How to Raise Healthy (and Happy) Chicks: Part 5 Unboxing your Chicks


Welcome back to our final segment in this article series.  If you’re starting here and would like more information on food and water, bedding, heating, and brooders check out parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this article series.  In this article, I will cover some basic tips and pointers on a few things you can do as you unbox your chicks to ensure that you’re on your way to successfully raising healthy, happy chicks! This will be a slightly shorter article, so let’s jump right on in, shall we?

Unboxing Your Chicks

Ohhh the excitement that that chirping box instills in us.  We just can’t wait to get home and look at and touch the oh-so-cute fluffballs.  Whether you receive your chicks via mail order or purchase them from a store, there are a couple of things I would suggest doing when you unbox them.

The first thing you should do as you as you remove each chick from their box, is examine them from head to toe.  One of the most important areas to examine is the cloaca, or vent, to ensure your chick doesn’t have pasty butt (be sure you are checking the vent and not the belly button as removing the scab from the belly button will often result in disembowelment).  If your chick does in fact have pasty butt, simply use a damp cloth or a damp Q-Tip and, very gently, dab until all the feces have been removed (this will require patience).  Once you have the chick cleaned up, it is important to dry him/her before placing them with their flock mates, as chicks will naturally peck at wet fluff/feathers.  You can use a towel, or a hair dryer on the lowest setting, making sure the hair dryer is far enough away that you do not overheat and burn your chick.  Once dry, place a small amount of petroleum jelly on and around the vent to help prevent pasting over again.  It is important to note, that even with petroleum jelly, pasty butt can reoccur, so it is important to keep checking several times a day for several weeks.

As you set your chicks into the brooder, gently dip the tip of their beaks into their water so they know what and where it is, and then place them close to their heat source.  The last thing I will suggest is to introduce your chicks to food, as this may be their first meal in their life.  This is especially true with mail-order chicks as they are typically mailed out the day they hatch and can take up to three days to arrive.  Chicks will still absorb their yolk for up to 72 hours after hatching and this is what sustains them during shipping.  Simply take your finger and tap the food while vocally calling to them somehow (I like to say chick chick chick).  Hens show their babies food by pecking at it and chirping at them.  As you mimic a mother hen, your chicks should run over excitedly to see what all the fuss is about!


Congratulations on becoming a chicken keeper.  Hopefully, this series of articles have helped you to understand the basics of chick care.  As always, with chicken keeping, there is lots of conflicting information out there and that’s because there is no one-size-fits-all way of keeping chickens.  I can only speak from my personal experience and share what has, and hasn’t, worked for me.  So, as always, good luck and happy chicken-keeping!

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