Our chicks are now five weeks old, and are basically smaller versions of chickens. They have finally moved out of our bathroom into the garage, and I think we are all happier for it (especially Chewy, who was having such anxiety about exactly WHY she was not allowed to eat the chicks, when they were right there in her territory.) Of the seven chicks we bought, six survived, thrived, and seem happy as little birds can be. Here’s what we looked for to make sure the chicks were as healthy as possible when we bought them.
1. Clear Eyes
It’s important to make sure the chicks eyes are clear, not at all opaque or cloudy. They should look curious and alert, not sleepy or disinterested.
2. Clean, bug free feathers
It’s also important to make sure their feathers are clear of mites and lice, and look to be in generally good condition. This particularly applies to chicks younger than two weeks, as once they hit the two week mark, they start getting their adult feathers and look a little bedraggled.
3. A clear vent (butt).
Yet another important trait to look for is a clear vent (rear end) that has no fecal matter blocking it, and again, no small bugs of any sort. Pasty butt usually has to do with being exposed to environmental triggers such as too hot or too cold a temperature, and can signify stressed out chicks.
4. Chicks who are active, curious and annoying.
While it can take a day or so for the chicks to settle fully in to their new home, when they do, they should be interested in their surroundings, their food and water. If using a heat lamp, they should be scattered around the brooder, not huddled under or away from the source of heat. If using a heater, they should be in and out from under it, getting food and playing around and returning under it to rest and sleep. It is quite normal for them to lie down for a while, even on their sides (scary the first time you see it) but they should also hop up when prodded.
Of course, none of these are guarantees for survivors – we checked and observed each chick carefully, and still lost one after two days to unknown causes. However, especially if picking up your chicks from a feed store, these qualities give you a fighting chance for healthy and thriving chicks who will contribute to your homestead.Google+