Tuesday, June 02, 2009

New arrivals.... chicks!

Barred Rock chick

Just arrived!
June 1, 2009
8:00 a.m. at the feed store
In my Home Town

6 Barred Rock
6 Pearl White Leghorns
6 Buff Orpingtons
All healthy, fluffy, and peeping!

Normally I order my chicks to arrive the first or second week of April. If I can, I like to have them by Easter week because it just seems right to have fluffy, live Peeps at Easter time, and especially if there are Littles around to enjoy holding them and feeling their downy softness on the cheek. This year I put in my order for April, but the hatchery was so overwhelmed by requests that the feed store's order was pushed into June. I've read that the newest rage in America is raising a few backyard chickens and I guess it's true by the back orders at the hatcheries this year.

This week I'd like to do a little series on raising chickens. I have been raising chickens for 26 years and I would like to share a little about what I've learned in the process.

The golden chicks are Buff Orpington, black are Barred Rock, yellow are White Leghorn

When buying chicks, What do I choose?

For Eggs:

I have raised several breeds of chicken and I must admit that the very best egg layer is the Pearl-White Leghorn. This chicken is not heavy, not a good-eating chicken, and not a great pet, but it converts feed into eggs better than any other bird I know of. She's a little high strung, but one heck of a white egg layer.

My two favorite egg layers are the Barred Rock, a calm, plump, black and white hen that lays well during cold snaps and the Buff Orpington, my favorite because she's reminds me of the perfect farm hen like Henny-Penny in the children's storybook. She is the color of a gold watch, plump, gentle and would make a nice pet. Both breeds are considered dual-purpose chickens which means they can be used for eggs and/or for meat. Both hens lay brown eggs and are very consistent layers. What the Leghorn has in the best egg production, is easily overshadowed by the Barred Rock and Buff Orpington for personality and charm as well as eggs. I have also raised the Rhode Island Red, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Black Australorp, Light Brahmas and the Auracana. All are good layers and offer a nice variety to choose from. The Auracana is called The Easter Egg chicken because she lays blue and green eggs.

For Meat:

The largest, best eating chickens I have raised in this category would be the Jumbo Cornish X Rocks. They convert feed into meat very well and at the fastest pace. You should get a 3-4 pound chicken in approximately 8 weeks (the roosters mature the quickest). The drawback to these chickens is that you really must begin to butcher them within 6-8 weeks or else they start having heart attacks and getting so heavy that their legs begin to give out. I have raised some of these to about 9-10 pounds (and they are delicious) if you can keep them alive to this weight.

The Cornish Roaster is another good choice for meat. These chickens don't have near the leg problems that the Cornish X Rocks do but they do take a little longer to finish. Butcher the hens first for fryers and allow the roosters to mature up to 8-9 pounds for delicious roasting.

As mentioned before, the heavy breeds (dual purpose) will work for meat, but they certainly won't have the larger breasts and thighs that these chickens will. If you want meaty, tender birds, you want these two breeds.

Roosters. Do I need one?

I sometimes enjoy having a rooster in the chicken yard. Roosters are the best-dressed and have all the finest feathers among the chickens. I consider the rooster the "guard dog" of the flock. He will always be among his wives protecting, watching, and making sure that they are well fed. One time I noticed a mangy fox snooping around the chicken coop and immediately the rooster spotted him and attacked him, grabbing onto the fox with his claws and beak and beating the poor, unhealthy fellow off with his wings. What a ruckus! I was glad I had that rooster at the time, but there are those times when the rooster can be quite a pest to his harem, if you know what I mean. In this case, he is cooked into a nice roasted chicken dinner.

The rooster's main job is to fertilize your hen's eggs. The only way they will hatch however, is if the eggs are brooded by the hens or incubated. If the hens refuse to brood (sit on the eggs continually) then they will not mature into chicks. Fertilized eggs are said to be very healthy to eat, but I'm not sure why. You do not need a rooster, however, to produce eggs. The hens will gladly supply you with all the eggs you want with or without the rooster.

Roosters will always mature faster when raising them for meat and some folks like to order a straight-run -- a mix of cock and pullet chicks. This way they will have at least half the chickens for laying eggs and half for meat. Buying chicks this way is usually very economical too.

If you would like more information on various breeds of chickens and ordering, the only hatchery I've ever used is McMurray Hatchery. You'll enjoy browsing their website.


  1. I love baby chicks but hate to smell them LOL
    I remember when Mom used to hatch them and how we kids would want to ,as mom called it , wool them to death... good memories..
    good luck with yours.

  2. I wonder how chickens and cats get along??

    Because I'd really like to have some.

    Do you let them wander around? Or do you keep them penned?

    Elsie - I don't think I've heard that phrase "Wool them" from anyone else but folks up this way. If the boys were in a wrestling match and one lost, we'd say "He got a good wooling" :)

  3. Ohhh...I can just feel those little chicks sitting in the palm of my hand. I think it would be great fun to have some laying chickens. I love farm fresh eggs.

    Take care,

  4. Ole talks about raising chickens every once in awhile. I just keep telling it it would be all his enterprise. I keep thinking back to the time we got 25 Guinea hens that ended up being lunch for some fox. That was quite an experiment.

  5. What sweeties, I really want chickens, But still can not get over the last time, when they all started eating the dead one. I am not an animal person. If I could talk David into taking care of them !!! Clarice

  6. Buff Orps are my all-time favorite!

  7. Hi, I'm Clarice's mom. I feel the same way whe does, but they are so cute.

  8. You are right on the chicken shortage....who would have thought it. I wanted to add a few to my herd..and am still on the waiting list. I think it will be a no go this year.

    I love the Barred Rocks..the Buffs don't do well here, they can't take the heat. My new most favorites are the black sex links. I adore these chickens. They are super layers and so very gentle.

    Good post. Have great day!


  9. Aww! We love the Buffs and the B. Rocks, too. I think the Barreds little yellow, round bottom is so cute! ;o)

    I have a few minutes this evening so I am off to the Coffee Shoppe for a visit. ºÜº


  10. P.S. Baby dear is getting BIG! She looks like a lovey.


  11. cute cute chicky! Thanks for the info. on the chicks and where you buy them. We are going to buy a few.. McMurray's website is very nice. Thanks for the thorough info. on starting the chickies!



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