It's springtime and the baby chicks and ducklings are back in area farm stores, just in time for Easter. But you might want to think twice about picking one up for your children to play with.
"They're little and cute right now, but they don't stay that way for long," said Vanessa Rake, sales clerk at Apex Feed and Supply on Pike Street in Marietta.
She noted the chicks grow fast, beginning to develop their wing feathers within the first week of arriving at the store.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Amber Link chicks bask in the warmth of a heat lamp in their enclosure at Apex Feed and Supply in Marietta Tuesday. The mature chickens are valued for laying brown eggs—some lay up to 320 eggs a year.
"And they'll soon grow into not-so-cute full-grown chickens that will require a lot of care," Rake said. "So they really don't make very good pets."
Apex has sold quite a few of the Amber Link chicks this year. She said a third shipment of 50 to 100 chicks is due to arrive this week.
"I don't see many people buying just one chick," Rake said. "Most are buying several at a time, which indicates they're probably going to use them for egg-laying. And people like the Amber Links because they lay brown eggs."
If you take
baby chicks home
Start preparing your chicks' new home several days before they arrive.
A housing unit for chicks, commonly known as a brooder, can be a commercially produced metal enclosure or something as simple as a cardboard box.
The brooder should have solid walls at least 18 inches high to block drafts and be large enough that chicks can move about freely.
Chicks need ventilation but also warmth and protection from drafts.
The housing unit must be protected from household pets and outdoor predators such as foxes or rats.
Chicks always need access to food and fresh water.
Sanitation and cleanliness is of utmost importance.
Tiffany Duskey of Beverly is planning to raise a few chicks from eggs as part of her 6-year-old daughter Faith's home-schooling curriculum.
"We've ordered the eggs and have an incubator," she said. "And I recently took a class on hatching out and raising chicks. They don't really make good pets, although we would like to keep them. But we live in a subdivision and couldn't keep them long at home. So we'll be giving them to some friends who raise chickens."
Duskey said she's looking forward to allowing Faith to learn about a chicken's life cycle from the time it's a hatchling.
"She'll probably want to keep them, but we can't raise them here," she said. "They're cute, just like puppies and kittens, but you have to be able to take good care of them."
Tracy Waite, 4-H program coordinator with the Ohio State University Extension in Washington County, said people should think before they buy chicks, ducks or rabbits.
"If you're purchasing any animal it's best to have a plan in place to take care of it," she said. "Baby chicks are cute but they will grow up and will need plenty of care. The right equipment is needed, too, including heat lamps and a safe enclosure."
Waite said 4-H members who raise chickens usually order them from a supplier who ships the birds when they're one day old. She said the 4-H chickens are not ordered for their egg-laying ability, but they're generally hybrid birds bred for weight to be sold on the market.
"But in this area I would think most people who buy chicks from local feed stores at this time of the year are buying them for egg-laying or meat production, rather than pets as you might find in larger cities," she said. "And I think our local suppliers and feed stores are doing what they can to make people aware of the responsibility of owning these animals."