We picked up our first batch of these adorable little fluff balls on Thursday. We pick them up when they are just a few hours old. I’m always on the ready chick pick up day….waiting for the call that they are ready for pick up. I feel like it’s urgent to get them right away but, fascinatingly, newly hatched chicks can live without food or water for at least 24 hours. One of the last things the chick does inside the egg is absorb the remaining yolk sac, which provides nourishment the first few days after hatching.
They are without a doubt the cutest but also easily the most fragile babies on our farm because of their sensitivity to temperature and disease. The day before the chicks arrive we ready the brooder with fresh pine shavings and we thoroughly wash their waterers and feeders.
The brooder is their home (think tiny house with skylights) and keeps them cozy and warm for the first few weeks of their life. Warmth is essential to the survival of the chicks because of piling. When chicks are cold, they cozy up and pile on top of each other to stay warm. When they pile, the chicks on the bottom of the pile get smothered. There’s lots of room in the brooder which gives chicks the chance to move away from the heat to a cooler spot in the brooder if they wish.
The chicks arrive in a cardboard box with holes, the drive home is not a quiet one but a symphony of peeping. We carefully lift each chick out and dip their beak into water then gently set them free in the brooder. They are so fun to watch flitting about.
At around 3 weeks old, their feathers will be grown in and they will make their big move from the comfort of the brooder to the great outdoors. They’ll live their best life in chicken tractors (massive bottomless covered playpens) in the fresh air and sunshine. They play an important role on our farm by adding organic matter to the pasture. It’s the only way we fertilize our pastures…naturally.