It may come as a surprise, but chicks have some key biological similarities with reptiles.
For one, chicks cannot regulate their
body temperature after hatching, which means their internal temperature varies with their environment. For this reason, chicks are classified as poikilothermic – that is, they don’t have a thermoregulatory mechanism. So, like a reptile (snake), a baby chick is cold-blooded!
For up to two weeks after hatching, baby chicks depend on the warmth and protection of their parent, the hen. With her warmth and protective plumage, the hen is the provider, guiding the chick to food sources and keeping it warm. In your backyard farm, your chicks may not have parents available–you may acquire them from a reputable breeder at an age where they are ready to lay. From the incubator to your backyard coop, these chicks do not experience hen brooding and certainly can function without it.
Chicks imprint on us and depend on our management skills. Chicks depend on their managers to ensure that they can maintain an internal body temperature of 103 – 105 degrees F (39.5 – 40.5 degrees C). As manager for your chicks, you must take care to provide an environment that is conducive to maintain comfort–them comfort zone. When the comfort zone provides for the chick’s environmental comfort, nature takes over and the chick is innately able to search for food and water. A comfortable chick that doesn’t need to huddle for warmth is a healthy chick that will eat, drink, grow, and avoid disease and injury.
Once a chick can maintain its internal temperature, it can withstand fluctuations in environmental temperature. Remember, though, that your job as manager does not relax once that internal temperature regulation has been achieved. It is your responsibility to maintain the environment of the chick to allow for optimal growth, production, and immune competence.
Browse some of my additional posts to find out more about how you can be a fantastic chick manager and raise healthy, productive chickens! It’s easier than you think, however does deserve effort and attention to detail. Follow the guidelines of chicken husbandry I outline here at iChicken, maintain welfare standards, and reap the rewards of your efforts!