Getting Started: Common Chicken Questions

When you get your first baby chicks, you probably have a lot of questions. You're not alone. Here are three common questions asked by chicken-keepers.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: congerdesign/Pixabay

Over the past two months, we’ve covered an in-depth assortment of subjects geared to help the new chicken owner—and those thinking about keeping chickens—successfully prepare and raise baby chicks from brooder to coop.

Being the first-time owner of baby chicks once myself, I fully understand that the more you learn, the more questions you may have. Here are the answers for the three questions most commonly asked on my farm’s social media.

Why Do Some of My Chicks Have Really Long Legs?

Like baby humans, baby chicks can grow at different rates. This is especially true if your infant flock consists of different breeds or a mix of bantams and standards.

This being said, some chicks just seem to sprout stilts while their broodermates totter around on tiny toothpick legs.

A popular belief amongst poultry farmers is that long legs indicate a chick is a cockerel. I specifically remember my grandmother explaining this rule of thumb as we collected eggs from her hens when I was a little girl. Because of this, my husband and I separated out all the long-legged chicks in our brooder the first year we hatched our own.

Good thing nobody was interested in buying our “boys.” They became Flapjack, Buttercup and Goldie, three of the best Buff Orpington layers we’ve ever had. Sometimes long legs are simply that: long legs.

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Read more: Keep these tips in mind when setting up a brooder for your baby chicks.

When Will My Chicks Be Fully Feathered?

The key factor indicating your chicks’ readiness for life outside is their fully feathered state. Once your juveniles have replaced their baby fluff with actual feathers, they can handle the elements outdoors. Then they can move from their indoor brooder to their coop.

Many of us may miss observing the antics of our baby chicks at close range. But we may also be tired of the dust, noise and smell emanating from the brooder. (Especially as they intensify as our chicks grow older.)

Over the years, I’ve had more than a dozen new chicken owners beseechingly ask me when they could finally move their birds outside.

So, when are they fully feathered? It depends on the breed. But most will be fully feathered between five to 10 weeks.

Read more: Before moving day arrives, make sure your coop is ready for your pullets.

If I Want Eggs, When Should I Buy Chicks?

The arrival of spring each year is heralded by Chick Days at many feed shops and farm-supply stores around the country. It’s also when most hatcheries send out their catalogs and prepare for thousands of visitors to their web sites.

The timing of this annual chickcentric event is not coincidental. And it has nothing to do with how cute spring baby chicks are.

Pullets typically reach point-of-lay—when they lay their first egg—between 4 to 6 months of age. Pullets born (and bought) in March and April should reach point-of-lay by September and October. That’s just as daylight hours begin to shorten.

In order to have eggs the same year you purchase your chicks, make sure you buy your babies as early as possible come spring.

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