Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting for the Mail-Order Chicks

It's that time of year already. It's chick time.

The cat will not be present when the chicks arrive!
Today I'm walking around with my cell phone in my pocket because I'm expecting the call from the post office: "Your chicks are here." I ordered 15 red broilers (for meat), which my friend Erin and I are going to process together in 12 weeks or so when they reach butchering size. It's a joint venture this year, which will be fun. She helped us butcher last spring and it was so nice to have another set of hands to help. Somehow we've always been lucky to have extra folks around on butchering day.

I also threw two extra birds into the order at the last minute: a Buff Orpington pullet and a black Australorp pullet. My favorite chicken of all times was a giant black Australorp named BK. I once saw her snatch an entire sandwich out of a child's hand. I also saw her take a nap with a Great Dane. She was gentle and funny and a good layer. She was caught and injured by a coyote in our driveway and died in my arms. I think I'm still a little sad about that.

Buff Orpingtons are a very popular breed and are known to be good layers. Surprisingly, I've never had any so I thought I'd try one out. I ordered these birds back in January when my hens weren't laying. It was a really sad winter for egg production. I have EIGHTEEN chickens and was getting 1-2 eggs a day. (Of the eighteen, one is a rooster and one is of indeterminate sex, but still...) As soon as February began the ladies began to ramp up production and now we are getting 9-10 eggs a day. You would think that with all those eggs I'd have a huge surplus but so far we are keeping up. There is at least a dozen eggs in the refrigerator at any given time and that's the way I like it.
Plastic tote bin set up as a chick brooder

I have the guest room all set up to receive the new chicks. I am using the long plastic tote I scavenged in the trash last month as their home. I filled the bottom with pine shavings and then covered the pine shavings with old pillow cases so that the new chicks don't eat the shavings. Then I added the water bottle, a thermometer, the heat lamp, and sprinkled food crumbles on top of the pillow cases. After a few days I can remove the pillow cases and the chicks can be in direct contact with the pine shavings. I put a big tub of fresh shavings nearby for the daily cleaning that will need to be done.
Pine shavings for chick bedding
We have another poultry order that is scheduled for delivery on April 1st. That order includes 8 ducks and 2 geese. Big Sister is especially excited about that order because several of the ducks are hers to raise. Today I enjoyed re-reading my old post The Mail Order Poultry Has Arrived, chronicling our chick delivery last spring. It's starting to become a yearly family tradition!


  1. Geese?!? Watch out, lady, you're gettin' hardcore homestead.

    They scare the shit out of me, no joke. Every time I encounter a goose they try to attack me. Which is why people get them. But still.....

    I'm still debating about chick orders. I want some polish crested, but have to cull some of my old ladies to add them in and I've grown so attached....

    1. I know. I'm nervous about the geese but excited, too. If they are mean I'll just eat them. We have never had any luck with Polish crested but my son has always wanted one!

  2. Look at that sweet set up. The little chicks will be so jazzed.
    So after the pillowcase comes up, where does their food go? (Just curious as I'm hoping to be ready for chickens this year and trying to learn all I can!)

    1. Good question- I have a couple of metal chick feeders that I fill with food. Actually, I only need one of them in this setup. And that reminds me.... I should go give the chicks fresh water before I go to bed! Off I go...


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