Raising Baby Chicks, Chicago Style

May 06, 2013 Last month, (April) my son’s class setup an incubator in the class. They were learning about the eggs, life cycle of eggs and chickens. The eggs hatched on April 29th, as my son dutifully informed me. He was very excited. Few fays later, we got a notification letter asking for parents’ permission to hold the chicks. He held the chicks. That Friday, on May 3rd my son told me that, he heard his teacher talking to another student (maybe she was talking to everyone), that students could get a chick if they brought a shoe box to school. I didn’t really take him seriously at the time. When we went to home depot, he adamantly wanted to get a clamp lamp, heating bulb and a box to be ready for the chick. I told him, we’ll wait until we get a notification letter from the school, like the permission letter, to make sure we’re not spending money for nothing.
May 06, 2013 Come Monday morning, my son went to my closet and took a pair of shoe out of its box and went to school with the box. In the afternoon, he came back with a chirping shoe box and a huge grin. At that moment, on Monday 5, 2013, we became unexpected owners of a chick .

Luckily, this time, there was a notification letter along with an explanation of how to take care of the baby chicks. Since we had no setup ready, we drove around the city to find the proper chick feed, bedding, clamp and heat bulb to keep the chick warm and other stuff. I went to two pet stores, Petsmart and Petco, but came out empty handed. I found the “Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts” website on my cell and finally found an open store, “Belmont Feed & Seed” that sells starter chick feed, waterer, feeder, pine shavings for bedding etc. Actually, my son told later me the other family he saw at the check-out was a classmate of his. While we were there, we got a friend for my son’s chick and my daughter.

When we came home I setup a brooder using a big old cardboard box we had at home, raised and taped the lids, laid the shavings for bedding, filled their waterer and feeder. I put the clamp lamp and the heating bulb to keep the chicks warm as per the instructions on the “manual”.
May 13, 2013 Meet “Fluffy“, my sons’ chick, and “Yellow“, my daughter’s chick”. They call them their brother and sister. They have been asking for a brother and sister. I think I got out of this one pretty easy. :)

First night passed by like a parent of a newborn. Their light was on the keep them warm and they were chirping very loudly. “Yellow”, the darker one, which we got from the store was a little bit older and it immediately figured out how to get on the waterer’s top and get out of the box. So I clipped an old “window sheer fabric” on top of the box to keep them in.
May 15, 2013 10 days later, the weather got warm and we decided to take them out to the back yard. For few days, they always kept by us or their box and never roamed around.
May 15, 2013 Oh! Hello there. Look, we’re getting bigger. They really like each others company. They literally cry-chirp when we separate them.
May 16, 2013 Once they get used to being in the yard, they gained confidence to roam around.
May 24, 2013 Even though the backyard is fenced, we didn’t want to leave it to chance and setup an old gate/play yard from the kids as a chicken run. Talk about repurposing.
May 24, 2013 They are about a month old today and they’ve grown considerably. They spend their days outside in the makeshift chicken run and sleep in their box in the house at night. They can fly jump pretty high but keep themselves busy within the gate. Yellow has a long tail and big wings.
May 24, 2013 Fluffy is smaller, and has a growing comb and wattles. On the other hand, its tail and wings are not as feathery as Yellow. Something tells me that Fluffy is a male.

When we are in the backyard, we let them out and about. They walk and peck around together. They never ever separate. They became a spectacle for the neighborhood kids as well. Everyone flocks to our backyard after school to pet them. They are still handful right now but will be harder to handle within few weeks. It’s already hard to catch hem to put them in their gate or box.

What’s next is to figure out the gender of these chicks. Raising hens for eggs is allowed in Chicago. Legally, roosters are allowed as well but because of the noise issues (and I am not only talking about bothering neighbors but I personally don’t want to be woken up by a rooster at sunset either) We’re planning to donate it to a farm. I’ve read many articles on determining the gender of a baby chick but either an expert needs to do it, or we need to wait until 4 months.

I was planning to make a decision on getting a coop once we figure out whether our chicks are going to be hen(s) or rooster(s). After a month with the chicks, I feel like we’ll setup a coop no-matter what and if anyone turns out to be a rooster, we’ll get a hen instead and keep them both. “Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts” website is very informative on coop options for standard Chicago city lot. It looks like our Memorial Day weekend will be dedicated to making plans for a coop.

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