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Welcome To CHICKS 101

We're glad you chose to join us for this online educational series. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll share our wealth of tips and videos from our professional partners at Purina.

You can check in each day to peck at the information little by little. Or you can log in whenever it's convenient and catch up on the posts at your own pace.

To begin our lessons, let's look an overview of life with chickens! Yes, they're cute now and will surely peep their way into your heat, but know that raising chicks is hard work. Your yard and your family need to be ready for the responsibility.

You'll need heat lamps in the beginning. It's best to prepare before you bring your chicks home. Adjust the heat lamps in the brooder about 4 hours before the chicks arrive. You want a comfort zone that is about 90° F.

Don't forget the brooder guard (a plastic, cardboard or wire barrier around the lamp). Chicks can get overheated, which can be as dangerous as getting chilled. Chicks that are huddled under the lamp are too cold. Chicks that are far from the lamp are too hot. Adjust the heat lamp accordingly by raising or lowering the lamp. Chicks happily milling around all portions of the brooder area are comfortable. ­The temperature can be gradually reduced by 5°F per week to a minimum of 55°F.

You'll need space for the chicks and grown birds. Here's a guideline:

  • Hatch to 6 weeks .........0.8 to 1.0 square feet of floor space per chick

  • 6 to 20 weeks ...............1.0 to 2.0 square feet of floor space per bird

If you prefer, chicks can be placed outside. Just mind the temperature and drafts. You may want to try a garage, barn, or coop, as those areas are usually free of cold air conditioning and excessive winds. Chicks will outgrow the heat lamp as they become fully feathered in about 4 to 6 weeks. They'll tolerate the outdoors as the temperature permits.

Fill feeders and waters. Keep these along the edges of the comfort zone. ­This will keep the water and feed from being overheated and will help to keep them cleaner, as chicks milling and sleeping under the warm source may kick bedding and feces into them. It also encourages the chicks to move around and get exercise. Be sure to have plenty of fresh feed and water when the chicks arrive. You'll need at least 2 quart-size or 1 gallon-size bottle of water for every 25 to 50 chicks. If you're only getting the city maximum of 6 chicks, one of our colorful quart-size waterers should be fine to start. Be sure to dip the beaks of all the chicks into the water to help them locate it. Then show them the food. We recommend the Purina® Start & Grow Medicated or Non-Medicated for 16 weeks before starting a Layena® pellet or crumble.

How do I know which to use? Medicated or Non? The two types of feed are designed for chicks that either have not been vaccinated (medicated) or have been vaccinated (non). Ask us about the batch of birds that you're choosing from. Chickens can carry some bugs, so always wash your before and after handling chicks.

You'll be cleaning feeders and waterers daily, if not more often. Chicks can be sloppy! In the early days, you want everything as fresh as possible to avoid those chicken bugs.

If you're introducing new chicks to your existing flock, you'll want to put them near the other chickens without touching – a fence is ideal. They can see each other and interact, but they won’t hurt one another. Be sure that your new chicks are the same size as your flock before removing the fence. When putting your new chicks with your flock there will be a pecking order to establish the alpha and omega. ­This is common and nothing to worry about. Just keep an eye on them.

Be sure to check out the City of Las Cruces ordinances so that you're aware of the responsibilities of raising chickens in the city limits. With a special permit, residents can raise up to six chickens or ducks within city limits. Roosters, drakes (male ducks) and geese are not included in the ordinance and are not permitted within city limits. The special permit fee is $15 annually with a $10 one-time application fee. If you're outside the city limits, please check your local ordinances.

Now that you know what you're in for, we'll be sharing some more specifics so that you can prepare your home and family for the new birds before they arrive on Chick Days!

How about a video! See you tomorrow.

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