So often, someone will contact me wanting to buy very young chicks and either admitting (or poorly attempting to hide) that they know little to nothing about chickens.
This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Granted, I’ve had a couple of terrible outcomes where someone actually APPEARED to know the basics of chicken keeping and got chicks from me, only to let them die through improper care.
These days, I ask questions.
Where will you be keeping them?
Do you have a coop?
What’s your plan for getting a coop?
Do you realize that the coops you can buy outright are only suitable for chickens overnight and that they will need to free range over the day?
Do you have a plan for unwanted roosters?
Sometimes the questions are minor traps to gauge how prepared the person is. I’m not sorry.
What are you planning to feed them?
Food scraps/whatever is in the fridge/dog food/cat food/canned corn/”mixed grain”/vegetable peelings
Not one of these is suitable or healthy. Most of them will probably result in the death of the chicks. Chicks need their food in very small pieces, high in protein, and medicated with an anti-coccidial, as very young chicks are highly susceptible to coccidiosis. Also – mixed grain is not a well-defined thing. Mixed grain what? Bread? Tortillas? A bag of mixed grain? What mix? In what percentages? You know what? Fuck it, doesn’t matter. Mixed grains are not suitable for chicks.
How long are you going to keep them under heat?
Chickens need heat? LOL, they’re outdoor animals.
Chicks need to be kept under a heat lamp until they’re fully feathered – though if you know what you’re doing this is a little flexible. For example, I have a group of 5 week old chicks on my front porch without heat – but who sleep in a well-insulated nesting box. It’s spring. They’re fully feathered enough and have one another to keep warm. At this age, if broody raised, they’d be in the coop without heat under similar circumstances. What’s important here is that their needs are being looked after. And I know their needs.
And people get mad. How dare I ensure that the people receiving my birds will care for them so they don’t drop dead?! Most of them simply go from very keen to suddenly very silent when it becomes apparent that I’m asking for details about their care. Some of them get patronizing – they are very smart and can figure it out.
I hate to tell y’all this – but I am very smart and usually pick things up very quickly. It took me YEARS to figure most of this out.
That’s fine. Personally, I believe that as someone breeding animals and releasing them into the care of strangers – I have a duty to at least make a basic attempt at learning what sort of home those animals are going to. You would expect no less from a dog breeder.
But chickens are livestock, not pets.
If you believe that the animals you eat deserve less care, less attention, and less consideration than your pets – don’t have livestock. You are not the kind of person I want in possession of my animals. That shit is literally one of my house rules. That all of our animals deserve space, dignitity, kindness, and love – especially the ones which we eat.
At best, poor care of your livestock will result in poor yields for you. Worse? Unhealthy livestock yields unhealthy animal products. Dirty eggs from improperly cleaned coops harbour E. coli and salmonella bacteria. Washing dirty eggs actually makes this more likely – but if you didn’t educate yourself, you wouldn’t know that. Handling livestock infected with Staphylococcus Aureus or eating infected birds without proper cooking can lead to infection in the human. There is also some emerging evidence that eating stressed-out animals with high cortisol levels at the moment of death may result in elevated cortisol (stress hormone) in humans and may be leading to an overall increased incidence of anxiety/depression in humans. We’re pretty sure about a few things so far. 1. Animals which led stressed lives in improper conditions have elevated cortisol levels at death. 2. Animals which are improperly slaughtered (without stunning) experience a spike in cortisol during death. 3. Pregnant women who eat meat experience elevated cortisol and stress levels. 4. Fetuses exposed to elevated stress levels during pregnancy can experience lifelong hypersecretion of corstisol – resulting in lifelong problems with anxiety and depression.
I’m not an actual, trained scientist (yet), and those 4 points may well not be as linked as they appear to be. But there is enough of a link between them, and enough evidence supporting a link between them – to drive me to treat my animals as well as I possibly can.
Everyone knows chickens are simple.
See – what you actually mean when you say that – intentionally or not – is “chickens are disposable”. Chickens are far from simple, but a lot of people would like to believe that they are. Mostly because they’re an animal we eat. We don’t like to think of animals we eat as having complex social structures, strict dietary requirements, being prone to disease, requiring veterinary care, or needing a cuddle now and then to be properly socialised. Chickens are complicated and caring for them properly takes a lot of hard work, time, dedication, and learning. You need to be prepared for that burden.
I thought chickens would be educational for my kids.
They sure will. But this is not a good reason to take on little feathery lives to care for. I can point you at some great documentaries about chickens. Live animals are a huge responsibility, not a science experiment for your preschoolers. If you are just starting out with keeping chickens, you should seriously consider starting with adult birds.
It’s frustrating when as a person selling chicken eggs or chicks, fully 75% of responses you get are gloriously ignorant, asking unreasonable things from you, or are after something completely different than what you have – like the people responding to my ad for 2 week old unsexed crossbreed chicks with, “What kind of ducks do you have?”, “Do you have any Belgian D’Uccles?”, “I’ll take 6 hens please.”, “Are these male or female?” “I can put these with my hens straight away, right?”
Some would say for the ignorant – well this is a good opportunity to educate them. Here’s the thing. My job is to look after chickens – it’s a job that takes up A LOT of my time. A LOT. Educating people on chickens, free of charge, is not my job. It is your responsibility to figure out what you need to care for an animal – and to have that set up, before even looking for that animal to purchase.
Someday I hope to offer courses in the basics of chicken keeping/healthcare/feed/housing, etc which I will charge for. Then it will be my job to educate people. Until then, please don’t get angry at me when all I’m doing is asking basic questions of you in order to ensure that you are well prepared for the tiny little lives that you are taking on.
It’s part of what makes me a responsible breeder.