Bantam chicks shipped by mail arrive tired, hungry, thirsty, and sometimes chilled. A little extra TLC in the form of the three Ws of bantam chick care — Warmth, Water, Watch — will help ensure that your new arrivals settle safely and comfortably.
Chicks hatch with yolk reserves that continue to provide nutrients for many hours. In nature, these nutrients allow the chicks that hatch early to remain safely in the nest until all the mother hen’s eggs have hatched.
Nutrients in the yolk reserves are also why chicks can travel for days in the mail. Chicks can survive their first 72 hours of life without food or water. The United States Postal Service will not accept a shipment of chicks if the trip from the hatchery to your local post office would take more than 72 hours.
Even so, the chicks’ yolk reserves are nearly depleted by the time they are delivered, and they arrive hungry and thirsty. Bantam chicks have a lower body mass than chicks of the standard breeds, therefore they lose energy and dehydrate more quickly.
The exhibition quality bantams we breed here at Cackle Hatchery are even smaller than bantams offered by other hatcheries. Although bigger bantams make backyard fun chickens, they are not show type. Because our show quality bantam chicks are so tiny, they can be especially low in energy and dehydrated when they arrive. The following three measures will help ensure their survival.
Warm the Bantam Chicks
One of the biggest problems we see is when customers don’t initially get their new bantam chicks warm enough. The first order of business when your bantam chicks arrive is to immediately raise their body temperature. Usually within 15 to 30 minutes the heat will warm their bodies, and they will start moving around and looking for something to eat and drink.
We recommend having the brooder area heated to at least 100ºF, measured 1 inch above the brooder floor directly under the heat source. Use a brooder clamp with a light bulb or infrared heat bulb for the first 2 weeks, to provide chicks with both light and heat 24/7.
We also recommend a brooder with a solid floor — not wire or hardware cloth. Bantam chicks can get their feet and leg joints caught in the gaps in wire, resulting in injuries and lameness. Plus a solid floor is easier to keep warm. Cover the brooder floor with clean straw, rather than shavings. Chicks have a tendency to eat too much of the small parts of shavings, which can kill baby chicks at this age.
Since bantams aren’t as hardy as standard breeds, we recommend separating them from any standard breeds you might order at the same time. Put the bantam chicks in a separate small starter brooder for at least the first week, giving the bantams time to gain strength.
Water the Bantam Chicks
Bantam chicks normally will not start drinking or eating until they get warmed up. As soon as they start moving around, they should be offered water first, before feed.
When the chicks start drinking, they will drink a lot of water to get hydrated. Water that is too cool can rapidly decrease their body temperature, making them sick or sending them into shock. Have the drinking water at 98ºF. To test the water temperature, sprinkle a drop or two on the inside of your wrist. If it doesn’t feel hot or cold, it is the correct temperature.
Pick up each chick, one at a time, and quickly dip its beak into the water before letting the chick go. Most times the chick will tip its head up to swallow the drop of water on its beak. Chicks that don’t swallow that first drop of water will soon follow other chicks that come back for more.
To speed up rehydration, add sugar to the water. Chicks like the sweetness, which will encourage them to drink more. Also the extra calories will give the bantam chicks a spurt of energy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar per quart of 98ºF water and shake well. Use this mixture for the first 8 hours, then change to regular water.
Our tiny bantam chicks may have a hard time reaching a standard quart jar base, in which case you may need a quail water base. This type of drinking water base prevents small chicks from drowning in the water, and also keeps them from getting wet, chilled, and sick.
Chicks digest food better if they are hydrated before they start eating dry feed. Within 2 to 3 hours after having their first drink, bantam chicks should be ready to start eating. Feed them only chick starter. It contains all the right nutrition the chicks need, and it is the right size for the little birds to peck and swallow.
Lay several layers of tissue paper around the brooder floor and sprinkle chick starter on the tissue paper for the chicks to peck at. After one day, put the starter in your regular chick feeder.
Watch the Bantam Chicks
Another big problem we see with customers who purchase bantam chicks is not watching them for the first 24 to 48 hours. We highly recommend that you be around to make sure your bantam chicks get off to a good start. Watch them especially carefully the first couple of nights, to make sure they do not pile and suffocate each other.
To cover any potential losses, Cackle Hatchery generally adds a few extra chicks to your order, if extras are available on the ship date. Observing the three Ws of bantam chick care — Warmth, Water, Watch — goes a long way toward ensuring the survival of your new bantam chicks, including the extras.
For more information on caring for baby chicks, see Cackle Hatchery’s Chick Care Instructions and visit our blog on How to Care for Baby Chicks Delivered by Mail.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.