicks. Be sure that you are clear on how your local post office handles deliveries of live chicks.]
- Get the brooder bins and supplies from the shed...okay, Dale does that.
- Set up the brooder including aspen shavings, heat lamp, etc.
- Install the 2"x2" to hang the heat lamp. Pro tip: Use a sharpie to mark pieces of wood, etc. that may seem to be up for grabs in December! That piece of wood with two hooks and a screw in it might find itself a part of another project!
- Turn the heat lamp on to check the proper height to achieve that toasty warm 95 degrees for the chicks. Be sure to check and double check that you light is well secured. Be sure that anything flammable nearby (regardless of your lighting/heating choice) is moved out of the brooding area. Because I am a bit obsessive about the arrival of the chicks, I like to have the light on at least two days in advance...last year the bulb burned out the day before the chicks arrived...obsessive, yes...but nicely warm chicks! I even heard phantom chicks over the weekend!
- Make sure the supply of non-chlorinated water is adequate. I like to have at least 10-gallons just for the chicks. Consider animals' needs in case of an emergency.
- Fill up a couple quart jars and place in the brooder so the water is warm for making the chick elixir. This practice also makes me feel less guilty about the pre-warming the brooding area.
- Check the chicken ration spreadsheets and finalize the ration for the chicks. Or be sure you have starter ration on hand. A 1:1 mix of rolled oats and egg yolks can be used in a pinch.
- Make a batch of yogurt for the chicks.
- Mix and grind chick ration. I wait until the day before the chicks arrive and then grind only 20 pounds at a time for the chicks.
- Fill up chick dust box with sand and set aside for the first day or so. We don't want the chicks filling up on sand rather than food!
- Double-double check first aid kit. The one thing that I have found the most useful is a 20ml syringe (no needle) for watering/feeding chicks that are struggling.
- Double-double check the nipple waterers for leaks. We offer nipple waterers as soon as we are confident that all the chicks are drinking well...but we still leave the gravity option in place until we are confident that all the chicks are drinking well from the nipple waterers.
- Think about what greens and garden goodies I am going to offer the chicks. Don't have garden goodies? Consider sprouting!
- Move the chick field trip run to outside the kitchen window. What's a chick field trip run? It's a small enclosure with access to the earth that we use for the chicks to have afternoons outside when it's toasty outside.
- Wait anxiously for the chicks to arrive.
Just in case you are horrified that we use plastic bins for our chicks, here's our rationale. We use modified plastic bins for five reasons: 1) cleanable surface, 2) non-porous so we don't have water (or water with honey, garlic, and apple cider vinegar) and poop on the wood floors, 3) provides storage for all the other chick supplies, 4) with care (and storage out of sunlight) we can use year after year, and 5) lightweight and easy to carry. Of course, there are plenty of other brooder box options!
So, as you try to remain calm knowing that cute little peeps are being placed on heat packs in small conservation-oriented farms and large hatcheries alike, double check your list.