For those interesting in starting — or enlarging — a backyard flock of hens, it’s time to get chicks and get started. Renfrow Hardware in Matthews, North Carolina, is just one location for buying baby chicks, though at that store, they go quickly, with chicken-buyers lining up outside the door on the morning the chicks are first in.
Chicks need warmth from a heat lamp, an easy-to-eat kind of feed called starter crumbles, clean water and safety. You can provide all of that in a Rubbermaid-style bin or metal washtub in a garage or other spot safe from cats, dogs and other predators. The heat lamp clamps to the side and keeps the young birds warm and dry. Chicks purchased now will begin laying in early autumn. Handling them carefully allows them to somewhat imprint on you so that they are easier to handle when they’re adults. Remember that chicks can pass along salmonella, so young children or those with compromised immune systems should avoid handling or should carefully wash their hands afterward.
For a good primer on raising your first flock, check out “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens,” by Gail Damerow, or, for a more photo-heavy book, try “Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying,” by Jenna Woginrich. —Amber Veverka