What Behavior Should You Expect From Your Baby Chickens?
During the first week baby chicks will peck around learning to look for food.
Baby chicks are naturally curious and become more curious as they grow.
They will scratch at the bedding and push it around. They love it when the bedding is completely changed. They will be busy for hours going through the new bedding material.
As baby chicks grow, you will notice a change in behavior, they will start to perch on things at about 4-6 weeks of age, like their water and food containers.
You may want to provide roosting areas with roosting perches for them to perch on in order to keep them off of the food and water containers.
For example, when baby chicks are about a month old, add a low roost - a stick or piece of wood about 4" off the floor of the brooder floor so they can easily access them.
Roosting is normal behavior for chickens. As your chicks begin to mature, they will soon learn to use the roosts and by example the rest of the flock will soon begin to roost too.
They will jump up on it which is good exercise for their growing feet, legs, and wings. Soon, they may even begin sleeping there so make sure you don't put the roost directly under the warming light as it will be too hot for your chicks.
A pecking order is a normal part of the social order for chickens. Every chicken flock has one and it starts when they're very young. Developing a pecking order is normal baby chick behavior and nothing to worry about unless one of your chicks is being physically hurt by the other chicks.
When watching your chicks, you'll notice things like which is the first chick to eat, which is last, who seems to be left out, which ones play or sleep together. All of these will fall into place as your chick's develop their own pecking order.
These roles are fought for or settled on depending upon the baby chick's behavior and how strongly the little ones jockey for their position in the flock.
Some chicks like to get a head start on taking dirt baths, while others won’t take up that activity until they are older.
If you have the space in your brooder container, introduce a flat container of sand or dirt for them to play in.
If you've never seen a baby chick dust bathing, the first time you see it may surprise and even startle you.
When you actually see your baby chickens flopping around in the dirt all with wings and feet going every which way, as if they've had their necks broken, well, taking a dust bath may not be the first thing you think of. It looks more like a seizure!
As you stand there trying to make sense of what you are witnessing, you try to decide what to do, and to understand what just happened.
You wonder if they suddenly got sick or if they're dying.
Then they may start flopping again, and the thought crosses your mind, "My Gosh! They're still alive and they must be in terrible pain!"
Actually they're probably fine. Your baby chicks are enjoying a dust bath.
Napping and Sun Bathing
Sun bathing, while not quite so bizarre as dust bathing, can still be more than a little strange if you aren't expecting it.
Imagine that you walk up to your brooder container, look in and see your baby chicks lying on their sides, wings all flopped about crazily, all of them laid out in a row and they’re dead still.
They look like they've just been thrown into the brooder. They're all tossed about and laid out in various weird positions like they're dead. One of them is even laying belly up, its skinny, little legs stiff in the air.
As you try to figure out what just happened, you softly touch one of the baby chicks. It jumps up with a startled ‘peep’ and takes off rushing around and through the brooder.
All energized from its nap, it wakes up all the other chicks, ready to play.
They all begin running around as if nothing had happened at all.
Even the one that, seconds before, lay with its skinny, little chicken legs in the air.
You thought they had all just up and died.
Nope!! They were just napping or sun bathing. Baby chicks will look for a warm spot and melt to the ground, on the spot.
Yep! Baby chicks will sometimes be walking along normally then fall straight forward as if they have just up and died in mid step. It can be pretty scary if you're not expecting it.
As the chicks grow larger in a tiny space like the brooder container, it can create a bit of chick boredom.
Giving toys or something to play with to your baby chicks is a great idea.
They love receiving the brown rolls paper towels and toilet paper come wrapped around.
They peek through the tubes at each other and try to roost on ‘em. Until they get the hang of it, it’s kind of like a log rolling contest.
You can even throw a couple of sticks in there for them to play with.
Baby Chick Talk
Chick talk is one of the best ways to assess the comfort level of your baby chicks.
When they have enough food, water, and have the correct level of warmth, your baby chicks talk in a low-toned, contented "cheep, cheep". This means they're comfy and happy.
When too cold, the baby chicks make a ‘cheep’ sound in a shaken or shrill tone.
When baby chicks are uncomfortable because of wet, damp litter, temperature, or they're hungry or thirsty, they make a rapid and high-pitched noise.
Always immediately investigate the chick's brooder when their behaviors become loud and shrill.
By keeping a close eye on your baby chickens, listening very carefully to their chick talk, and by keeping a close watch on your thermometer, you will be able to maintain the healthy environment they need to thrive.
The best time to start bonding with your baby chicks is when they are just 4-5 days old.
Watch and learn how they behave, handle and talk to them gently and soon your chicks will begin to trust you!
Baby chicks can become fond of their owners. If they bond with you, they may even follow you around as if you were their mom.
You will be fascinated by baby chick behavior. If you allow them the opportunity, baby chickens will change your family in wonderful ways!