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The first things we learned raising baby chicks

“Who has chickens for pets!?!?”

I excitedly said that to my daughter this weekend and she gave me a sheepish smile.

The truth is, lots of people have chickens as pets. But, none of her friends have them as pets and we didn’t know anyone with chickens before we moved here.

For us, chickens are new. The idea that chickens can be pets is new. The idea that we can love and be excited about poopy birds is new.

But here we are. We have chickens as pets.

What we learned raising baby chicks

It’s been three weeks now and we seem to have settled into life with chicks. Although, it’s hard to really settle in considering how quickly they change because we have to change with them.

Somehow our little, sweet, fluffy chicks already look like real birds. Time is literally flying and so are they…small distances anyways.

You can find out which baby chicks we decided on and why here, but I wanted to introduce our new babies too.

Raising Baby Chicks

Batman & Robin – Barred Plymouth Rocks

What we learned raising baby chicks

Sunny & Cher – Buff Orpingtons

Also, I realize it was “Sonny” and Cher but I liked that sunny would be yellow too.

What we learned raising baby chicks

Millie &  Dorothy – Snowy Easter Eggers

What we learned raising baby chicks

Mittens & Macy – Lavender Orpingtons

What we learned raising baby chicks

Rosabella & Violet – Blue/Black/Splash Orpingtons

What we learned raising baby chicksWhat we learned raising baby chicks

Sage & Primrose – Blue Easter Eggers

What we learned raising baby chicks What we learned raising baby chicks

It’s been a huge, positive learning experience for us so far and we’ve learned a few tidbits of chicken wisdom in the weeks since they because our new feathered friends and we started raising baby chicks.

They grow really fast.

I knew it was going to happen fast, but I really didn’t expect it to be a FEW DAYS fast. Their wing feathers were already starting to show on Day 2 and by the time we hit Day 4 they were starting to stretch their full wings. About half of them can fly now. The rest just need a little more room and perhaps a little more confidence. Right now, they are growing their tail feathers and additional feathers on their bodies.

They eat like crazy.

I had no idea they would eat so much. I knew that they would scratch and peck at bugs, but nothing prepared me for filling up their feeder multiple times per day. They basically turn into savages now whenever I put a fresh container of food in – despite their food being scattered throughout the brooder.

What we learned raising baby chicks

They all have their own personalities

I was surprised how quickly I could tell them apart by their actions. While I was able to tell them apart by their looks within a few days, I was also able to watch their funny, little personalities develop. Some of the them are brave and others meek. Some don’t mind being cuddled while others would prefer to only be near me (and the kids) if I have food. They seem to have groups of chicken friends they prefer and they’re already fighting over food that’s perceived to be more valuable. For instance, something that looks like a long stringy bug will send a few of them into a tizzy. Just wait until they’re outside and can dig for bugs…:)

What we learned raising baby chicks

They have been so good for the kids

I have to say, I’m so thrilled we did this for the kids. There have been moments that I doubted we did the right thing in moving here – like when we were on Snow Day 12 this winter – but seeing the kids interact with the birds has been one of the highlights of my life.

My son seems to have no fear of his new, feathered friends and loves on them fiercely. He literally hugs and loves on them and then afterwards I slather his cheeks with hand sanitizer.

What we learned raising baby chicks

My daughter was nervous at first but has become a pro at handling them. They both have developed a love for them and as they get bigger, I’ll have them help me with more chicken chores like feeding them and cleaning the coop. Right now, my husband is on the hook.

What we learned raising baby chicks

They get stinky fast.

The first two weeks we put them in the living room, and I didn’t mind it the first week. When Week 2 rolled around I noticed that I couldn’t breathe without smelling wood chips. First, I had Kevin move the wood chips downstairs and then we decided to move the chickens to the basement. I’m honestly a little sad that they’re in the basement now because they get a bit less attention. Although, my husband does work down there so they’ll have him for now.

They go to bed with the sun.

This is GLORIOUS! The first few nights Robin was afraid of the dark and would chirp whenever we would turn out the lights at night. It was sweet and a little sad too – like a puppy crying. The first few nights we left a light on and then I would gradually turn it away from the brooder so it would feel like the sun was going down. Now everyone seems to have settled in, and as long as we gradually turn the lights out still, they go to bed right after their dinner around 7 p.m. with no crying.

They get up with the sun.

I’m not totally surprised by this because the idea of roosters crowing at dawn is pretty standard. But, I am surprised by how their circadian rhythms work. It’s pretty remarkable to witness firsthand.

What we learned raising baby chicks

One takes their place at the top pretty fast

Since their second or third day, Batman has been head bird in the brooder. She will be the first to come out if you stick your hand in – oddly enough followed by Robin – and was the first to get to the top of the chick playground bar. The two of them grew the largest the fastest too. However, I’m not sure they will stay on top. Sunny seems to be getting pretty bold lately – much to my dismay – and pretty big too.

The poop of it all is real

I’ve read a lot about chicken poop because I’ve been excited about composting with it. I’ve also read about how hard it is and how it sticks to everything. It’s true. The chick playground I’ve referred to above is now covered in poop. Kevin said he bought Brillo pads and we are hoping they can actually help us scrub it off.

Also, we had a chick with Pasty Butt and Kevin has now become a pro at cleaning chicken vents. We had to do it two days in a row and after the first day we learned to do it at night so she and the other chickens would just go to sleep and let her feathers dry.

The first day her butt was still wet and so were the feathers around it. This made the other birds curious and they would peck at her. Luckily, the behavior didn’t seem to stick and once her feathers dried, they left her alone.

What we learned raising baby chicks

I haven’t killed any of them

I ordered 12 baby chicks because I was sure one of them would arrive dead or I would somehow kill a few within the first few days. So far, they all seem to be thriving and honestly, I’m shocked. Now that I write this, I know one of them is going to die. Knock on some wood for me, please!

I have favorites and non-favorites

I have some chickens I love already, some I’m so-so with and some that I won’t be too sad should they get eaten by a hawk. My favorites tend to be the ones that don’t want me to touch them and spaz out if I pick them up. This includes Rosabella, Sage and Violet. Batman, Robin, Mittens and Macy are now coming up to me for chest rubs so they are rising to the top too. Sunny and Primrose now seem to be biting me when I stick my hand in to pet them. They have fallen to the bottom of my list…and Prim is the one who had Pasty Butt.

What we learned raising baby chicks

I’ve been changing my plans for them

It’s amazing how quickly I feel a sense of responsibility for these birds and how quickly our family has become attached to these birds. For the first two weeks someone was always home with them, I have been feeding them organic food and each night I am putting a larger heater in their cage so they have more room to spread out and go to sleep (even though they tend to sleep lumped in groups). Now that we moved them to the basement – and away from our old dog – and placed wire over their brooder to keep the brave ones from flying out, we are more confident about leaving them. We are still trying to figure out the whole leaving-them-over-night thing. Until we do, at least one person is staying put here.

I’ll update you again on them soon with new pictures AND the coop is coming next week so I’ll make sure I capture all of it and give you a tour too!

To find out more about why we started this journey, click here.

What we learned raising baby chicks

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  1. Heather

    Their names are AMAZING! We want to get some chicks too and name them after the Golden Girls 🙂

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you! I love that idea! We at least have a Dorothy. 🙂

  2. Candy

    We have incubated and raised chickens for years. We don’t name them when they will be on the dinner table sooner or later

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Yeah our’s are pets and for the eggs only.

  3. Tasheena

    Your chilcks are so adorable. I wish I could have baby chicks. They look like they bring so much joy.

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you. We’ve been having fun with them.

  4. Brianne

    I think that would be fascinating for us and the kids to own some chickens; but, living in NYC, that’s not possible. I’ve learned so much about them just reading your post! I love reading your posts, from suburban life to owning a farm!

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you, Brianne. Are you sure you can’t have them? They’re so trendy in Chicago. Maybe in the neighborhoods outside of actual downtown. You live in the heart of the city though, right?

  5. Liz Mays

    Aww, what a rewarding learning experience. I’m glad the chickens are doing so well. I had no idea they grew up so quickly!

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you!

  6. Marcie W.

    As a city gal, I really loved this post and learned a lot. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of chicks, and all of yours are beyond adorable.

    • Rachel Quenzer

      I didn’t either when we started but they are just like dogs. A lot of different kids all breeding togehter…:)

  7. Amber Myers

    The chicks are precious! I wish I could have them, but our area says no. Boo. Maybe one day they’ll change their mind.

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you! Fingers crossed.

  8. Sarah Bailey

    Oh my goodness your chicks are absolutely adorable! I would love to have some to raise myself someday so this is really interesting to read!

  9. Stefani Tolson

    They are so adorable. One day I might have my own.

  10. GiGi Eats

    Okay, TOO stinkin’ cute!!!!!! I remember when our class raised a baby chick, hahaha! That’s my experience with baby chickens!

  11. Caroline

    Oh my goodness, they are ADORABLE! You’re totally making me want to raise baby chicks! It’s more work than I can manage for sure!

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Do it!

  12. Catalina

    How cute are these! Thank you for all this interesting information!

  13. They are so cute!! I really love their names, too!

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thank you so much!

  14. Marina

    They are super cute. Love that they have a name too x

  15. SO interesting about the different personalities and having favorites, I never would have guessed!!! We’ve pet and held some at local farms, they’re so adorable but they scare me, they seem so delicate and unpredictable haha!

  16. Chubskulit Rose

    We bought 6 chicks last Fall but had to eliminate the three of them after few months since they were males. The three hens are now laying eggs and we have been enjoying fresh eggs everyday. It’s very satisfactory to raise chicks!

    • Rachel Quenzer

      Thats great that they are laying!

  17. Jennifer

    I want to raise chickens but my husband has laid down the law and said NOPE! But it would be so awesome to have fresh eggs.

    • Rachel Quenzer

      My husband didn’t exactly agree…

  18. Dawn @ Our Food Fix

    OH my goodness, how adorable are they?! I have always wanted to raise chickens. Such an incredible experience for your family!

  19. Jennifer

    They Re so adorable. On of my youth students raises chickens and ducks and they are so fascinating!

  20. Ruth I

    Those are really adorable names! I really want to try raising chickens but we still do not have an extra place for it.

  21. Heather

    Such a great read! I remember raising chicks when I was young and it was so much fun!

  22. Marysa

    I have always wanted to have some chickens, but it is definitely a lot of work. We have friends who have chickens, so I hear a lot about it. It’s nice to expose kids to these kinds of experiences.

    • Rachel Quenzer

      The kids are having a lot of fun.

  23. Swathi

    These chicks are really cute. glad you are taking care of them. very nicely. I don’t know I can do that.

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