If you’re a first-time chick keeper, you can find lists (and lists and lists) of recommendations online about what you absolutely need to have on hand for that first order of chicks. I don’t know about you, but that can feel a little daunting.
The five things I absolutely would have on hand are: Save-a-Chick probiotics and electrolytes, Nutridrench, Corid, and a 3cc syringe. With those things on hand, you can combat a lot of what might kill your chicks in the first few weeks of their lives.
Probiotics and Electrolytes. Add probiotics and electrolytes to their water for a little boost, to replenish and balance their electrolytes, and as preventative. When you first get your chicks, either mailorder or from a feed store, they will need a little pick-me-up. The mailorder chicks haven’t eaten or drunk anything since being out of the egg and will be ravenous and a little dehydrated. The feedstore chicks likely just got dumped in a sale bin with little attention given, so they could also use some TLC. The probiotics are a good idea because GI issues can quickly become fatal in baby chicks, since they are so small any dehydration is going to have a significant impact. Make sure you are changing this every day, if not multiple times, since it will grow stuff, especially with the heat lamp going! I mix up a pitcher of this and keep it in the fridge, and would give it to my chicks for a couple of days, then give them plain water.
Nutridrench. This is a kind of a first-line treatment to give to just about any chick that looks like it needs a little boost. It is a mix of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and sugar. I’ve only ever given this to sick chicks and mixed it in a slurry of egg yolk and/or molasses and/or yogurt.
Corid. This is the brand name for the medication amprolium. You could have chickens for years and never deal with coccidiosis, I would imagine, but this is something to keep on hand. As far as I know, Corid doesn’t really go bad and I would much rather have it on hand and not need it, than have coccidiosis run rampant through my flock, chicks or chickens. I will do another post on treating chicks with coccidiosis at a future date, but trust me on this one and keep it on hand! Don’t wait until you figure out that’s what’s making your chicks sick and then have to go find it or worse, order it online and wait for it to arrive. In a pinch, feed stores do carry it, but I just wouldn’t want to risk it being out of stock when I wanted it. It is pricey, but a little goes a long way.
3cc syringe. This is the easiest way to administer nutritional first aid or a medication like Corid to your chicks. It takes a little bit to figure out how to hold the chick and how to get her to open her little beak to take the syringe. I find that the easiest way is to cup the chick with my nondominant hand and press her back against my chest. Do not stick the syringe down her throat or into the center of her mouth, but instead press the tip of the syringe into the very corner of her beak until she opens up, and she will, even if just for a split second. It might take a few tries before you manage to slip the syringe just into the corner, and then kind of pull gently to the side to make the syringe sit securely in the pliable fold of the corner of her beak. Now you can administer the liquid, and it can be done pretty quickly if the syringe is placed correctly. Just don’t administer too much at once and choke the chick. If you have to doctor a chick for awhile, the corner of her beak is going to get a little red and irritated, but honestly that will make her more likely to open her beak.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, especially if you’ve done other reading and have seen the many, many things people will recommend to keep on hand for chicks. There is VetRx for respiratory issues, anti-pecking sprays and gels, wound care, and more. But what I listed above is what I would not choose to be without!
Please drop a comment below with your recommendations on those absolute must-haves for chick keeping! Happy chick days!