How to get chicks (baby chickens that is)

The problem with having to work on posts in bits and pieces is that by the time I am almost done, something changes! I thought I had come up with this fantastic way to get the chicks and was so excited and writing a long post about it, but then it changed. So now I still need to figure out how to get the chicks.

There are at least three options for getting chicks: getting them locally from a breeder, if you are lucky enough to have someone nearby who raises chickens, buying from a farm store, or ordering from a hatchery. I would love to get them from a neighbor with chickens, but I don’t know the neighbors that well and I haven’t seen any chickens around, only lots of cows and hogs. 

I didn’t want to go to the local farm supply store and buy some random breed, so I figured a hatchery was my only option. However, most hatcheries will only do orders of 25 chicks (or multiples of 25) so that the chicks will stay warm and survive being shipped through the mail. I don’t want 25 chicks at the moment. That left a bit of a dilemma, but after looking at  the websites of different hatcheries and reading the forums at Back Yard Chickens, I thought I had finally figured out how to get the chicks.

While reading the forums at Back Yard Chickens, I discovered two things: 1) some hatcheries will do small orders, but they use heat packs and if there are any delays, you may end up with dead chicks and 2) if you have a farm supply type store nearby that sells chicks, they might do custom orders. So I called the local Farm King and they do custom orders! When I called, I thought the young woman said you had to order at least 5 chicks, but when I went to the store to place my custom order, I was told you have to custom order at lest 25. So either I was told the wrong thing on the phone or I heard what I wanted to hear. I am voting fot the latter since it seems more likely.

Needless to say, I was quite excited before I went to Farm King. I thought I was going to get to custom order 5 chicks of the breed of my choice (Delaware) and pick them up at Farm King. It was too good to be true, so now I am still trying to figure out how to get the chicks and I had to rewrite this blog post I have been working on for days.

I still have lots of options, I know. I was just so excited to have figured it out finally! As I see it, my options are:

  1. Go to Farm King and buy one of the breeds they order. They get Dominiques, New Hampshires, and Blue Andalusians straight run only and Leghorns as pullets. This could work as a couple of these breeds were on my list of ones that would work for us. The drawback is that I don’t want Leghorns, so that means I will get 5 chicks and hope they are hens! What will we do if we end up with 2 or more roosters? Eat them? Try to give them away or sell them? Kill them? I would keep one rooster, but more than that is not a good idea from what I’ve read.
  2. Talk to my neighbor and see if we can combine orders somehow. That  could work, but it depends on the breed he is getting as I don’t think most hatcheries allow you to mix breeds.
  3. Try Craigslist to see if I can find a somewhat local breeder, but again I’m not sure I’ll get the breed I want and I do not feel that I am knowledgeable enough about chickens to guarantee I will be getting something good. Plus, I did take a quick look at Craigslist and there are about four different cities that are about 2 hours away, so I’d have to look through all four and that seems like it would take more time than it’s worth when I don’t even know how to tell if a chicken is healthy or not.
  4. Order eggs from someone on Back Yard Chicken and incubate and hatch them myself. This could work, but was not what I was planning on doing so would require more research and planning.
  5. Order 25 pullets and start a small business in selling pasture fed eggs to local stores. While I might want to do this someday, I don’t think we should start out with 25 chicks! My vision was to have enough hens to have eggs for our family and maybe a few extras to give away to family. Maybe someday this will be an option, but not right now.

So this is my update. I meant to post more often and will try to do so in the future. Last week we went to Chicago for two days, had some throw up there and some at home, and had my mom and brother visit for a day. So there wasn’t much time to work on blog posts!

I have another post I’m working on about which breed I want and why, which will include links to different pages with breed comparison charts and some thoughts about raising uncommon breeds. I am also working on a post about our encounter with a wild deer.

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9 Responses to “How to get chicks (baby chickens that is)”

  1. Ang. Says:

    Hi, I saw your post at BYC. You can order just a few chicks from Farm and Home Supply in Keokuk, IA. Its a little less than an hour from you.

  2. Deborah Says:

    If you order 25 pullets, you will wind up with a couple roosters. I think Cackle has a minimum of 15 or 20, although I wouldn’t order 15 this time of year. They’d be fine in May at the earliest or June to be safe.

    To sell eggs to a store, you’d need an egg license, but you can sell “nest run” directly to friends. You probably won’t be over-run with eggs until next spring, and hopefully by then all your friends will know you have farm fresh eggs, so you won’t have any trouble selling extras to them. Chickens will lay tons in March/April, but are pretty sane the rest of the year. We have a “sale” on eggs when we’re getting so many, and we still wind up eating a lot of foods with high egg content — quiches, omelets, egg salad sandwiches, creme brulee pie, lemon meringue pie, pound cake, etc. During winter, we conserve since we usually go two or three months with no fresh eggs. They really are a seasonal food.

  3. hippygirl Says:

    Deborah, that is great to know they are seasonal. I had sort of figured that out a bit because I kept reading that they don’t lay as much when it’s cold or when there isn’t a lot of daylight, but had no idea they lay so much in early spring. I’m sure my husband won’t mind if we have to make custards and creme brulee a lot! hahaha.

    I don’t mind one rooster. We live out in the country and a rooster is fine! But two could be a problem because they are likely to fight, right?

    Ang, I will definitely look that store up. I can get chicks at Farm King, but they only straight run so I might make a trip to Keokuk since it’s not too far from us.

  4. Ang. Says:

    I have 4 roosters that coexist together. There are a few skirmishes but nothing terrible. They all seem to have girls that they like and a pecking order. It all works out.

    As far as eggs being seasonal, you can always add a light for some extra light hours to increase their winter production. Its helps some but nothing like the egg production during long daylight hours.

  5. Ang. Says:

    40-ish and 5 roosters. I keep them in 2 different flocks. One rooster with 13 hens and the other 4 roosters with the rest of the girls. Two of the roosters do a lot of free-ranging with some of the girls. That is why I am not sure of the numbers. Those free-rangers don’t always roost in the coop so its hard to get a good headcount.

  6. hippygirl Says:

    I just want to thank you, Ang. and Deborah! I did make the phone call to Farm and Home Supply and they had a lot more selection than the Macomb Farm King. And Deborah, saying now is as good a time as any is just what I needed to hear! Otherwise I could have researched it to death and waited until it was the perfect moment (which is never!).

    Thanks guys! I’m so excited to have some chicks and the kids just love them, too.

  7. Ang. Says:

    You’re welcome! They had a nice selection when I was in there on Friday. What kind did you get and how many? I almost bought a couple of EE pullets. I am trying to hold off since I have chicks coming in a few weeks. I might not make it though. Those EE pullets call my name every Friday when I am in there!

  8. Chicken breeds « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

    […] get. We carefully thought about whether to start with pullets or chicks, when to get the chickens, how to get them, how to house them (which we are still debating about!) whether to get layers or fryers or both, […]

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