Our Baby Chicks: The First Four Weeks

So you've met our duck ducks, Caesar and Cleopatra (who I recently renamed Shelia and The Dude - not sure why - perhaps wine was involved?). They are nearly two months old now and ornery as can be. We got them the same time (and roughly the same age) as our four little baby chicks ("baby chicks" - that's redundant, isn't it?) who, for the first week or so, lived in a cardboard box in our bathroom. We lined the box with shredded paper, then found a hanging garage light in one of our storage boxes and laid that on top of their brooding box to keep them warm. Worked out well, so if you're thinking you need to go out and buy a 'real' brooder box and a heat lamp, you don't. We used what we had on hand and they survived just fine. Just make sure you turn the light off when you aren't at home and keep them in a draft-free place - which for us, was the bathroom. They really weren't much trouble at all. In fact, compared to the ducklings, these babes were a cakewalk.

After their first few weeks, we moved them into this purple rabbit cage we had left over from our rabbit days. I almost took this to the resale shop; so thankful I didn't because it was very handy for transitioning first the ducklings, then the baby chicks, to the great outdoors, during several different stages. So, if you're thinking of raising a few baby chicks and you see an old rabbit cage on sale somewhere or at a garage sale, grab it!

The ducks only lasted a week in this cage before they outgrew it, but the baby chicks stayed in it, in our bathroom, for 3-4 weeks.

This is our favorite, Lily. She will happily hop into your hand and has a very sweet disposition. She's a golden-laced Wyandotte, and will eventually lay brown eggs.

This is Daisy (and Lily in the background). She's an Amerucana, which means she will lay Easter eggs (green, blue, etc).

Another pic of Lily. Just love her.

And this goofball is Sally. She's a bit bigger than the others, but we were told they all are the same age (in this pic, about 2 weeks). We've had them all since they were only a few days old. Sally is also a golden-laced Wyandotte. She's curious and sweet.

The other black chick is Roxy, also an Amerucana. So, in this pic we have Sally, Lily, Roxy and Daisy. The Amerucana's are perfectly nice chicks (or, ahem, bitties, as my mother likes to call them), but they are definitely a bit more aggressive than the Wyandottes. They hold their own, to be sure.

At around four weeks we moved the babies outside into the rabbit hutch. They had plenty of room to run around, we laid branches inside to serve as roosting posts, and replaced their shredded paper with hay (straw). Within just a few days of moving them outside, they started getting their feathers.

Sally's pretty feathers starting to show, too.

mmmmm...watermelon! Nom nom nom

After four weeks all the babies were ready to be free of their cage and greet the real world. We transitioned them first by using the top part of the purple rabbit cage as their outdoor pen, to let them scratch and dust-bathe, but still be safe from the older hens, the ducks, the cat! and any other predator that might want baby chicks for dinner. They safely played outside that way for another week, then they were moved into a dog run type of pen that we topped with chicken wire. This gave them lots of room to fly and scratch and sleep and roost, but still kept them safe from predators during the day. At night we used the same rabbit cage top (from the purple cage) and placed them inside that cage, inside the big chicken coop, so they could get better acquainted with the idea of sleeping with the older hens in the same coop (and still be safe from random pecking and predators).

At six weeks, we could tell they were ready for the real world, so we let them loose to see if they could hold their own in the big ol backyard. They had a rough first day but managed to survive just fine. Go Little Bitties!

We've had much fun watching these babes grow up, and are very excited to see what beautiful hens they become. Every day I look out the window and see these four gals scurrying around the yard chasing down everything that moves, bathing in the dirt, and enjoying just being chicks. It makes me smile. It's a good place.

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