Maintaining a backyard flock offers great rewards, but it's not always easy to keep your chickens stress-free — especially when they're young. Understanding the environmental, nutritional and pest threats your chicks may encounter and knowing how to react to these challenges will ensure your chicks grow to be healthy, producing hens.
If chicks feel stressed, they may show signs of lethargy or be especially noisy, indicated by insistent chirping. To alleviate stressful conditions, first check the following:
Avoid lining the bottom of the brooder with potentially smooth surfaces, such as newspaper or wood, as a chick's inability to gain traction can lead to permanent leg damage. Instead, use a soft, absorbent litter made of textured cloth, such as burlap, or paper towels.
In addition to poor overall health, improper feeding habits or using the wrong chicken food can lead to weak legs, breathing trouble, malformation and nervous system complications. Avoid scratch, table scraps and corn, which do not provide the appropriate vitamins, protein and minerals.
Instead, for the first six to eight weeks, rely on a pre-mixed commercial chick-starter made up of approximately 20 percent protein. From nine to 20 weeks, a chicken grower feed is sufficient. After 20 weeks, chickens should eat a laying feed such as laying crumbles or mash.
When found in large numbers, intestinal parasites can have negative effects on chickens' overall health, including growth and egg production. The following parasites are most common:
Use insecticides and keep your coop clean to help control pest populations. Additionally, thoroughly sanitizing the coop between each new group of chicks will kill any remaining parasites.