If, by chance, you have wandered into Tractor Supply within the past week or so, you likely have heard the peeps of baby birds echoing throughout the store. It’s that time of year again! Baby chickens, ducks and turkeys are now readily available for purchase. The idea of raising baby birds may seem
daunting for a novice, but luckily raising your own free-ranging backyard flock is really simple and very rewarding. With some upfront costs and preparation, you will be enjoying fresh, delicious eggs in no time!
Before bringing your new baby birds home, you will, of course, need to make sure they have a place to live. For the first few weeks, they can be housed in a large plastic storage container or any other large bin. Simply fill your container with wood chips or shredded paper and use small dishes or poultry feeders to provide food and water. According to the experienced associates at the Warsaw Tractor Supply, you will need to purchase chick starter feed for your babies and eventually transition to an adult feed. As they grow, so do their appetites so it is important to provide plenty of food and water. Poultry-specific feeders are ideal and can be purchased cheaply locally or online. If you are raising ducks, you will need to provide a source of water that they can dip their full beak into. Kiddie pools work well, and your ducks will enjoy swimming and splashing.
BackyardPoultry.com recommends all baby birds be kept under a warming lamp until they are at least 6 weeks old. Warming bulbs can be purchased at farm supply stores and can be inserted into standard shop lights available at any hardware store. PLEASE NOTE, if your birds are not in a temperature-controlled environment, take special care to make sure they stay comfortably warm. Cold mornings can quickly turn into warm afternoons and it is important that they don’t get overheated.
Once your birds outgrow their containers, you will need to transfer them to a larger outdoor coop. Coops come in an assortment of sizes and configurations to fit a range of needs. They can be purchased at many farm supply stores or from individual builders. Coop prices can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. If you are looking for a more cost-effective solution, you can check your local classified ads or online marketplaces for secondhand coops. Often you can find them for much cheaper or even for free.
To ensure safety for your flock, there are several ways you can fortify your coop against predators. If you have a small or lightweight coop, it is recommended that you stake it to the ground so that it cannot easily be tipped over. Another solution is to secure a section of chicken wire to the ground under your coop. This prevents predators from digging under the edge of your coop. Electric netting is also a great safety upgrade that can be set up around your coop. Your chickens will need to be confined to their new coop for a week or two so they can get acclimated and establish their new home. Once they are settled, you can allow them to free range during the day. Ideally you would release them from the coop at dawn and feed them in their coop at dusk. If you maintain a consistent feeding schedule they will happily return to their coop in the evening.
Aside from basic feeding, watering, and securing your birds at night, they are fairly low maintenance pets. As long as your flock stays happy and healthy, they should begin laying eggs at around 6 months old. Farm and Home Supply in Kilmarnock and Tractor Supply in Warsaw carry the products you will need to get started and are always happy to offer friendly and helpful advice. https://www.almanac.com/ also offers some great resources for getting started.