Getting your Chicks:
We got our chicks from Estes Hatchery, in Springfield, MO. We ordered Barred Plymouth Rocks and Buff Orpingtons. The Rocks would sleep in your hand, but the Orpingtons were pretty stand-offish. They are now about 2 years old, and are very good egg producers. Some of the Rocks will walk up to you for you to pick them up, but like I said, the Orpingtons don't exactly want anything to do with you. The only problem was that we ordered all pullets, and got one rooster, which at the time seemed fine, until he got older and attacked every one he saw. We only lost one, to a condition that they call "pasty butt" that is caused by stress. I will explain how to deal with that later. Anyway, you might also choose to get your chicks from a farm store such as atwoods, but I don't usually think they are as healthy and well taken care of as the ones coming from local hatcheries.
Of course, you are going to need something to put them in, like a plastic tub, or wooden box. We usually have the tub for 1-10 chicks, but you might want to nail a few peices of wood together to make your own box. If you are planning on using this for more that 3 weeks, I would recommend about 2 feet of height, because they more than likely will start to fly out once they get some adult feathers. The temperature for your chicks is going to vary on how old they are, but you can find special chick thermometers in farm stores that tell you the right temperatures. I do not recommend pans or trays for them, because they will always step in and poop right in their food, so why not just throw it on the ground? Because they will eat their poo. A wonderful thing to use is a chick feeder like this, because they won't go to the bathroom in it very much, and you probably won't have to fill it up every day, depending on your chicks. For water, we use one of these most of the time, but this works for up to 5 small chicks. The bases of both get this goopy stuff on them every once in a while so make sure to scrub them regularly. For the bedding, straw would probably be fine, but pine wood chips is what we use. Make sure you have chick food BEFORE you get the chicks (of course), but you do not need grit if your feeding JUST chick starter. For a fun little treat, you can get dried mealworms. The birds love them, and it's adorable to watch your babies scratch to find them, but they don't usually come at a cheap price. Those are pretty much the only things you will need at the beginning.
Preparing for your chicks:
Keep in mind that you REALLY should get these things done before you get your ckicks, so as soon as they get home, they have a place to go. Two times in a row we have gotten un-prepared for birds, which is not a good idea, because they need warmth constantly when they are babies. Before you get them, find a place in your basement, barn, shop, etc. that has available outlets (for the heat lamp), and that you want your chicks to stink up for the next couple months (in other words, a place that not many people will be in). Put your tub/wooden box in there, and fill with about 2 inches of wood chips and/or straw. Right before you get them, you will want to turn the heat lamp on, making sure it is pointed in a corner, and fill their food and water.
Bringing your fluffballs home:
A good idea (if they are being shipped to you) is to order at least 17, because they rely on each other for warmth. We actually ordered 25, because that was the fewest you could get (like I said in the last sentence, there needs to be a lot of them for them to keep warm), and they gave us 2 extras (in case one died.). If you are bringing them home, you don't want it to be more than 30 minutes without warmth, so the main rule is to keep these babies warm! Once they are home, dip each of their beaks in food and water, and put them down. You are going to need a special chick thermometer that tells you what temp it should be, so make sure to get one!
Problems we had:
"Pasty butt", which took one of our chicks. There really is no way to prevent this from happening, so don't feel bad if it does. You need some Q-tips and warm water to wipe them off. Take one hand, flip him upside down, and wipe him off ever so gently. It's fine if you don't get all of the poop off, but there can't be any plugging them up. You might need to do this several times a day, but remember, they CAN die from this, so keep them clean!
If you somehow end up with a mean rooster, do not deal with him. Remove him from the flock, because you do not want to fight a rooster EVERY DAY. We had one a long time ago, and trust me, it is a lot less stressful to have a nice, peaceful rooster!
You are on your way to eggs and/or your own meat, so don't give up! Good luck!
(If you have any questions, requests, answers, etc. feel free to comment!
Hope you find this useful!,