You may be unaware, but baby chickens have rather a large number of unexpected dangers waiting around the corner. You as a new chick parent will have to take all these dangers into account and create a safe environment for your chicks to grow up in.
To best protect all your chicks and give them the best possible chance to reach adulthood it is best to learn as much as you can of what dangers are out there. Some dangers come in unexpected forms like a water bowl while others are obvious like a snake or other predator. No matter where you keep your chicks, always make sure it is as safe as possible.
To help recognise the dangers, here are some things to look out for…
Maybe not that unexpected since everyone knows that baby chickens need to stay warm but that doesn’t make the cold any less dangerous, at least initially. New hatchlings are unable to control their own body temperature. When the environmental temperature drops, they need an outside source of heat to keep them warm and safe.
Chicks that are unprotected and out in the cold will lose too much heat too quickly, causing their bodies to go into shock. Eventually, they will develop hypothermia. Their bodies will slowly shut down causing them to feel tired and fall asleep. Unfortunately, most will never awaken from that sleep.
Heat is a little more unexpected than the cold. Not many realise how devastating a too warm environment can be to a baby chick. When a baby chick gets too hot, they are unable to cool down on their own if nothing in the environment changes.
You will have to provide shelter for your chicks. This shelter needs to be cool on hot days and warm on cool days to keep their environmental temperatures as stable as possible.
When a chick is too hot you will notice panting. They may seem uncoordinated and unstable on their feet. They may also appear to be lethargic, not exploring and playing as they should. Once they reach a critical point, they may lose consciousness and if not taken care of immediately, they will never wake up again.
Make sure your chicks have a safe, cool place to take shelter from the heat. Make sure cool fresh water is available. If your chicks are in a brooder, monitor the temperature to make sure they don’t get too hot during hot summer days.
Water poses several different kinds of threats. The first threat is the most obvious, the lack of fresh water. When no fresh water is available to your chicks, they will get dehydrated rather quickly causing their bodily systems to shut down. Dehydration is a serious health risk and completely avoidable.
The next problem is contaminated stagnant water. Contaminated water is a breeding ground for dangerous, unwanted bacteria that can make your flock seriously ill. Diseases born of contaminated water is also preventable.
All you have to do is make sure you replace your chicks water every day to remove any poop or other substances that may have ended up in their drinking water.
Another threat is drowning. You might not think of drowning as a threat since you aren’t putting very deep water bowls in with your chicks, but even shallow bowls can pose a risk.
Your chicks may get into the bowl contaminating it with their poop, or they may slip and fall getting wet and cold. They may also injure themselves and be unable to get out of the bowl and thus drown.
You will have to install special bowls for your chick so that they don’t drown or get into the water at all if possible. You will also have to watch your chicks when letting them out the first time, especially if you have a swimming pool or a fish pond somewhere on your property. No one wants their chicks to end up in one of those.
Snakes aren’t the worst thing you have to worry about. Usually, your flock should be able to protect themselves, but some precautions are necessary especially with babies around.
Baby chickens are an easy meal, precisely what the snakes are after so it is best to make your enclosure snake-proof as far as possible. If you don’t have a hen with your chicks, try to keep them indoors for safety from snakes.
There are a few things you can do to keep snakes away. These things are:
- Keep rats away, snakes are lured by rats
- Secure the coop so there are no gaps where snakes can slither through
- Recruit some allies. Consider getting a cat to control rat populations or get a cantankerous guinea fowl.
- Contact wildlife centres to remove snakes. Snakes also want to live and they are good to keep rat populations down so consider snake removal rather than killing them.
Foxes can be quite a problem if they get into your chicken coop. You might get to the coop in the morning and your whole flock has been slaughtered.
It is best to put some security measures in place to prevent foxes from getting close enough to pose a threat. Chickens, especially the babies, are a favourite meal of the fox.
So what can you do to prevent foxes from getting in?
- Up your security- Make sure your coop is secure with no holes in the fences. You will also have to make sure that the wire is strong enough to keep these predators out. Foxes are also known to dig under fences, so if you can place some concrete under the fence to keep them from digging inside.
- Install a sensor- installing a light sensor that goes on when movement is detected can deter foxes from entering. When the light goes on they will get scared and run away.
- Get a dog- If you raise a dog with your chickens they will be chicken safe and keep the pesky foxes away.
- Electric poultry fences- Electric fences keep your flock in and the predators out. The foxes will quickly learn that touching that fence is quite a shocking experience.
- Secure any environment you plan on using for your chickens
Other pests that can affect your baby chickens
Rodents are attracted by the leftover food in your chicken coop. They come in the dead of night and leave their poop and other infestations like mites behind. The mites may affect your baby and adult chickens alike and the rodent poop contributes to unsanitary conditions which can lead to diseases and potential deaths.
Mites and ticks are blood-sucking parasites that hide in the crevices and dark areas of your coop. At night they will come out to feed on your flock. Signs of mites are over preening scratching and agitation, the same goes for ticks.
Scratching and over preening can lead to skin problems which can get infected if not treated. Infections can claim the lives of your young stock pretty quickly so be aware of the health of your chicks. Ticks can also carry other deadly diseases so if you spot any, take action immediately to eradicate them.
Ants are tiny little scavengers that get into all the places they really shouldn’t be. They are lured by your chickens’ food and any eggs that may have broken.
Ants aren’t really a problem for healthy adult chickens, but they can be quite a pest for the sick and your new chicks. Ants are known to swarm small chicks that can’t get away easily and the multitude of bites can kill them, the same goes for sick, weak adult chickens.
If you notice any ant in your coop, make sure to remove any broken eggs and excess food. Clean out your coop daily. You can also spray ants with 1-to-1 water and vinegar solutions, this will kill the ants without harming your birds.
As you may have noticed, some pests are easier to keep away from the coop than others. All you can do is keep your coop as clean as possible and check for any damage to the structure daily. Take some time to enjoy your chickens and check on their health at the same time.