Little peepers soon turn into chickens, so be prepared with these tips

Baby chickens are filling local feed stores, just in time for those who are planning on a poultry-filled spring.

Little chicks are a delight for all ages, but they are also a responsibility.

If you found chicks in your Easter basket or are thinking about acquiring some, it’s important to prep for these little peepers and meet their accommodation requirements.

Lindi Costello, an employee of Cornelius Coastal Farm & Ranch, likes watching chicks go home with excited families, but offers a few basic tips to ensure chicks are kept safe and healthy so they can grow up to be HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - A lonely chick is a stressed chick. If nothing else, put a mirror in with your chick to give it company.

n Most chicks in feed and pet stores are less than a week old. They are very fragile and should not be handled regularly.

“It stresses them out,” Costello said.

n Chicks need companionship. According to Costello, if you have just one, it will probably die. If you need to separate a chick from the others for some reason — say it’s being picked on — try adding a mirror to the pen (see photo) to provide a fake friend.

n Without the warmth of a mother hen, chicks need an alternative heat source. Set heat lamps above their pen, preferably on one side. That way, they can huddle for warmth but also move to the other side to cool down and regulate temperature. Be sure the heat lamp is set up so it won’t burn or melt the chicks’ pen. Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue reported three separate fires caused by heat lamps last week, which caused damage to homes and the death of little chickies. Costello recommends moving the lamps up a little higher after a few weeks when chicks are older and have more feathers. She also said it’s a good idea to keep chicks indoors with a heat source for about 16 weeks, when they are fully feathered.

n Line their pen with newspaper, paper towels or pine shavings. Cedar chips have been known to cause respiratory problems.

n If you have other pets, such as household dogs and cats, be sure they can’t get to the chicks. Raccoons and other predators are also a danger to outdoor chickens of all sizes.

n Chicks need water, but they can also drown when they are small. Costello recommends finding a water pan designed for young chicks to keep them hydrated, but prevent drowning. She says chicks shouldn’t have water containers filled with more than a few ounces until they are older.

n Costello recommends buying “chick starter” as food at the local feed or pet store. Transition to a layer feed in five to six months when they start laying their first eggs.

n Lastly, it may seem obvious, but chicks do turn into chickens. They won’t stay palm-sized forever, so only get or keep chicks if you’re prepared to care for them over the long haul. Make sure you have adequate space in your yard for a secure shelter and a roaming area. The city of Hillsboro prohibits roosters (male chickens), and requires an enclosure of 20 square feet per animal.

Visit for more specific Hillsboro requirements, or check with your city government for rules regarding backyard chickens inside city limits.

n Contact or visit local feed or pet stores if you’re looking to sell or get rid of your poultry. Store employees may have suggestions, and bulletin boards often hold notes from people looking for chickens. Releasing a domesticated animal into the wild is illegal in Oregon.

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