The Chicken and The Egg (show notes for the podcast)
Okay people! We’ve heard your cries for help and we are delivering! I’m going to share all the links and information you need for your chickens.
In the podcast (if you haven’t listened yet, please do so!) we gave several recommendations on hatcheries:
These three hatcheries are the best we’ve found in our experience. They have excellent customer service and deliver live chicks! (Whenever you order baby chicks there is a chance some of them won’t survive. But these hatcheries have the highest percent of live chicks we’ve experienced. Literally our last batch of 500 chicks from Cackle Hatchery were ALL ALIVE and healthy. That’s amazing!!).
I get asked a lot how baby chicks survive the trip after hatching and this shows that God truly is the Master Creator because baby chicks are healthy for the first 72 hours of life without additional nutrients. (When a mama hen is sitting on her clutch of eggs they will hatch at slightly different times so God enabled them to survive after hatching. They eat the egg yolk almost immediately before hatching so they are fine nutritionally without food or water for up to 72 hours.) And the hatcheries above are so good at shipping your chicks will arrive safe and sound!
Next I need to tell you the breeds we recommended for laying hens. Our favorite breed day in and day out is the Buff Orpingtons. Those are the “yellow and red” chickens everybody sees in a back yard. They have beautiful golden yellow feathers, a red beak and comb. They are sweet, docile and will lay about 5 eggs each week. Other breeds we have had with success are Cinnamon Queens (they are a bit more flighty - they’ll lay 5-6 eggs/week), Golden Wyandotttes (so so sweet - lay about 5 eggs/week), Dominiques (beautiful black and white chickens - ours laid less than 4 eggs per week) and Buckeyes (they won’t win beauty contests but they’ll lay 5-6 eggs each week and lay maybe even longer than the Buffs). We’ve also had Black Copper Marans and they lay the darkest eggs in the chicken world and chefs swear by them. Marshall has won many a ribbon with those eggs! They are show stoppers! You do need to know if you want the Marans they are French through and through (I used to say they wore lipstick and smoked cigarettes when my back was turned.) They lay about 3 eggs per week and don’t ask for any more! As a matter of fact, don’t even bother these beauties!
When you order your chicks make sure to go to the store THAT DAY - yes - THAT DAY and get everything they need for the first few weeks of life. (You can also order them from the hatcheries. Once you have the supplies you don’t need to buy more for future chicks. Any yes, there will likely be future chicks.) Basically, you need a few waterers (the pans will fit regular mason jars so you may only need the pans), feed trays, a few heat lamps (depending on how big your brooder is and how many chicks you order) and some shavings for the floor. Those are all easy enough to find at any farm store, Tractor Supply or even Wal Mart these days. You’ll also need “sugar water” for the first few days to mix in with warm water. (Sugar water is just equal parts water and sugar heated until the sugar melts - simple syrup. You’ll mix about 1 teaspoon in with the water they’re drinking to encourage them to drink and teach them where the water is. Then after a few days you can stop that step.) And lastly you need Chick Starter. That’s the food they will eat for the first 18 weeks of life. After that you’ll switch to layer feed.
And now the housing question. The brooder is the home they’ll need until they are ready for outside. It doesn’t need to be fancy so don’t spend a lot of money. A big Rubbermaid tote, kiddie pool or even a dog house will likely work. You just need to be able to heat it for them, keep them safe and check on them.
Once they’re ready to move outside you can choose your housing options. We (and when I say “we” I mean “Barry”) construct our own chicken tractors and you can find pictures of them on our social media as well as here on the site. You can also buy the prefabricated ones online, at Tractor Supply or any of those places on the side of the road that build such things. They just need a little protection from the predators (flying and creeping), a roost to sleep on and a nesting box to lay in (you need about 1 box for every 6 chickens. They won’t stay in there all day, just long enough to lay.)
And when do those girls start laying? Not immediately. No way, so don’t expect that. They’ll start laying in 20-28 weeks. It’s a long time and you’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with your chickens, if you really did get all roosters or if you’ve lost your mind. But eventually you will get that first egg, post it to social media, send the picture to everyone in your contact list, prepare it and declare it to be the BEST EGG EVER EATEN.
And you know what? It will be.
Let me know if you have any other questions!