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So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 1 of a 5 Part Series

So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you’re like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you’ll just troubleshoot along the way.  However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier.  So, lets start at the beginning.  How do I get the chickens?

Ordering the Flock

There are a few things that you need to ask yourself before you start.

1.  Do I want roosters?
2.  Do I want baby chicks or full grown egg laying hens?
3.  How many chickens do I want?
4.  What type of climate do I live in?
5.  What do I want my chickens for?  Pets, meat, eggs, or a combination?

There are many ways to get chickens.  Many hatcheries have mail order services.  The United States Postal service has been delivering live baby chicks in the mail since the early 1900s!  Depending on where you live, you can order day old baby chicks on-line from hatcheries.  Chick quantities depend on how fast they can deliver your chicks.  Chicks will huddle to keep warm.  The greater the number of chicks, the longer they can maintain their heat.  Thus if you are far from a large city, you may need to order a larger number of chicks.  Once hatched, baby chicks can survive 3 days without food and water because they ingest part of the egg prior to hatching.  My minimum order for Cape Cod was six.  We are about one hour from Boston.

Once the baby chicks hatch, they start their journey.    I chose to have my birds sexed because I wanted all females.  YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER TO GET EGGS.  All pullets, female chickens under one year of age, are born with about 4000 eggs.  Pullets start to lay eggs as early as 20 weeks to about one year.  Based upon the breeds you select, some are better at laying eggs than others.  I wanted chickens that were friendly, docile, good egg layers and cold hardy; thus the Austrolorp, Buff Orpingtons and the Silkie Bantams.  Note:  The Silkie Bantams lay smaller eggs.  Two of their eggs is equal to one standard breed’s egg.

I paid extra to get all pullets.  I also paid for them to be vaccinated for Marek’s disease.  With the sexing and the vaccination, each bird was on average about $12 and it is about $30 to overnight the package.  I ordered my chicks from http://www.mypetchicken.com/ .  I loved the experience.  They have a sexing guarantee.  They also have a terrific tool to help select your breeds.  I highly recommend them and will be placing an order for more chicks in the Spring of 2011.

The other option is to purchase egg-laying pullets.  Yes, you do get instant gratification.  If not stressed, the pullets will lay eggs immediately.  However, you must be careful because it is difficult to determine the age of the chicken and it’s overall health.  By researching on the internet, you should be able to find a reputable local farm or vendor that sells egg-laying pullets.

So now that you know about ordering chicks, how about getting ready for those chicks?  What are you going to order?

Click here for Part 2.

My 3 day old baby chicks
  • I am so excited I found your site as I was researching on Pinterest! We hope to add some ladies to our family in the spring and needed help to prepare. I believe I hit the jackpot here! Thank you for all the wonderful info so easily available!
    Guyla A

  • I've been reading your blog for three days. I don't even know how I originally found it but I have learned more here than talking to the local chicken keepers. I also ordered your book for my kids, who are 8, 7, and 3 who will be helping take care of the 6 chicks we just brought home today. I also really wanted your book for myself because I anticipate it will contain beautiful pictures like the ones on your blog. Our chicks are 3 days old and my 8 yr old son is already the chicken-whisperer. He has been handling chicks all afternoon and they fall asleep in his hands. We have been calling the local stores, Tractor Supply, and Southern States, here in Southeast VA since last week and we finally found a store an hour away with the chicks we wanted. We chose three Buff Orpingtons and three Black Australorps. I really wanted 2 blue egg-layers too but this store had none. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for your blog, it's such a great resource of information. I've been posting the link to your online chicken manual anywhere I see interest in chickens on facebook. We should receive your book on Thursday from Amazon, I look forward to my kids reading it!

  • Thank you for visitng and thank you for your sweet comment. I can't wait to hear more about your adventures. Enjoy your babies. I know you will love them.