Part 2: Keeping Chicken 101
If chickens walk around your backyard and baskets full of brightly colored eggs still fill your mind as you sit and daydream, then it's probably safe to say you are ready for the next step in our Keeping Chickens 101 series!
If you have done your "homework" from the previous blog Keeping Chickens 101: Part 1, you have already decided or narrowed down on which breed and type of chicken you want.
Now comes the exciting part, getting your chickens! But to ensure you get the best experience, let's go over where to get your chicks or chickens again.
Where & Who to get your chicks or Chickens from:
- Ensure the person or place you purchase your animal from is reputable. Unfortunately, I've encountered situations where people have purchased too young or sick animals. Some sellers try to get rid of unwanted or ill stock.
- You are usually safe will a well-established and reputable feed store, hatchery, or local homesteader.
- A good breeder will ensure you have all the correct information before leaving with the new family pet or homestead animal.
- Also, ask the breeder if they would be willing to take back the animal if it is not a good fit for your family. We offer to take back any animals from our homestead that doesn't quite work out with a family.
You will be surprised how many local homesteaders and chicken lovers you will find if you ask around. Local people/contacts are an excellent resource for any issues or questions. They likely have experienced the same thing in their chicken-keeping journey.
If you order your chicks from a hatchery and have them shipped, I have a whole section at the end of the blog. Make sure to continue reading, as the rest of the information will still pertain to your chicks!
You must also have your brooding station up and running before bringing your chicks home. I will cover the brooder and coops in Part 3 of our chicken journey.
Selecting Healthy Chicks:
You want to ensure the chick(s) you buy look healthy before you leave the store or place you purchase them from. Do not feel bad for taking your time and getting the chicks you think are the healthiest. A seasoned homesteader or farm Co-Op will understand.
At the end of this post, there will be a link to the next pages in our Keeping Chickens 101 Planner with all the terms you need to know about chickens!
You will see some terms on the store's brooding tubs or a website.
- Hens only - all females
- Straight Run or Unsexed - a mix of males and females you will only know once they become juveniles.
- Males/Roosters only - all males
You can review Part One of this blog series to see which selection would be best for your needs.
Boy or Girl:
There are ways to "sex" a chick: wing, vent, and the ole farmer's trick of how their legs hang. The only one 100% right is the vent check, done by hatchers, but it can be invasive. You do not need to do it yourself. A few breeds are very distinctive when chicks as male and female.
Mostly, the labels on the stores and hatcheries are correct, but my mother-in-law picked up just pullets once, and half of them were roosters.
What to Look For:
- A chick's eyes should be clear, and the beak should be clean. If they have foggy eyes or snot from their beaks, steer clear of those chicks. If you see several in a batch with similar issues, it is probably best not to purchase any chicks from that batch.
- They also need clean healthy-looking chick fuzz (feathers).
- Legs are solid and straight. The chick should be moving around the brooder easily and be active. Newly hatched chicks sleep quite a bit but should quickly get up when gently nudged.
- Check their behinds for built-up waste. You should see a clean bottom. If poop is built up on their bottom "pasty butt," it must be cleaned off quickly because it can harden, not allowing the chick to get rid of waste. The mother chicken naturally does this for her chicks, so incubated chicks must be monitored. Most homesteaders will constantly be checking for this, so you should see clean bottoms, but stores might need more time to do this, so check before taking them home.
Selecting Healthy Chickens:
Yep, you read right, you can actually purchase older chickens!
You can purchase the following:
- Pullets: Female that is under a year old
- Hens: Female that is a year or older
- Roosters: A male chicken (includes cock and cockerel)
- Cock: Male that is a year or older
- Cockerels: Male that is under a year old
You will want to stick with Pullets. That way, you are getting a younger bird and will benefit from more eggs throughout the bird's life.
Here are some of the benefits of buying already mature chickens.
- You do not have to have all the equipment and space needed to brood baby chicks.
- The chicken's colors and patterns are already established.
- You should be able to see the chicken's personality.
- It saves you the time of not having to mess with young chicks.
- They will be able to lay eggs sooner.
- You still want to use the information I shared about selecting healthy chicks. But add healthy, full feathers.
- It might be harder to tell the chicken's age depending on its breed. So, make sure you are getting your birds from someone trustworthy.
- Have a way to transport larger birds home.
- You must have your coop set up and ready for your chickens when they get to your location.
- You will need to keep them enclosed in the chicken coop or pen for about two to three days so they can establish it as "home."
- If you already have chickens and are bringing older birds home, you must also quarantine them. Quarantine is for the protection of your current chickens. If you get any new animals to your homestead, you will want to keep them in a separate area until you are positive they are healthy.
Getting Chicks in the Mail:
If you order from a hatchery, especially one of the well-known or more prominent hatcheries, the chicks you order will be shipped to you.
When will you get them?
Once your chicks are ordered, the hatchery will send you a delivery date. Mark it on your calendar and have an alarm set on your phone.
Smaller hatcheries will not ship chicks when it is too cold or hot for their location and your area—watching both day and night temps. But I've found from my own and other experiences that bigger hatcheries will ship without caring about the temperature in your area.
Pick Them Up Right Away
The post office will hold your chicks, and you must physically pick them up. USPS will not bring them to you. They will call you the morning they arrive. Once, they forgot to contact me, so if I'm expecting chicks, I call as early as 6:45 am, so I can go ahead and get them. You can hear loud chirps over the phone and when you enter the post office building.
You need to get them as early as possible and back to your brooder that is up and ready for your chick's arrival. Do not wait to get your chicks! Twice I opened up a box of chicks and found them all dead. Once, they got too hot, and the other, too cold. Unfortunately, the same thing has also happened to family members and friends.
Check Your Chicks Right Away
When you pick up your box, you should hear peeps coming from it. Check it before you leave. If your chicks do not make it, you will receive a refund or an option for another order. I've never not, or know, anyone who wasn't reimbursed.
You can select a delivery date on some hatchery websites so that you can make sure you will be able to pick them up right away.
Which Option is Best for You?
Chick, younger chicken, or chicks in the mail? If you grabbed the chicken planner in the last blog post, you could use the information you wrote down from those pages to make the best decision.
Still on the fence about chickens? In this video we show you how our chickens are worth more than just eggs!
Video link HERE or click below:
Here are the NEW pages for the Keeping Chickens 101 Planner:
Chick Order/Pick Up, Healthy Chick/Bird Checklist, & Chicken Terms
Grab yours by clicking the image below.
Tip: Save the pages to your Pinterest board with the icon link in the top left corner!
Grab your pages by clicking the photo below or this link: