Backyard chicken newbie? Welcome to the flock! We can't wait for you to experience our Smart Coop in your backyard - with a side of the freshest eggs imaginable. If you're not sure what the next few weeks look like for a new chicken person - we're here to help.
Chapter 1: Breeds, hatcheries, baby chicks and all that jazz
Selecting the best egg-laying chicken breeds
The first step in getting started with raising chickens is to choose the right breeds for egg production and your lifestyle. Unsure about your ideal chicken breed? We created a short and sweet quiz to help you figure out which breeds are right for you. Find your feathery match here.
Just looking for a list of the OG egg-layers? Here are our top picks for consistent hens:
1. White Silkie Bantam: Known for their fluffy appearance, Silkies might look like they're all about style. But don't be fooled — they're consistent layers too.
2. Buff Orpington: This breed is not just a fan favorite because of their golden, fluffy feathers. They lay solidly and have a docile nature.
3. Blue/Black/Splash Cochin : Their feathered feet and gentle disposition make them a unique addition. Plus, they lay steadily.
4. Buff Laced Polish: With their distinct 'hairstyle', Polish chickens are quite the sight. They're also reliable layers.
5. Speckled Sussex: Noted for their beautiful speckled plumage, Sussex are also known to lay well and adapt easily to various conditions.
6. Lavender Ameraucana: While they're on the pricier side, these chickens are worth every penny. They lay beautiful blue eggs and do so consistently.
7. Buff Brahma : A heavier breed, Brahmas are not just calm and friendly but are also dependable layers.
8. Golden Laced Wyandotte: Their intricate laced feather pattern is a sight to behold, and they complement their looks with consistent egg-laying.
9. Buckeye: A true American breed, Buckeyes are known for their rich, mahogany color and their steady laying habits.
10. Black Copper Marans: If you're after dark chocolate-colored eggs, look no further. Marans are renowned for their unique egg color and are steadfast layers.
Selecting a hatchery
The next step is to find a reputable hatchery to purchase your baby chicks from. Look for a hatchery that has a good reputation, and that provides high-quality chicks. Some hatcheries may specialize in certain breeds, so you may need to do some research to find the hatchery that best meets your needs.
Reviews and recommendations: Look for reviews of the hatchery online, including on social media platforms and poultry forums. Recommendations from friends or other chicken keepers can also be helpful.
Customer service: A reputable hatchery should have good customer service and be responsive to inquiries and concerns.
Health guarantees: Look for a hatchery that offers a health guarantee for their chicks. This can give you peace of mind knowing that you can get a replacement or refund if the chicks are not healthy.
Shipping practices: If the hatchery ships their chicks, make sure they have proper shipping practices in place to ensure the safety and health of the chicks during transit.
Getting your baby chicks and setting up an at-home brooder
The excitement of welcoming baby chicks to your home is unparalleled. But, as with any new addition to the family, preparation is key. Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure that you're chick-ready.
1. Setting Up Their First Home: The Brooder
What's a Brooder? Imagine a cozy, warm space, akin to a chick nursery. That’s your brooder!
Types & Choices: From large plastic tote boxes to cardboard boxes, the options are aplenty. For the initial week, a smaller setup works well. Ideally, having them in one location for their growth period is wonderful. Space is crucial – crowded chicks tend to pester each other.
2. Warm and Toasty: Heat Source
Safety First with Electric Hens: Think of them as warm mother hens! These heat plates offer consistent warmth, are adjustable, and energy-efficient. They're also exceptionally safe
Old-School Red Heat Lamps: They're popular and affordable. However, they come with a caution label – they're potential fire hazards. Ensure they’re doubly fastened. Monitor the brooder's temperature:
🐤 Chicks huddled under? Too cold.
🐤 Chicks scattered far? Too warm.
🐤 Chicks exploring around? Just right!
3. Meal and Hydration Time: Feeder and Waterer
The Perfect Pair: While often sold together and fairly affordable, ensure they’re suited for your chick numbers. More than 10 chicks? You'll need an extra set.
Feeder 101: Chicks, with all their charm, can be messy eaters. Dedicated feeders can help minimize this chaos. For water, ensure it’s shallow to prevent any accidental chick dunks. Too deep? Add clean marbles or pebbles to restrict access to deeper areas.
Comfort Underfoot: Bedding, Pine Shavings: Cost-effective, pleasant-smelling, and easy to use. A word of caution: steer clear of cedar shavings – they can cause respiratory distress in chicks. For those using slippery containers, line the base with paper towels. This simple step can prevent potential leg injuries.
5. The Right Diet: Feed
Crucial for Growth: Baby chicks require a specific diet to thrive. Many opt for the 20% starter/grower blend, feeding it from day one until the chicks hit 16 weeks. (We love it, too.)
Caring for baby chicks
Once the brooder is set up, it's important to provide proper care for your chicks. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
Check on your chicks frequently to make sure they have access to food, water, and a comfortable temperature.
Clean the brooder regularly to prevent the build-up of waste and bacteria.
Observe your chicks for any signs of illness or injury, such as lethargy or abnormal behavior.
Provide plenty of space for your chicks to move around and exercise.
Transitioning to the Smart Coop
When your chicks are around 6-8 weeks old and fully feathered, they are ready to be transitioned to the Smart Coop. Here are some tips for making the transition:
Introduce your chicks to their new Coop gradually if you have existing full-grown Hens.
Monitor your chicks closely via the Smart Coop Cams for the first few days in the new coop to make sure they are adapting well.