7 Baby Chick Care Mistakes to Avoid September 2, 2020

As you begin your chick raising journey, you’ll be faced with a variety of common challenges and mistakes when it comes to baby chick care. A few of those challenges begin the moment you hit that lovely purchase button and submit your order. Even the most expert among us make mistakes sometimes (yes, that should make you feel better). The good news however is that those same mistakes can easily be avoided with preparation and a little forethought.

three baby chicks
Avoid baby chick care mistakes by being prepared!

Chick care… the beginning

Let me start at the very beginning… You’re a first-time chicken owner and have finally found the chicks you’ve always wanted and watched for, ever so faithfully. You quickly sneak them into your shopping basket and quite happily place your order. With a look of triumph, you march back to whatever it is you were doing before you began stalking our website… But then you suddenly realize you had been so focused on getting the chicks, you forgot one tiny detail… You haven’t planned for when they arrive. So what do you do?

If it’s any comfort at all, many new chicken owners have that same moment. It’s the moment when we get so far ahead of ourselves, we forget to plan the little things. Us humans tend to do that when we get really excited and absorbed in things. We miss the little details, the important and overlooked things.

As a customer service representative, I have helped many new chick owners and I’ve seen the same baby chick care mistakes repeated. They are not large mistakes, but they are mistakes that could be easily avoided in the future.

Wondering what exactly those are yet? I won’t keep you in suspense for too long, let’s roll right into it then!

1. Forgetting to purchase the brooder and coop BEFORE ordering chicks.

This is actually very common among new chick owners. Why? Because excitement rules! Tunnel vision takes over and we simply overlook the preparation phase of this. What happens is we order the chicks first and then realize we need a brooder… We quickly order the brooder and cross our fingers it arrives before the chicks. The downfall with that method is that now the brooder could arrive after the chicks. This also means your fluff balls will have no place to go until the brooder finally arrives.

baby chick care showing two chicks in a brooder with food and water
Don’t forget to set up the brooder BEFORE the chicks arrive.

Coops can be the exact same situation. Most coops could take a few months to arrive and boom, before you know it your chicks are ready to move out of the brooder.

By planning ahead, you can start your baby chick care off on the right foot and you eliminate the stress that comes with last-minute planning. Simply purchase your brooder and coop before you order the chicks you want and you’re off to a great start.

You’re also going to want to make sure the brooder is set up well before your little chickies arrive! That way, your chicks arrive at a warm and ready-made home.

2. Using the wrong bedding.

Now you’ve gotten your brooder set up and you’re researching the best and safest bedding option for your little ones. At MPC we recommend pine, aspen, or hardwood shavings. The most important bedding to stay away from is cedar shavings. The downfall is cedar shavings have an oil on them that is very harmful to their respiratory systems and can lead to illness (which none of us want!). Large Pine shavings are a much better option and work really great as bedding. The set up gets even better when you add paper towels on top to prevent the chicks from eating the bedding or slipping and getting splay leg (also something you don’t want).

baby care showing a chick on pine shavings
Pine shavings are a good bedding for the chick brooder.

3. Insufficient heat source.

Alright, you’ve gotten your brooder all set up, your bedding is in place, and you’ve turned your baby chick care focus to how you’re going to keep your precious fluff balls warm. The caregiver instinct may be to use a red heat lamp because why not, right? No go, don’t do that. Heat lamps are very similar to the weather, unpredictable. Plus, those things are a major fire hazard and that makes them very unappealing to use. Spare yourself a headache and get a heating plate or hanging heater instead. Not only will your chicks thank you for it, but it’ll also save you money in the long run. By not using a heat lamp, you’ll no longer have to purchase light bulbs for a fire hazard of a heat source.

baby chick care showing chicks keeping warm under a heating plate
Heating plates are a safe option for keeping chicks warm.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that chicks need a steady and constant temperature of 90-95 degrees for the first couple of weeks. A temperature-controlled garage or building is not sufficient in providing that warmth. Just keep that information in mind as you plan out your heat source.

4. Does shipping and delivery mean the same thing?

I have received this question many times from customers and the confusion is understandable. When you first placed your chick order, you got to choose a “preferred shipping date”. At first glance, you’d assume the shipping day is also when your chicks will arrive. Well, you’d be half right then. What that really means is that your chicks will ship on that date and then will arrive 1-3 days later. We can work some awesome magic at My Pet Chicken, but transporting chicks to everywhere within the U.S in the same day, sadly isn’t one of them.

baby chick peaking out of a delivery box ready to be cared for
Just arriving home!

5. Tracking “stalls” and you assume chicks are sent straight to your house.

Your chicks have now shipped and are on their way, woohoo! You get your tracking email with the handy dandy tracking link and you’re now super excited. Sitting at your laptop, you stare at that little transit bar for hours, but it doesn’t move…. Worry starts to seep in, wondering if your little ones are stuck somewhere in the heat or cold. Concerned about their safety, you decide to reach out to us for help. Before you have a panic attack, let me explain why this happens.

Tracking is very handy to get an estimated delivery date and time. The downfall is that the carriers are transporting lots of chicks, ducklings, goslings, etc. Meaning, they don’t always scan each and every package at each stop, resulting in that little bar never moving for hours or even days. The good news is that it’s completely normal and okay! The tracking will update the next time the package is scanned and in the meantime, your chicks will continue to travel as normal.

Do the chicks get delivered or do I pick them up?

Great, you now know why the tracking was stalled! Pondering further, you start to wonder if the chicks will be delivered to you or to your post office. Instead of assuming and getting it wrong, you decide to reach out to us for more help (we love you, so totally okay)!

This is where things get really cool. Some post offices do have the power to deliver to straight your house like a chariot carrying precious cargo. The sad part is that not all post offices have that ability and they may require you to pick your chicks up. The best way to find out what your local post office does is to give them a call and ask. They’ll be able to explain their policy on live animals and you’ll get peace of mind in return… Or at least a little because let’s be honest, waiting on chicks is very exciting and a bit tense!

6. Fixing “Hot head” chicks

One of the best things about cute little chicks is that they all have their own adorable little personalities… The fun part begins when you get a “hot head”. The hot heads or “aggressive” chicks tend to peck at the others and chase them down mercilessly. This can raise some concern because they could potentially hurt the others and you want to prevent that. A quick note on chicks, they like to admire themselves in the mirror (weird, right?).

chicks having a conversation to determine who the boss of the flock is.
Some chicks are naturally more bossy than others

Fixing that situation can be pretty simple. The hot head chick simply needs a distraction, giving them something to do other than attacking their helpless flockmates. A fantastic distraction is a mirror because like I said, chicks can be slightly prideful in that aspect. Another great distraction is going to bring out your artsy side… You get to draw something creative and very colorful on the inside of their brooder. Chicks like to peck anything and everything shiny or colorful, so they will be super happy to peck at your art for hours on end. The best part of drawing for them, is they won’t judge your art skills! Another way to keep your young flock busy is to provide them a chick jungle gym. This will provide them and you with endless entertainment as they learn to jump and fly.

7. Integrating and moving to the outside world

Sadly, chicks don’t stay chicks forever… Which means you’re going to have to put them in the coop at some point. Yes, you’re going to have to cut the apron strings, difficult as that may be. Once the chicks feather out and begin to get more bold, they can become quite the escape artists. While it may have been cute when they were chicks, it’s not so cute when your chickens start to run around the house making a mess. At this point, you may already be really willing to move them out to a coop because of just that. Either way, the culture shock can be a bit much for some chicks (depending on how much they’re spoiled). Lucky for you, there’s a fairly easy way to make that transition without causing too much of a fuss.

baby chick care showing chicks outdoors on grass for the first time
The chicks first trip outside.

The chicks are now teenagers and can become super moody (sound familiar?). Chances are, they probably won’t like the fact that you are kicking them out of the nest. You’re going to want to take them to their coop and just kind of show them around. They may be really reluctant to even go into the coop on their own, so you might have to physically put them in for the first couple of nights. It’s going to take some effort, but it’ll eventually click that they aren’t going back into the brooder. Repetition works best and is really awesome for this. Just do this cycle over and over again and before you know it, you won’t have to do anything. Before long, your chickens will go in and out of the coop on their own and will forget you even cuddled them as chicks at one point…

The good news is now you get your house back!

Raising chicks is a rewarding experience.

Raising chicks is such an awesome and rewarding experience. It’s very much worth the time and effort it takes to care for them along the way. Hopefully, these baby chick care tips and tricks on how to avoid common mistakes will aid in making that journey as stress and worry-free as possible. This is supposed to be fun, we aim to keep it that way!

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