I know there’s still snow on the ground in most places, but if you are a chicken keeper or planning to get chickens this year, now is the time to start thinking about it. There are a few ways to go about getting chicks in the spring. Most feed stores carry some basic chicken breeds which they start taking orders for in January or February. You can also usually find chickens later in the year, often already laying, through sites like Craigslist. However the way I have always ordered chickens is from a hatchery, through the mail.
Chicks from a hatchery arrive one day old, peeping, at your mail box. The local post office will give you an excited call first thing in the morning to let you know that you can come and pick up your chicks.
The highlight of ordering chicks from hatcheries, in my opinion, is the array of options that you have. Most hatcheries offer lots of rare breeds and specialty chickens as well as meat birds and generic layers. If you are inspired by a colorful variety of hens, hatcheries are the way to go. At our little farm we already have some bantams and a silkie rooster, so this year it seemed logical to add a few exotics. My list of chicks coming in 2014 includes an Ameraucana (which lays blue eggs), a Mille Fleur Beard d’Uccle, and something called a Cuckoo Maran. Although I love eggs, I’ve got to admit the highlight of a backyard flock for me is variety and amusement.
The other reason I like to order through hatcheries is that most feedstores do not offer sex chicks. The majority of chicks from hatcheries come sexed, which is very helpful especially if you already have an established flock with a couple of rooster. And if for any reason you end up with too many chickens, you can always go to my other favorite place to pick up new hens – the local country fair.