The Foster A Chick families that participated in this farm experience last year sent me a great list of questions that I am answering here for you. I bet you haven’t even thought of all these questions yet!

Here we go!

What breed are the chicks? This year chicks are Cornish Crosses. We are also trying to get Golden Crosses. They are all yellow and mature to all white.

How old are the chicks? We receive the chicks when they are one day old. Depending on when you pick them up, they are only 1 – 3 days old.

When will I know if I have a rooster or hen? We are able to buy only hens but most people can’t tell the gender of a chick/duckling until it is full grown. The ducklings may be male or female. Specialists in the industry are trained to “sex” chicks to determine their gender in order to fulfill orders for egg laying chicks.

What type of lamp should I use to keep the chicks warm? Any lamp that can shine into the box and keep the chicks warm without creating a fire hazard is acceptable. A desk lamp with an incandescent bulb usually works. Make sure you can feel heat from the bulb. Another option is a simple clamp light which will easily accommodate a heat lamp bulb. Both can be purchased from a hardware store for $4 – $8 each. You can see what it looks like here on Amazon. Heat lamp bulbs can be red or white.

Is an LED light good enough? No. LEDs do not emit infrared radiation, which is what feels warm.

Is a space heater good enough? If you can keep the inside of the box 90 degrees F without creating a fire hazard.

Do we need an incandescent light if the box is kept overnight in the house (vs. the garage?) Yes. You need to keep the temperature in the box close to 90 degrees F. I doubt you keep your house that warm. Some participants keep their chicks in a utility room or garage. That’s fine as long as they are safe and warm.

What type of box is provided? It’s a large, brown cardboard box which you can recycle after returning the chicks. If the box is not sufficient for your needs you can use another container of your choice. I’ve seen people use rubbermaid storage bins or even large hamster cages.

Can they hop out of the box? After a week or so, chicks will be able to fly out of the box. Participants have solved this problem by using a bigger container or putting something over the box. You may return your foster birds to the farm whenever they become too much trouble. You do not have to keep them a full 2 weeks.

Do you have chick-warming lights, water/food dispensers that we could rent? We do not have equipment for you to rent, however, most of the things you need to use are already in your home. If you would like to purchase specific chick feeders and warming lights you may easily purchase from amazon or a hardware store. Here is an inexpensive example of a chick waterer; and a chick feeder.

Would you take our chick water/feed bottles when we’re done? Certainly. If you would like to donate any warming lamps, bulbs, chick feeders, or chick waterers to the farm we’ll be happy to take them.

How much should I feed them each day? You should make sure that they have food available in their dish at all times. They have tiny digestive systems and poop often so they need to be able to refill frequently.

What else can they eat besides the provided feed? The organic chick feed is the perfect diet for them and they don’t need anything else. A few vegetable scraps won’t hurt them. Because they are intended to be organically raise by us, please do not purchase other food (pet food, non-organic chick feed, etc.) If you need more food we are happy to provide it for you – just come to the farm to pick it up for no charge.

What kind of bedding should I use? We will start you with several layers of newspaper in your box. Newspaper and paper towels are great because they are absorbent, easily changed, inexpensive, and difficult for the chicks to eat. Wood shavings are easily eaten by the chicks not recommended. Chicks will try to eat almost anything they see so be careful – don’t let them fill their little stomachs with inedible objects.

Do you have a photo of what the typical setup might look like? Yes. There are photos of various foster chick set ups in our Foster A Chick chat group on Telegram. Please join this group to see various ideas.

Will they require any special or extra care in the middle of the night? No. Just make sure they have plenty of food and water before you go to bed for the night.

Do chicks sleep? Yes, they nap often just like all baby animals. But they don’t know night from day. You will hear them “peep” at night. If their peeping is quite loud, it is because they need something – so check their food, water or heat right away.

Should the chicks be allowed to run around the house (supervised) or might they poop everywhere? They will poop everywhere so that is up to you. Your job is to keep them safe.

Can they be played with outside? After they are a few days old they can regulate their body temperature better. As long as you closely supervise the chicks to keep them safe they may be taken outdoors on a warm day.

Will my chicks stay healthy the whole time we have them & is there anything we need to know to ensure their proper growth? Most of the chicks will stay healthy the whole time. However, as with all animals, a few may be weaker than the others. If you notice a chick that is panting, drooping or not active (other than when it sleeps), or not eating or drinking, there may be a problem.

What can be done if a chick seems to not be acting well? There are only a few things that can be done and there is no guarantee that extra care will result in a recovery.

  1. Remove the unwell chick from it’s companion so that it won’t get picked on. Put it in a separate box with food, water and a lamp.
  2. Use a dropper to feed it water.
  3. If it is shivering, put it under the heat lamp. If it is panting, move it further away from the light.
  4. Check on the unwell chick/duckling frequently.
  5. If you do not want to try to care for a chick you think is unwell, you may bring it back to the farm. Message me for the fastest response.
  6. If the chick recovers, you may allow it to rejoin its companion.
  7. If the chick dies, there is no extra charge. We understand that sometimes weaker animals don’t make it but we are sorry that your family experienced it. Try to use the experience to teach your children about the life and death that is normal to all nature.

How loud are the chicks? You’ll find that the chick make a gentle “peeping” noise most of the time they are awake. If their “peeping” gets loud it usually means they need food, water or are frightened.

Can I get a smaller or large size chick? I’m sorry. We don’t have much variation in size.

Can I get a chick of a different color? I’m sorry. All the chicks are the same breed and are mostly the same color.

What happens to the chicks when they return to the farm? We will house them in a sheltered area for a couple more weeks until they are strong enough to live outside full time. Then they will live on the farm until they reach maturity. The chicks will be full grown when they are about 10 weeks old.

Care instructions? Here is a pdf download of care instructions.

Can we post pictures of them on social media? Of course. We’d love for you to tag #willowhavenfarm and #fosterachick so we can see your posts too!

Return instructions? I’ll be sending return instructions in a future email.

How and when do I pick up my chicks? That will be in the next email.

I hope this info is helpful as you prepare for your fostering experience.

See you soon!

Tessa DeMaster and the Farm Kids

Willow Haven Farm​ ​

Directions to the farm