You’ve got your coop built. You’ve got your run. Now you are going to buy your chicks.
Some of the first questions people ask me when they find out I have chickens are ”What breed are your chickens?” and “What chickens do you think I should get?” and “Where is the best place to get chicks?”
Choosing where to get your chicks is as important as what breed of chicken you want to have in your flock.
First of all, you want to determine the goal of your flock. Do you want solid egg layers? Or do you want some egg layers and some fun breeds? Maybe one or two layers with color and one or two showy hens, etc? All these questions come into play when you’re choosing your chicks.
The place where you buy your chicks is also important; you want to make sure your chicks come from reputable breeders and healthy environments.
There are many chicken facilities where one can buy good, healthy, clean chicks. They can even mail them right to your local post office for you to pick up and bring home to your new coop!
Here is a list of some of the larger hatcheries in the country:
Do you have to buy from a hatchery? Absolutely not. I’ve purchased MANY fine chicks from my local feed store. In fact, my hubby’s chicken Houdini, was purchased from the feed store near our fair ground and this very same chicken WON Best Breed and Best Variety — out of 21 other Buff Orpingtons.
Go look at the facilities at your local feed store. The chick buying/selling usually begins around March or April at most feed stores. Seems like it dove-tails with Easter but I could be wrong.
Once you pick your store, the choice is now what breed of chicken do you want? I’ll let you hear my story and then you can decide.
We wanted egg layers but not necessarily solid. We did want good heavy birds but my kids went to store with me which proved fatal. First we had decided that everyone would get one chicken (that would be four; one for each of us). Then they thought they should get one for the other four family members who were living with us at the time (now we’re up to eight). They THEN worried that each of those chicks would be alone and decided to get a mate for each of those chicks. So rather than one Buff and one Leghorn etc., we instead got two of each so that the chicks would have someone like them in the coop. Now we’re up to sixteen. This is where we stopped. I HAD planned on having only six or eight hens and the number doubled.
For my pick, I really wanted dark, dark eggs. Barnevelder, Marans, Welsumers, Penedesenca all lay rich, chocolate-looking eggs. We also wanted the colorful, blue-green layers as well. Might as well have what you want, eh? Sometimes these breeds are called “Easter-Eggers” but we found Ameraucanas at our local store. I also had to have some layers that lay only white eggs due to my step daughters’ hesitation in eating home-grown brown eggs (they don’t anymore). The best for that? Leghorns. I even get some double-yolks which are so cool to crack in a bowl!
So our final count? As of this date, I have three of Buffs and Amarucanas, two of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock, Lakenvelder, Wynodotte, White Leghorn, Black Jersey Giants and one of Rhode Island White and a Maran.
A very helpful information sheet that I found when deciding on the types of chicks we wanted was the Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart: (http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html). This chart showed about 60 different common breeds for potential small farm egg layers. This chart alphabetically tells about the breed, how much they should weigh, how they should look, their class, origins of the breed, egg productivity including color and size, and behavior of the breed. I use it as a guide even now in case I forget about my birds or want to add another to the flock.
I hope this little bit of information helps get you going in the right direction when choosing your chicks for your coop. Next: Bringing your chicks home!