Chicks of domestic fowl are frequently available in the market and in petshops. These appealing fluffy little yellow guys are irresistable to children. Sadly, many will die from malnutrition, dehydration, stress, ailments etc. To avoid tza'ar baalei chaim, please be prepared!

One day chicks will be chickens. If you don't have a chatzer where they can scratch around, facilities for a large outdoor lul, or if you haven't arranged such a destination elsewhere in advance - please don't buy chicks!


Pellets suitable for chicks can be purchased at petstores. Cooked couscous, oats or any similar easily digestible grain, soft whole wheat bread crumbs and similar are all suitable. Don't add milk- it is likely to spoil and contaminate bedding.

As the chicks grow, they can receive table leftovers. NOT meat, but noodles and half eaten sandwiches are fine. If/when you provide whole grain you must also provide grit. This is essential for digestion if the birds don't run around on the earth. Grit and pellets for grown chicks are available at petshops.

(Pesach is a real problem for chickens. You can use commercial dove seed, checking it for the five grains- (esp oats). Most bird seed is kitniyos, and permissible for use with pets). Pellets are usually chometz. Make sure you know how to deal with pets on Shabbos! (muktzeh, tzad etc)

Birds generally do not like handling- it is extremely stressful to them. Handle only when necessary, very gently and briefly. Otherwise, leave them to themselves! In time a bird can become tame, but we can't impose ourselves on them.

You can keep chicks in a large cardboard box- on a bed of newspaper (change daily) or wood shavings. (ask for "nessoret" ) Never allow very young chicks to get cold.


Every year baby songbirds leave their nests, still at a very vulnerable stage. They will continue to be fed by their parents for a further few weeks. If you find such baby birds- LEAVE THEM ALONE! The parents are not far away- they are likely just within calling distance. The chance that they will be caught by cats is high, but the chance that they will die of malnutrition or crop blockage in our inexpert hands is much higher. They require a warm special high protein liquid formula around the clock, and will not automatically beg from a human being.

They need careful and regular handfeeding.

Chicks of domestic fowl can feed themselves, but chicks of songbirds, (including sparrows) are fed by regurgitation for at least a month after hatching, though they will begin to feed themselves inadequately before that. In the unlikely event of a successful rearing it will be nearly impossible to rehabilitate this bird to the wild.

BTW Wild sparrows, pigeons esp. carry many parasites and diseases, some of which can affect human beings and their pets. Dust from feathers and droppings can aggravate asthma.

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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