Shopping for your flock can be hard and even stressful. Below I have written some tips on when and where to get your flock.
Most farmers order their chicks from a hatchery on-line. They do this because they know what to expect and which hatcheries to trust. If you are a beginner, I suggest visiting your local farm store such as JAX, Farm King, or Tractor Supply, to get your chicks. If you decide to mail order, remember these things: Order from a good hatchery, know what breeds you want and specify them. Some hatcheries send you a surprising variety of birds if you do not list the breeds you want. However, I don’t recommend this if you are a first time owner and don’t know much about different breeds. It could be a problem if you have limited space and were to receive large, heavy breeds. If possible, email or call the hatchery and be sure to speak with someone about your specific needs. If you want to order from a hatchery, know that there is usually a minimum number you can order. If ordering a few chicks, then try to find a friend or someone who wants to order too and have your chicks shipped together. The chicks are much more likely to survive and will be kept warmer with more chicks in the box.
There are many resources, hatcheries and books to reference, so take your time in making your selections. Make sure to order your chicks early, or put them ‘on hold’, because many hatcheries sell out of breeds quickly during peak season which is typically in early spring. Additionally, hatcheries only ship once or twice a week so you will need to decide which week of which month you want them to arrive. Hatcheries guarantee the delivery of live chicks. If you do receive one or more dead chicks then the hatchery will return your money. Of course they will not send you another single chick to replace the dead one. I’ve listed some guidelines and rules to follow when ordering chicks.
· Take into consideration your purpose in purchasing chicks. Are you looking for a pet, do you want lots of eggs, are you raising them for meat or do you want dual-purpose chicken breeds? All of these factors will help to determine which breeds to select.
· Carefully consider what size chickens will best fit your coop and outside space. Almost all chicken breeds come in bantam size. However, not all bantams come in standard. Do not over crowd your birds!
· Decide whether you want males, females or straight run. Males are good fertilizers, alarm clocks and guards for your flock. Hens lay without roosters present and are (usually) easier to tame. Straight run means you should be prepared to receive both genders.
· Decide whether to vaccinate your chickens or to let nature help out. Vaccinating will help keep your chickens safe from getting Marek’s Disease, and salmonella and other sicknesses.
· Place your order as soon as you determine the breed, the time of year, and the number of chicks. Some hatcheries will allow you to reserve your birds in advance.
· While awaiting the chicks, get ready! Make sure your brooder is set up and ready before the chicks arrive.
Finally, the day arrives! The chickens have been delivered! As soon as you receive them, place them in the brooder under the heat lamp. It might also be a good idea to dip their beaks in warm, sugared water to boost their energy and hydration. Enjoy your chicks! They grow quickly!
Visiting Your Local Store
I bought my chicks at our local JAX. Visit a local farm supply store to cut out the wait and see that your chicks are healthy at the time of purchase! It is nice to be able to talk to the sales clerks if you need help selecting a breed to match your space at home. Farm stores have most chicken breeds, but they may not carry all the breeds at the same time. We had a very good experience in purchasing our chicks at the local farm store.
Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter?
When should you purchase your chicks? If you want eggs the same year you buy your chicks, then you should consider buying them in February or March. Then you can expect your pullets to begin laying in mid-summer, around August or September. If you buy chicks in the winter, then you can expect eggs in the late spring. If you purchase winter chicks, you will have to keep your birds warm, dry and out of drafts. If you buy them in the warm summer months they will need to be kept in shade and have plenty of cool, water.
Good luck! Here are few helpful links to check out too