A child’s enthusiasm about new animals is as obvious as it is heartfelt. The excitement they wear on their face is as genuine as it gets. Ask any parent, and it absolutely warms your soul when you’ve done something to generate that special smile of delight on their face.
But as experienced adults, we also know that there is responsibility in raising animals. And while a box full of puppies would be fun to take home, it might be more work than the child realizes. For this reason, we would encourage restraint. So with this in mind, it begs to question, ‘is it better to raise one chick instead of a box full?’
Baby chicks are imbued with a flock mentality and as such should never be raised alone. Not only will chicks learn from observing other chicks, but they will find warmth and solace from each other’s company.
In fact, the desire to be with other chicks is so strong, that they will instinctively seek each other out without being made to do so. And while this might not seem like a behavior worth noting, consider the fact that baby chicks need to be shown ‘this is food’ and ‘this is water’.
In other words, the need for companionship is innate, where the need for nourishment (while physically felt) requires learning to properly manage.
And this doesn’t just apply to baby chicks. I’ve seen completely healthy and robust adult chickens pluck out their own feathers when isolated from the rest of the flock.
It should also be noted, that there is very little difference in work load for 3 to 5 chicks as opposed to just one. Your small flock of 3 to 5 will need fresh water everyday and I have found feed consumption to be limited at these numbers. And with the purchase price of a baby chick being at around $3, it’s not going to break the bank if you buy 3 to 5 of them. (Think of the extra cost as being a sort of health insurance against stress for your would-be lone chick.)
Can Baby Chicks Survive Alone?
While the physical needs of a baby chick can be provided for, the small birds are most likely to perish as the stress of being alone overrides the need to eat or drink. This is because of their innate flock mentality.
Juvenile members of the flock species have an incredible need for companionship. For example, last summer I went out to check on the 5 week old chicks in their outdoor brooder only to find that a mallard duckling had decided join the flock. Somehow, this adorable little waterfowl had gotten separated from its family and consequently, followed the sounds of my outdoor chicks.
Even though being a completely different type of bird, the mallard duckling knew that it needed to be with other chicks.
Realistically, you can expect this kind of behavior from your baby chicken as well. They need companionship. And they need it so intensely, that they will often neglect eating and drinking – choosing instead to chirp/call loudly to someone to come and rescue them.
Should you find yourself in a situation where an unanticipated chick arrives at your door, consider giving them a stuffed toy to cuddle with, as well as, placing them in a small but warm and dark place. The confines of a small box will give them a sense of protection, while the limited amount of light sends them into ‘bedtime’ mode.
### Important Note ###
It should be stated that in the case of a surprise, non-domesticated duckling, unless you are properly certified to do so, it is illegal for you to have one in your possession. Granted, your intentions are admirable and should be appreciated. But don’t think you can keep/raise this cute creature – that is against the law, unless you are certified.
Instead, please reach out to a wildlife rehab center. If you do not know of one, then simply do an online search ‘wildlife rehab center + (the name of your city)’. This should yield you a list of available sources to help.
Make sure that you contact these people IMMEDIATELY as lost ducklings are quite often dehydrated. For more on this, please read, ‘What To Do If You Find A Duckling’
No matter how many times we’ve done it, raising chicks has been an incredibly rewarding experience for us. These birds are absolutely adorable and watching them flit happily around in the brooder is soo much more fulfilling that putzing around on the phone.
If you are willing to take the responsibility and have the eight weeks available to care for them, I highly recommend purchasing a few chicks to raise. Adult chickens have rewards of their own, but they’re only ‘chicks’ for a little while.
Just make sure that you get more than one!