Backyard Chickens: Chick Care and Building a Coop


Chicken condo

In my last post, I talked about getting started with raising backyard chickens. I left off with the little ladies in the brooder box that I had made out of an old Dell computer box, so I'll pick up from that point.

One of the wonderful things about old boxes is that with the help of a little duct tape and some “outside the box” thinking, you can make just about anything you could need! In this case, as the girls got a little bigger and started needing a little more room, I basically just added an addition to their little home, and what I like to call the "chicken condo" was born. There was enough space with this little setup for the chicks to get old enough that they were nearly all feathered out, and I had enough time to build a better coop. Now I could hang their food and water on one half of the box and their light, which they still needed, on the other. The tower attachment allowed me to control the height and thus the intensity of the lighting that they got. 

Caring for Baby Chicks Indoors

You may have noticed that our chicks are still in the house at this point. That's because we ordered them online from IDEAL poultry in early February last year and received them on February 19th. We did this so that while the chicks were young and required additional heat and light anyway, we could keep them in the house and get some growing time on them while the winter was idling by outside. Typical hens won't start laying until sometime around 20 weeks and then will often taper off in egg production through the cold, low, light winter months. We wanted our hens to start "earning their keep" as soon as possible and doing this really helped. By the time the weather was nice, they were ready to go outside and be on their own.

But I digress. My point in explaining their living indoors was to make the greater point that smell and sanitation was very important to us since they were in close proximity. To control odor what I did was make a habit of lightly turning the coarse sawdust bedding every time I fed or watered them. This helped to keep any fresh manure under the bedding and the odors were able to absorb. Every couple of days, I also added a light covering of the sawdust with a layer of new bedding.  I could generally go 1.5 to 2 weeks this way before I had to pull out the bedding and replace it. I have no complaints about this method at all.

Remedying Pasting Up in Chicks

As I said in my previous post, raising chickens is not, in my opinion, the hardest thing in the world. There are, however, a few things that need to be watched for and treated immediately if found. One very common problem that young chickens have is called “pasting up”, and can kill them if you’re not careful in watching for it. What it is, is when the vent of the chicken — the technical term for the part of the chicken where the manure and the eggs come out — gets essentially clogged up with dried and hardened manure. Here’s a photo of what it looks like.

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