OK…You have decided that you want to raise egg laying chickens, either for your family’s breakfast table or to sell the eggs as a source of income.
What first? Well, first you have to get some chickens. You have two choices in how to do this.
The first, and fastest, way to begin getting eggs is to buy adult birds from someone who is reducing their flock size. Around here you can buy pullets of laying age for about $8.00 to $10.00 each. I DO NOT recommend this for a few reasons.
First, you lose learning how to raise chickens. Folks with a small homestead/farmstead flock of chickens need to know how to care for their birds from chick to stew pot, and that means starting by either hatching eggs or by purchasing day old chicks from a hatchery.
Second, get it out of your head that everyone who chooses the farmstead/homestead lifestyle has the same ethics as you. MOST do, but some don’t. When you go to buy adult birds and you are told, “Yep…these birds are great layers…only a year old and have a good year of heavy laying left in them.”, that is probably true. Probably…but maybe not. The birds may be 30 months old and well past prime laying age…and as a new chicken person you have no way of knowing until it is too late.
Third, when you buy adult birds you are buying any problems the person you buy from has in their flock, whether they know it or not.
Chickens are sturdy birds, not prone to disease, but problems DO occur, and the seller may just not know it yet…but you end up starting off with a diseased flock…not a good chicken raising endeavor’s beginning. You need to get a start that makes the learning curve as easy as possible so you don’t get turned off to the whole idea.
That means buying day old chicks. Chicks are sold by several hatcheries around the country, and most of them give good customer service and sell quality, healthy chicks. Two hatcheries that I am familiar with and feel comfortable with recommending are Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, IA and Ideal Poultry in Cameron, TX. Both of these businesses have a good reputation and should make you a very happy customer.
I personally have done business only with Ideal Poultry. I’m not a very patient person, and when I decide to do something I want to do it NOW! And Ideal helped me take care of that personal problem…LOL.
I had done my research and when I decided to raise egg chickens I wanted to be gathering eggs as soon as possible…like tomorrow if possible…LOL
Well, obviously tomorrow wasn’t possible, but I wanted to start quick…and it was the second half of December. I knew that chickens started laying eggs at about 20 weeks of age, or thereabouts, depending on the breed, and I knew the local farmer’s market where I sold other farmstead products opened for the season on the first Saturday in April…so I was in a hurry.
Something to remember when ordering chicks (this is basic, but I write this for total greenies when it comes to chickens…LOL)…
When you go to a hatchery’s website, you will see that you can ordermales, pullets, and straight run (straight run is both). Um…like I said it’s basic, but pullets, not males, lay eggs, and they don’t need male chicken’s help.
The only use you will have for male chickens…roosters…is irritating the neighbors…LOL.
Northern hatcheries, like McMurray, slow down, or sometimes shut down completely, during the winter. Ideal, being in Texas and more southern, operates year ‘round, and you can order chicks all but about 2-3 weeks a year…including the first part of January, my preferred time to get them.
Ideal it was…and I’ve never been sorry in all the times I’ve used them since.
With all the news lately about the vulnerability of our food supply, combined with folks’ increasing interest in homesteading and farmsteading, hatcheries are getting more and more orders for chicks…and back orders are getting common. When I first got chicks I decided to get them in early December, ordered them in mid-December, and got them the first week of January. It was an order of 25 Black Sex Links and 25 Gold Sex Links. Those breeds, along with my two other favorites (see “An Egg Chicken Primer”) now show as sold out until May 2010 on the Ideal website. If you want to raise chickens, order as early as possible.
One note about what to expect on your chick delivery. They are mailed USPS Priority Mail (don’t worry…they’ll be in good condition when you get them) and the post office won’t deliver them, at least not where I live. They don’t want to just leave them in case you aren’t home.
They will call you when the distribution center’s truck gets them to the local post office.
As soon as the truck delivers them.
As SOON as the truck delivers them.
CHICKS ARE NOISEY!!!
My post office rang my phone at 4:00am. I could hear the chicks peeping in the background, over the voice of the postal worker asking…almost begging…me to come get them…soon.
It was the first time in my life I almost felt sorry for a postal worker.
Coming next, “I’ve Got Chicks. What Now?”