For a few weeks now I’ve been trying to figure out how our egg layers will come to us. Will we get chicks or pullets? From where? When? I explored ordering day-old chicks, which in theory would provide the best experience for our family. We could watch the chicks grow into chickens and handle them right from the start so that they become familiar with us, and us with them. But buying day-old chicks isn’t as easy as you might think it is. The reputable hatcheries that can almost guarantee that I get female chickens (which I want) either have a high minimum number of chicks per order (Murray McMurray Hatchery requires a minimum of 25 per order) or the shipping is pricey (I thought $37 was a lot to pay for chicks from My Pet Chicken). What to do?
Luckily, since the world works in mysterious ways, and since I talk a lot to anyone who will listen, my friend, fellow homeschooling mom and our 4H & Daisy leader tipped me off about a school program offered by our local county extension office. I can rent an incubator and buy eggs, watch them hatch and then raise the chicks. All for much less money than it would cost me to buy chicks online. The eggs are Red Sex-Links: hearty, consistent egg layers. The only caveat is that 50% of the chicks I hatch will likely be roosters and I definitely don’t want roosters. In comes the fantastic farmer I work for to save the day: he’ll take my roosters. In the end, I should be left with 6-10 hens.
The best things about the way this problem was solved are that I am making and engaging in so many more local personal connections by renting the incubator from the local ag office and giving the roosters to my farmer rather than placing an order online and receiving chicks in the mail. My girls and I get to watch the chicks hatch, which is one of our favorite things to do. And of course the chicks will be less stressed under my constant care than they would be in a USPS box.
I’m planning to pick up the incubator and eggs in early March and welcome the chicks 3 weeks later. Jeff and I have to get busy setting up their snug retreat and then building the chicken coop. And of course there is the whole matter of learning about how to care for chickens. All in time.