Source for best quality chicks: store? hatchery? private breeder?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by ekramer, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. ekramer

    ekramer New Egg

    Jan 1, 2013
    Wichita, KS
    I want to avoid buying poor quality chicks. I've heard that's quite common if you buy from a farm supply store, less common if you buy from online hatcheries, and least common if you go to a reputable private breeder whose breeding stock you can observe first-hand. In a nutshell, does this seem to tell the story? What does everybody think? Assuming finding a private breeder for Delawares will be tough (because they are so rare), I'm thinking the most expedient thing for me to do, which gives me the highest chances of getting quality birds, is buy from the most reputable online hatcheries like Meyers, McMurray and Ideal Poultry. Tell me what you all think. Make other recommendations if you have any. Is there such a thing as a Delaware fanciers club?
  2. willowbranchfarm

    willowbranchfarm Chicken Boots

    Oct 3, 2011
    My Coop
    Well from my expirience a hatchery is the worst, then feed store, then breeder.

    If you want show quality then you want to buy from a breeder, if you want a hen for eggs then buy from a feed store or hatchery.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    It depends on what your goals are.

    Some people are under the impression that all hatcheries are identical. They are not. Some keep their own flocks for laying hatching eggs, some get the hatching eggs from suppliers, and some drop-ship. They have different people selecting the birds that go into the breeding pens. The different people selecting the breeders have different abilities and different goals.

    Even with all that there is probably more consistency in hatchery chickens than chickens from breeders. With hatchery chickens you are going to usually get chickens that lay pretty well and are colored a lot like the breed is supposed to be. Body shape and a lot of the little details are usually not that great as to what the breed is supposed to be. For the vast majority of us, these are probably the best choice. With the normal pen-breeding method practically all of them use you are not likely to get a show-quality chicken. Occasionally some people do but that is a million to one shot.

    Feed store chickens almost always come from a hatchery so they should be similar to hatchery chickens. You’d have to talk to the person at the feed store that actually orders them to see what your options are and where they come from. Find the person that actually does the ordering, not someone that might or might not know what they are talking about. It is possible that they can make a special order for you.

    Breeders are all over the place. You might get someone that gets hatchery chickens and knows a lot less about selecting breeders than the hatcheries do. You might get someone that breeds purely for show. They are only interested in the things a judge will see. Judges don’t see eggs or egg laying ability for example. You might find someone breeding for productivity and not worrying about show quality. You may find someone breeding for both show quality and productivity. Some even breed for behavioral traits.

    Your best bet is to decide what traits you actually want and find someone that knows what they are doing and are breeding for the traits you want. Good luck with that. I don’t have a clue how you would go about that. Maybe go to the American Poultry Association website and look for Delaware breeders.

    Before you can get what you want you need to know what you want. When you say “quality chickens” I have no idea what you mean. You need to know what qualities you want the chickens to have.
    1 person likes this.
  4. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I have nothing to add to this. Perfect.
  5. mtnviewfarms

    mtnviewfarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    I totally agree with Ridgerunner's response to your query. After you have identified exactly what traits and qualities you want in your chickens
    that will give you a place to start when contacting breeders. Don't know what city you live near but I live 90 miles from Atlanta and their is a poultry 'meet up' and fanciers site with a great forum where people can post what they are looking for and people can respond.

    If you are looking for a small backyard flock that will lay you lots of eggs and you don't care if they are hybrids that can't reproduce themselves accurately then you could get sex links - comets, ISA browns, etc. All eggs are nearly identical, they lay prolifically and the eggs are huge!

    If you want more 'eye-candy' as well as great laying and you want to support keeping of heritage breeds ( birds that will 'breed true' unlike the above
    noted hybrids ) then you could try Welsummers, Delawares, Barred Rocks, RIRs, Black Australorps, Marans, etc.

    The whole 'chicken experience' is like a huge Bell Curve in that there is every kind, type, quality, look, etc. out there throughout the spectrum. You have
    to narrow down where on the spectrum you want to be with your birds then try to find it.

    Google Whitmore Farms - they are in Maryland and specialize in breeding and selling Heritage Breeds, Delawares being one of the few breeds they sell.
    I have never purchased birds from them but know many who have and all have been extremely pleased with their birds from them.

    I have two flocks and breed my birds but I have my own specific qualities and goals that I go for when I select the breeding birds. I want to get as close to the SOP as my 'non-show' quality birds are able to get when possible as I have Heritage Breeds but that is secondary ( in my flock plan ) to egg laying frequency, egg quality, egg size,
    egg color, temperament, ability to continue laying even through winter months w/o added light to coop, people friendly ( I don't raise 'pet' birds but I do
    not tolerate being flogged - once and that bird will not only not make it to the breeding pen - it will not pass go but will directly go into the soup pot!

    I sell my multi-colored large eggs both directly from my small farm and at two farmers markets in my area. Since my egg
    'clientele' are more enamored with diversity of color and size of eggs than cost I specialize in breeds that will give me very
    individualized eggs that have the 'wow-factor' when the carton is opened. My 'girls' give me a constant supply of large to extra large eggs with a color pallette ranging from stark white to pinkish tan, green/blue, dark tan, ivory, terra cotta with even darker speckles - GORGEOUS!

    I currently have BRs, RIRs, Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers ( I know, they are not heritage breeds but I love their look and am addicted to those gorgeous large blue green eggs ), White Leghorns, Black Australorps and Welsummers. Each of these breeds is very unique and I choose to maintain them in my
    flocks because of the positive contribution their unique and highly valued qualities ( IMO and for my flock goals and needs ) make.

    Good luck with your 'plan' and goals for your flock.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  6. ekramer

    ekramer New Egg

    Jan 1, 2013
    Wichita, KS
    Wow! Thanks a bunch for opening my eyes. I had no idea the notion of a "quality bird" was such a broad topic. But I have to agree with your own goal of getting as close to the Standard of Perfection as possible without having actual show birds. Authenticity with the breed's published characteristics (within reason, of course) is my main goal. Respectable egg production and meat quality/quantity will naturally follow, but I have no desire to attempt to "peg the meter" on these dual-use qualities. I'm not in this to generate income. I'm a hobbiest. I think I will do as Ridgerunner suggested and contact the American Poultry Assoc. Maybe they can direct me to breeders who share my vision for Delawares.
  7. Texasmja

    Texasmja Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 17, 2011
    Go to this thread, there is a lady on there that breeds Delawares.
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Here is another thread that might be of interest.

    Some people take me wrong when I say what I’m about to say. I highly respect people that breed for show. I’ve played with breeding and genetics on a much simpler basis and what they do is not easy.

    I look at it that the SOP was developed so people can compete and show their birds against each other. Pure show birds have very little to do with the functionality of the original breed in many cases. Body shape and conformation go a long way to define a breed so there is some correlation there. I’ll use Delaware as an example.

    The original purpose of the Delaware was as a meat bird. Some of the important characteristics in developing this breed were conformation, how fast they grew, skin color, and the feed to meat conversion rate. They were made a light color because a plucked carcass is much more attractive if you cannot see the pin feathers. They needed to handle confinement well. One of our forum members, I think it was Imp, had an old advertisement where someone said their Delaware chicks could reach 4 pounds in 10 weeks. That was considered great then.

    There can be a lot of discussion in what some words actually mean, but to me these are the types of characteristics that make the Delaware a heritage breed, not necessarily all the SOP things. Things like number of points on a comb or eye color are not there to put meat on the bones. Those are purely for competition purposes. There are some things like egg shell color that don’t really apply to productivity or show but they help define the breed. There are plenty of other people that consider the show qualities in the SOP as what describes a heritage breed. Choose whichever definition you wish.

    The really good show bird breeders sometimes have different lines to produce a show rooster versus a show hen. If you have two separate breeding lines for the sexes, is this really a breed or are these two subsets to a breed?

    This is my opinion. You’ll find people that are really passionate about their Delaware or any other breed that won’t like what I’m saying. They are rightly proud of what they are doing. A show bird is a beautiful bird. But it is not necessarily a productive bird.

    An example. A yellow skinned hen will lose her yellow color if she lays productively over time. That’s one way to tell a yellow skinned bird is a pretty good layer, that she loses skin color. If you enter that hen in a competition, she will not score as well as a hen that does not lay very well unless you enter her right after her molt. They regain skin and leg color during the molt when they quit laying. So if you select a yellow legged hen for leg color, you are generally selecting against good egg production.

    I’ll give another example. Most show birds are fairly large. This makes them inefficient egg producers. This does not mean they don’t lay a lot of eggs; it means they have to eat more to produce those eggs since a lot of what they eat goes to maintaining their larger body.

    I don’t know about Delaware specifically, but there are a very few breeders for certain breeds that are trying to produce a bird that has the SOP traits well enough to show, breed for productivity, and breed for behavioral characteristics the breed is supposed to have. These are the ones that really make life hard for themselves.

    As I said, this is my opinion. If you talk to Delaware breeders (or any other breed) be a bit careful what you say. Some will get highly offended at what I just said. They are really passionate about what they are doing and truly believe they are trying to carry on a tradition of what the breed was meant to be.

    I don’t know if you will get anything out of what I wrote that will help you. Maybe it will help you decide on what traits are important to you. If you don’t know what traits you are looking for, you’ll probably be disappointed in what you get.

    Good luck!
  9. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I'm not going to speak for the OP here, but what you said makes total sense to me.

    This is why show Orpingtons are not for me. They sure eat a lot for what they give back. [​IMG]
  10. ekramer

    ekramer New Egg

    Jan 1, 2013
    Wichita, KS
    You guys are just great. I'm very impressed at the time you've taken to craft very complete responses. I've learned a great deal of the philosophy of achieving "quality" in poultry. I'll be a much more well-rounded hobbiest because of these insights you've provided. Thanks a bunch!

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