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Avoiding fire and disease: How to raise your chickens the right way

Chick season begins in early February and goes through late August. Photo: Ellen Meny

EUGENE, Ore. - Chick season is off to a running start, the time of year when baby chicks are available for purchase at farm stores - and hopeful urban farmers get their coops ready for their new flock.

But if you're thinking about raising chickens, there are some safety hazards- for you, and your fowl friends.

Bill Bezuk, owner of the Eugene Backyard Farmer, says new chicks need to be kept indoors, with a constant heat source. It's important to choose the right type of heat lamp to make sure your brand new urban farm doesn't become a fire hazard.

"So, in other words, a lot of people will sometimes take an office light or something like that, and toss one of our light-bulbs in there. That could be creating a serious safety hazard," Bezuk says.

Bezuk says the safest heat lamps have ceramic casing and a coated interior. The lamp and bulb cost about $20 all together.

Lamps aren't the only concern, however- Bezuk says it's important to always monitor the temperature of the chicks' environment, and to make sure chicks have fresh food and water.

"Making sure that you have a safe brooder to live in, and making sure you're keeping everything clean, including washing your hands afterwards," Bezuk says.

Bezuk says chicks can potentially spread salmonella, so washing your hands after handling chicks is critical.

Chicks are available to buy early February through late August. After about six weeks spent indoors and under their heat lamp, they'll be ready to move into an outdoor coop.

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