They're cute. They're fluffy. And yes, they're also fragile and completely dependent on you for their survival. But overall, taking care of new chicks isn't as hard, time consuming or expensive as you might think.
As long as their basic needs are taken care of--warmth, food, water, shelter and protection from other animals (and sometimes people), they should be fine.
It's a good practice to require anyone handling the baby chicks to wash your hands both BEFORE and AFTER handling. The before protects them from your germs, the after washing protects you from their germs.
But after a good hand washing, don't be afraid to gently handle your chicks. If you handle them regularly while they're young, they'll get used to it and become tamer adult birds. Some of mine even come jump in my lap when I sit down outside and most of them follow me around like a trail of little puppies. This is because they had lots of one on one holding time from the day they came home from the feed store and most days since then.
Hold chicks in your hands firmly, but not tightly. Don't squeeze them. Support their feet. It's easy when they're very small to cup them in the palm of your hand and gently place your other hand over the top. Some coaching will probably be required for little hands and little people.
Eat, Poop, Sleep, Repeat
Taking care of new chicks is much like taking care of any baby animal. For the first little while, most of what they do is eat, sleep and poop. Make sure they always have clean water and food to eat. Make sure, too, that the water dish you use isn't too deep so they won't have the possibility of drowning (some people place pebbles in the water to keep that from happening). Change the water regularly and make sure they get enough to eat.
Most feed stores in the city will sell food in smaller than normal 25 or 50 pound bags specifically for the small urban flock. Manufacturers make specially formulated 'chick starter' food to meet the needs of your baby chicks. This starter food can be purchased in organic, regular and medicated formulas, depending on the way you personally want to feed your birds.
The by product of all that eating is a lot of poop. It's important that the brooder (and later the chicken coop) is cleaned regularly to keep the mess down, not only making it smell better, but also helping to keep the baby chicks healthy and well.
When the chicks are in the brooder, it's also important to check their backside from time to time. If messy poo gets stuck on their rear, it has the potential to block their vent and cause their demise.
If a chick gets a poopy butt, gently clean it off with a damp rag, paper towel or Q-tip. Pat her dry, and make sure she stays warm until she's dried off completely.
Taking care of new chicks is a blast! Learn to relax. I know with my first batch of chicks, I hovered over them like, well, a mother hen! I was so nervous I might forget something they needed, or somehow kill them accidentally. But, as it turned out, they made it through babyhood and beyond just fine. They are fragile, yes. And sometimes they do die, often for no fault of your care taking.
But mostly, they're just fun to watch and care for and have around. So, in the process of worrying, don't forget to take time to relax and enjoy. It's probably gonna turn out just fine! So breathe....if you're new to raising chicks, you'll get the hang of it...and beware...it's addicting!
Where to go next
Do you need to know how to set up a brooder for your baby chicks? Or read more information on raising chicks?
Are you worried about whether or not you should start your flock with baby chicks or older birds?
Find out how much space your flock will take, and how much it will cost to raise a backyard flock.
Would you like to know more about keeping chickens?