STRASBURG – Baby chicks have arrived at area stores that sell agricultural-related products, but buyers beware — those chicks require a big commitment of time and resources. Also, they aren’t going to stay small and fuzzy for long.
Paul Fravel, manager of the Rockingham Cooperative in town, said the “cuteness factor” of baby chicks wears off in about two weeks.
“In a nutshell, you need to have a home prepared for them,” Fravel said. “They need to be taken home and kept warm, [have] light provided for them. Clean bedding, food and water constantly.”
The Rockingham Cooperative only sells chickens to people serious about starting a small flock for egg layers, Fravel said. Lot’s of people come in around this time of year, with Easter right around the corner, and try to buy two chicks for their apartment, Fravel said. In order to discourage casual buyers, they sell chicks in minimum groups of six.
Chicks will outgrow their “cute” stage in a couple of weeks but will take about two months to be big enough to be kept outside, Fravel said. The key is looking for when they are covered in feathers — not just the fuzz on the babies.
While the chicks are growing, preparing for their outside home involves setting up a house with a nesting box as well as a covered run to give them some space to roam, Fravel said.
Backyard flocks are growing in popularity, he noted, due to the demand for farm-fresh eggs.
“Eggs are great anytime,” he said, “but if you have farm-fresh eggs, there’s nothing better.”
Chickens are good for more than just eggs, though. For anyone not accustomed to agricultural life, or those unfamiliar with how food goes from farm to table, chickens are a great way to give an introduction to the process, Fravel said.
“If you grow up on a farm, you learn the responsibility of taking care of animals,” he said. “This does the same thing, on a smaller scale.”
Chickens are low maintenance animals that don’t require a lot of oversight and are close to “bomb proof,” Fravel said.
Although maintenance is light, the poultry trade is highly regulated and any store that sells chickens will record names and addresses so the buyers can be contacted in case anything goes wrong.
The important thing to remember, Fravel said, is that the chicks someone brings home don’t take long to grow into full chickens.
“It is very gratifying and enjoyable,” he said, “but there is some work and responsibility.”