Seeking baby chicken expertise!
April 22, 2020 6:02 PM   Subscribe

My sister found a baby chicken in her driveway. How can she take care of it until they find someone to take it?

My sister and her boyfriend found a baby chicken outside and took it in the house for safe keeping. They have no idea what to do with it, but want to keep it safe and healthy until they figure something out.

I would love some advice on the following:
- Who would one contact about an abandoned baby chicken? A farm? An exotic vet? Animal control?
- Any idea how old it is, based on the picture? Does the age impact things like how often it needs to eat, how warm it needs to be kept, etc?
- Pet stores are already closed here. What should they feed it?
- The chicken keeps burrowing in my sister's hair and peeping incessantly. Is it upset? Trying to play? How can they calm it down?

We have zero chicken expertise. HALP.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So cute! I would post on Nextdoor or other neighborhood groups, and put a note in my closest neighbor's mailboxes. Feral chickens aren't really a thing; it almost certainly came from a nearby neighbor.
posted by amaire at 6:07 PM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Very young chicks are quite vulnerable and sensitive to the environment--especially temperature. So they definitely need special care to have a good chance of surviving.

Also beware that chicks have a pretty high mortality rate even when properly cared for by people who have lots of experience doing it. So just be prepared for the possibility that it doesn't survive no matter how good a job you do.

Here are a few guides to taking care of a chick, that look OK:

WikiHow - prime advice there is small chicks such as yours need WARMTH but also the ability to get away from the heat when they want. "Warmth" is warmer than you would think--like 100 degrees. At room temperature they're going to be unhappy and get very sick/die. The usual practice, as described there, is to put something like a 100 watt light bulb (old-fashioned kind that makes heat) on one side of the chick enclosure/box. That should heat that area up to like 90-100 degrees fahrenheit. But also leave another side of the chick enclosure that doesn't have the heat - that way Chick can self regulate temperature by moving closer/further from the heat source as desired.

Getting this arranged ASAP is probably your #1 concern.

Tips for Rescuing and Easter Chick - big tip there is be careful of bio-hazards. Chicks (and their excrement) are definitely something of a biohazard. Wash hands carefully before & after handling, etc.

I agree it's a good idea to ask around if someone has lost their Easter Chick. But I think there is a high probability it was "lost" on purpose, so start thinking about what to do if you can't find the owner.

I don't know exactly how old this chick is. Maybe someone with more chick experience than I can weigh in. But the younger, the more vulnerable. This one looks a little older to me--like more than just 1 or 2 days old--but it's been many years since I had hands-on chick-raising experience.
posted by flug at 6:19 PM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Keep it warm. A light bulb hanging over a box is the traditional way with one end cool & one warm so it can move around to regulate temperature. It's most likely trying to hide under hair because it's cold & scared. A hotwater bottle not to hot or a heating pad can also work. They like to be very warm but need to be able to move away from the heat. Chicks have a hard time regulating temperature

Provide it with water in a shallow dish it can't drown in, a clean plant base works. Run some plain rolled oats through a blender to a coarse blend for emergency food until you can get some chick starter. It will be better being quiet than being handled as that will stress & stress & cold will kill it faster than anything else so cute as it is put it in a quiet room out the way. Cleanliness of dishes is important so change water & food a couple of times a day at least.

Watch it's poops. Chicks with healthy poops have a distinct light bit & dark bit in the poop.

Sorry can't help you find the owner.
posted by wwax at 6:23 PM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

You can hold it entirely covered in your hands and it will settle in like it's under a mother hen. Not all the time, just, it's a thing you can do. (I'm on free wifi and can't see the picture, assuming chick size based on previous comments)
posted by aniola at 6:29 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it needs to have constant warmth or it will die. It's probably peeping so loudly because it's in distress. Do they have an electric blanket/heating pad?
posted by pinochiette at 6:48 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Regarding water: some people will dip the chicks beak into the water to make sure that the chick knows where it is. Chickens are surprisingly stupid in some ways.
Food, until you can get some feed tomorrow: try little bread crumbs and tiny bits of veg and lettuce. Maybe some cooked rice or popcorn. They need grit in their diet but one night without is fine.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:15 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Where do you live? I live in an area where people have backyard chickens, and many garden stores also sell chicken feed etc. In the morning (after keeping it warm all night), I would call up the crunchiest, earthiest garden center near you and ask if they either sell chickens/chicken stuff or if they know who might know. Tell the person that you found a baby chick and it needs help. I guarantee the staff at the Mother Earthiest Garden Store will want to help and most likely will know someone who has chickens and would be happy to direct you their way.

Also: I have several friends who have chickens, and the little ones can be fickle. It's hard but if the little guy doesn't make it, you shouldn't feel like you've let it down. It's very kind of you to bring it in and do your best, you're doing right by the little guy.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:44 PM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Don't discount the advice that says there needs to be a place where the chick can move away from the warmth if it wants to. Lots of new chicken owners accidentally kill their chicks by cooking them. Too much heat is deadly for all ages of chicken. Give the chick a water dish that they can not drown in. As for food you can hard boil an egg and give that as an emergency food for tonight. Tommorow you can go to a feed store like a Tractor Supply (if you have them in your area) get some chick starter. Chicks feed themselves so just offer the food in a shallow dish. The chick will eat when it needs to.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:53 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I meant to say that you should crumble up the hard boiled egg onto small pieces,the smaller the better, before offering it to the chick.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:55 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, all! Especially re: keeping the chick warm.

It did indeed survive the night, and they got a bunch of chicken supplies at a pet store the next day. They're currently figuring out what to do with it. At least it's alive and well!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 6:09 PM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

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