Welcome to part two of the chicken experience Homestead Redhead style.
This is one of the most exciting parts of all; picking out which of the dozens of fluff balls are going to be coming home with you. There are MANY chicken breeds available. Before you head out to purchase the chicks, do some research on what breeds work best in your area. Some chickens are better egg layers than others, some do better in colder climates, some breeds are friendlier than others; there is a wide variety of skills and personalities available. Just like with any animal (or human), just because the breed is well known for something, doesn’t necessarily guarantee those characteristics. Each chicken is an individual and product of its environment.
There are several main options on how you go about finding chicks.
- Feed store (Tractor Supply, Southern States, local)-these are only in stock around Easter time
- Craigslist (around this time of year there are plenty of chicks available, also a good place to look for chickens on the off-times)
- Online (mypetchicken.com, efowl.com etc.)-I have not personally ever ordered online. The downside to most online hatcheries is there is a minimum chick limit, usually around 15. If you aren’t interested in that many at a time, this isn’t the best option.
If you are purchasing chicks from a designated “hatchery” most are NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) certified. This means that the hatchery participates in a state program that focuses on ensuring Pullorum (bacterial disease) is not present in their flocks. Here is some additional information, NPIP Info.
Chicks will be either unvaccinated or Marek’s vaccinated. It is up to you which you prefer, we choose to keep our animals natural, but many hatcheries vaccinate.
Our original three chicks came from a feed store. They typically sell sexed chicks and are of the more commonly known breeds. These include Rhode Island Reds (red), Black Australorps (black), and Buff Orpingtons (golden). These hens all lay brown eggs. If you are interested in white eggs, Leghorns are good reliable white egg layers. I will be doing a special blog on eggs, so stay tuned.
My recommendation for first time chicken owners is to stick to the hardy breeds; Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps and Buff Orpington. Typically the more ornamental the breed, the more sensitive and temperamental (like some people I know!).
When you physically go to pick up the chicks here are a few pointers:
- Bring a cardboard box (there will be chicken poo all over it by the time you get home, so nothing fancy) with ventilation and a soft shirt for them to rest in (avoid towels because they can pick apart the threads and choke)
- Pick out chicks that are plump, well formed. Check them over for broken beaks, runny eyes, malformed legs-all signs of unhealthy chicks.
- If it is a private breeder make sure the conditions are humane and clean-just like any animals, poor sanitation can lead to disease.
Here are a few pics of our chicks way back when…
Gerty -Rhode Island Red:
Buff Orpington-We no longer have this one, as this sexed pullet turned into an aggressive rooster (mistakes can be made!) so we found him a new home:
Black Betty-Black Australorp:
And this is Princess in all her chick glory:
Craigslist and online hatcheries are the best bet if you are looking for a more unique or specific chicken breed. Just remember that as cute as those fluff balls are, they will eventually grow up in to several pounds of scratching, squawking hen. Don’t get more than you have room for or can care for.
Next we will explore chick behavior and aging phases.
Until next time…