Cuteness Overload: 10 Adorable Facts About Baby Chicks
Keeping chickens means an endless supply of fresh eggs ad meat for your table, along with some surplus you can use to generate income. There is no greater joy for a poultry keeper than expanding his/her flock or replacing the chickens that have aged and are no longer as beneficial.
This means breeding or buying chicks to add to your flock. Though the chicks are easy to care for, there are several questions you might have regarding their appearance and care. Below are a few facts that will answer most questions you might have about baby chicks.
1. Baby Chicks Are Born From Eggs
Unlike mammals whose young ones develop in their bodies, chicks are hatched from eggs laid by hens. The embryo development happens in the hen, where male and female gametes will fuse to make a zygote.
This zygote will then divide repeatedly before moving to the fallopian tubes to make an embryo. This embryo develops several protective layers to protect it.
The visible protective layer is the hard eggshell. After this, the hen lays a fertilized egg which she then sits on to generate enough warmth to support embryo development into chicks. In about 21 days, the chick will hatch from the egg by pecking its way out.
After hatching, the chick quickly grows and can even lay eggs at six months old.
2. Baby Chicks Are Born With Downy Feathers
When your chick hatches, it is covered with soft, fluffy, and tiny feathers known as down. Down feathers are meant to keep the chicks warm. In fact, they also keep humans warm, so they are often stuffed in coats and quilts. The warmth provided by down feathers protects the chicks if they stray from their mother’s side.
As the chick grows, the down feathers are replaced by contour feathers and flight feathers on their tails and wings. To aid in feather and bone development, feed your chicks on commercial chick starter feeds with not less than 18% protein.
This is because feathers are primarily made of a protein known as keratin. Mealworms are also healthy treats for feather development.
3. Baby Chicks Make a Lot of Noise
Irrespective of the chicken breed you choose, chicks will often make noise. This is usually nothing to worry about since they are communicating. Hens often purr or cluck quietly when sitting on their unhatched eggs to acclimate the chicks to their voices.
You might even hear the unhatched chicks peep back as they communicate with their mothers in the final stages of incubation.
Light, quiet trills or peeps from your hatched chicks are often signs of contentment. However, insistent strident noises might indicate something wrong, like a predator threat. On the other hand, a single high-pitched peep usually means the chick has been startled.
If your chicks are chirping excessively, ensure the temperature of their enclosure is just right, they have enough water and food, and they are not sick since these are the leading causes of the noise.
4. Baby Chicks Are Able To Eat Right after Hatching
You can feed your chicks right after they hatch, but they often do not need to eat or drink anything for about 48 hours.
This is because the yolk of their eggs has just been absorbed into their bodies and can sustain them for this time. This is why newly hatched chicks are sent from hatcheries without food or water in their crates.
For healthy development, your chicks should be fed on a properly balanced feed known as chick crumb or starter feed. If you give them adult feed, the high calcium content in it might lead to irreversible kidney damage in the chicks, and the low protein levels will be insufficient to support their explosive growth rates.
5. Baby Chicks Grow Very Quickly
Chicks grow quickly and will change almost daily. In the first few weeks, you will notice an increase in their droppings, and the feathers will grow faster. You might also notice the growth of combs. Some chicken breeds will grow faster than others.
For example, most broilers, meat chickens, will grow faster than layers and reach their adult sizes in about 100 days.
Ensure the chicks have enough space in their enclosures as their sizes increase. In the first four weeks, it is advisable to designate a half square foot per chick in the enclosure and then increase this to about three-quarters a square foot before transferring them to the chicken coop.
6. Baby Chicks Peck Each Other
One of the natural chicken behaviors that allow the birds to explore their surroundings is pecking. Chicks can also peck at each other to establish a pecking order in their flock.
However, the chicks might aggressively peck at their flock mates when they lack stimulation to keep them entertained or when they are sick, malnourished, infested with parasites, or stressed.
You can prevent aggressive pecking among your chicks by keeping them entertained with toys, giving them occasional treats, ensuring they are healthy, and giving them enough space.
7. Baby Chicks Are Very Social
Chickens are more socially advanced than most poultry keepers realize. Chicks can grow to become the best pets or simple livestock, depending on how you raise them.
If you want friendly social chickens, visit your chicks often and gently hold them so that they know you are not a threat. You can also softly speak to them during your interactions and crouch to their levels when interacting with them instead of towering over them.
Providing them with enough food and water also draws your chicks to you. Be patient with your chicks because it might take time for them to approach you, so don’t give up too soon.
8. Baby Chicks Need a Heat Source
Baby chicks are born with down feathers that will not trap enough heat to keep them warm. Thus, you need a heat source that will help them maintain a healthy body temperature until adult feathers grow.
The ideal temperature setting for a chick depends on its age. For instance, at a week old, the temperature should be about 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
In contrast, at two weeks old, the chick’s enclosure should have temperatures of approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 33 degrees Celsius.
You can use heat lamps, hot water bottles, heated pads, or thick beds to keep the chicks warm.
9. Baby Chicks Need A Balanced Diet
The diets of baby chicks should be more nutrient-dense than adult chickens. They should have proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, and grains. Proteins build the birds’ muscles and promote their bone integrity.
Grains like soybean meal, wheat, and corn are important sources of protein, oil, and vitamins needed for energy. Your chicks’ feed should deliver 90% of their nutrition, while the 10% can come from pasture. If you have vaccinated your chicks against coccidiosis, use an unmedicated starter feed since the medicated feed can cancel the vaccine’s effects.
Some nutrient-rich homemade foods you can include in a chick’s diet are worms, crickets, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, bananas, apples, grass, and watermelons. You can chop these into small pieces to make it easy for the chicks to eat but take time to know which parts are safe for them.
Pickles, onions, rhubarb, peanuts, eggplants, and chocolate should not be fed to your chicks because they have different toxins that can endanger them. Other than the food, give your chicks enough clean drinking water to keep them healthy.
10. Baby Chicks Like To Cuddle Together
Most people think that chickens are incapable of being affectionate. Nonetheless, they are quite capable of this, and chicks can cuddle, especially when in their coops. Other than as an expression of love, chicks can cuddle together to get a sense of protection or share warmth.
If you raise chicks from the time they hatch, they will slowly trust you. Like all pets, they will love being fused over and cuddled, depending on their personalities and socialization.
However, be extra vigilant when you find your chicks cuddling and making uncomfortable noises. This might mean they are cold and looking for ways to keep warm.
Moreover, if you want to cuddle your chicken, ensure it is disease-free. The CDC estimates that some percentage of salmonella cases in the U.S. are linked to close contact with chicks that might be disease vectors.
Falling in love, at first sight, sounds like a cliché from romantic movies until you see adorable newly hatched baby chicks.
Their light fuzzy bodies and chirping are exhilarating for anyone. Nonetheless, after getting mesmerized, it is time to take the right steps to guarantee the chicks have optimal care so that you get the highest benefits from them.
The above facts have hopefully answered most questions on baby chicks’ care and behaviors.
To guarantee you have the best experience raising chicks, get them from a reputable brooder. Some unscrupulous brooders can sell you sick chicks and those with genetic diseases that make their care expensive and laborious.
Before getting the chicks, have everything meant for their care, including brooders, feeders, beddings, feeds, and heaters, ready and in working order.