Raising a small flock of chickens for eggs has become a popular pastime for the urban farmer. Raising chickens is fun, easy to do, low in cost, and provides a family with wholesome, organic eggs that taste better than anything purchased in the supermarket.
Buying chicks takes a little more effort than running down to the local pet store. Egg laying chickens tend to be available from farm amp; feed stores or hatcheries in the spring, and are always best ordered ahead. Here’s a few things you should consider before ordering chicks:
What breed do I want? For me, egg production is the bottom line. While there are all sorts of lovely and colorful breeds out there, the most productive laying hens are White Leghorns, Golden Sexlinks, and Rhode Island Red, in that order. Leghorns are white, Sexlinks are a pretty gold color, and the Reds are a coppery red shade. Leghorns lay the white eggs, Sexlinks and Reds lay brown eggs. There is no nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs.
While you certainly can select other breeds of chickens, keep in mind that some chickens may only lay eggs every other day. Other breeds such as Bantam, lay small eggs which might not be sufficient for a family’s use.
Pullets or Straight Runs? Hatcheries and Feed Stores alike sell chicks as either “straight runs” (unsexed), or as pullets (baby hens). Straight runs usually cost less, but the buyer runs the risk of ending up with some roosters in the bunch. Pullets are sexed and almost always are hens. If buying straight run chicks, it’s best to buy plenty of extras just in case.
Where can I order chicks? There’s a number of hatcheries listed on-line where chicks can be ordered for shipment to your home. Most of these farms charge between $4-5 per chick with a minimum order of at least a dozen or so. A cheaper solution is to buy chicks from a local feed or farm store which tends to between $1.50-$2.25 per chick with no minimum order.
If you have your mind set on high productivity, it’s best to order ahead to ensure getting the breed of hens you want. Local farm and feed stores will provide buyers with a list of available breeds and the estimated ship date to the store. Pre ordering chicks guarantees that you get what you want without having to settle for a showy hen that only lays eggs a few times a week.