We’ve all been there, enticed to take a peek into the peeping bins and tubs of day old chicks at the feed stores. They are so irresistible and sweet. Watching them is so entertaining and fun. I could spend hours observing their antics and interactions. One of the toughest decisions that I usually have is how do I chose which ones to take home? Selecting chicks can sometimes be an overwhelming process. Picking the healthiest and strong chicks is not difficult if you know what to ask and what to look for.
Selecting Chicks : Sexed verses Straight Run
Inquire if the chicks were sexed. The average family does well with four to six chickens. Hens will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a rooster, so opt for all female chicks. If the weather is still cold outside, sometimes hatcheries will add extra chicks for warmth. Sometimes those chicks for warmth are males despite the order being placed for all sexed females. This information is helpful in your selecting process, especially because the males at this young age are indistinguishable from the females.
Are They Immunized?
Even organically raised chickens can be immunized according to the USDA. Find out what your flock has been immunized against, as this can be helpful in the future. If they were immunized for Coccidiosis, then be sure to feed them non-medicated chick feed.
The Most Active
At first glance, scan the entire brooder and watch for a couple of minutes. Which chicks seem spry, fast, and on the move? These are the ones that you want to include in your decision-making. Avoid any chicks that are sleeping, lethargic, have their heads hanging down or their tails and any that are poofed up. At that very moment you want chicks that are active. If you get a chance, observe if they are eating and drinking.
Hard to Nab
A chick that is hard to catch is a healthy one. In the beginning, their natural instinct should be fearful of humans. Once you finally scoop them up they should peep loudly and deliberately calling back to their brooder flock. Once covered in both of your hands, get in for a closer look.
Check the Peepers when Selecting Chicks
Examine their heads first. Their eyes should be clear and they should be able to make eye contact with you. Avoid chicks with eye drainage. Both eyes should be open and curious and bright! Look at the nostrils next and be sure there is no drainage or dried crust. Do you see the egg tooth on the tip? That will fall off in a couple of days
Next turn your attention to the chick’s vent. Make sure that the vent does not have caked poop on it. If it does, be sure to bring it to the attention of the shop owner and consider passing over this particular chicken. Although, once the caked on poop is removed, the chick’s bowels should normalize. Pasty butt can be a sign of stress, temperature fluctuation in the environment or poor quality of chicken feed.
Lastly, check out the feet. Be sure the toes are not curled or injured. Inspect the legs as well looking for any abnormalities. Sometimes these abnormalities are a condition of a sub-optimal hatching environment or even a nutritional deficiency of the their mother hen.
Selecting chicks is often the best part of bringing home some chicks. Just like an adoption, you get to choose them. By keeping in mind these few simple pointers, your flock will be off to a strong and healthy start.