Chicken Tid Bits

Chicken Tid Bits:
For a small flock, it’s important to consider a few elements about yourself:
*Why am I raising these things… meat, eggs, spectacle?
* Do I have an opinion on the color of eggs?  Of the meat?  Of the feathers?
*Am I even allowed to do this (if I get caught)?

Where to Buy:
If you’re planning on buying birds from a large supplier, such as Cackle Hatchery (, Ideal Poultry ( or McMurray Hatchery (, the internet is a wonderful thing but a warning to consider: The birds are mass produced and strive for quantity, not quality, of the genetic strain they’re selling.  They will deliver you functional birds, don’t get me wrong.  Currently, my entire flock has come from McMurray.  However, in our last batch of birds that I ordered, 25% of my birds were dead within a month and for the second year in a row a particular breed of bird developed scissor beak (where a misaligned top and bottom beak slide past each other, making feeding a problem), which tells me that they’re not successfully weeding out problem genes in their breeding pool.  It’s convenient, particularly for less common breeds, but you take a gamble on both the stock of the bird and even more so on the professionalism of the people handling them in transit as a recent video-gone-viral of a FedEx employee tossing parcels over fences reminds us.
Try to find a local supplier, but don’t pay more than a $5 or so for a day-old chick, $12 for a 6-week old...  (there’s no money in birds, we all know that, don’t be a mark)If you’re willing to even a bit of driving, or if you can’t find a supplier near you that will work with your budget, look for poultry auctions.  Most country areas should have them somewhat regularly.  This is a particularly useful option if you just need a few birds, like my friend, because the large hatcheries require an order of 25 or more to even try to guarantee that the birds have enough warmth to survive the trip.  Of course, if you can’t make the auctions or find a farmer, you’re probably back to having your starting flock shipped.  You can also breed your own, which K. and I will start when the weather warms some here, once you have some birds to work with.  The down side to this, of course, is that it’s less of a guarantee of your end-yield numbers than shipping chicks if you have a definite goal in mind.  Also, an advantage to shipping or hand-selecting is that you can easily rotate your breeds to keep track of which birds are ready to “retire” as layers each year or two.  Birds will live a while, but they won’t make it worth your while as egg producers past a couple of years, and the numbers will certainly drop off in the winter.  Of course, then you can rename them "Stew"... even the girls.
Picking Your Breed
After thousands of years of domestication and a boom in selective breeding following the Victorian era at the turn of the twentieth century, there are hundreds of breeds of chickens in the world, 60 or so being  most popular in the United States.  When selecting what breeds you want to start with, you have to decide if you want an EGG LAYER, a MEAT BIRD, or an ORNAMENTAL variety.  Often listed as “Dual Purpose”, some breeds are a compromise between meat and egg producers and of those, some are considered “heirloom” because of their historical status within the realm of chickendom.
My first birds were what was on hand from a fairly local breeder and were not the result of a careful or thought out selection process, though they were both reliable layers and pretty to look at.  I never got to taste them in their older age because of some crafty raccoons and a fox that taught me some lessons in predator-proofing my coop.  When I moved out to the country and expanded my flock, K. and I tried pretty much any breed we thought was remotely nifty – and I can tell you what we found.  Your results may differ.
* White Leghorns
* Rhode Island or New Hampshire Reds
* Wyandottes (plus, several color patterns to marvel at)
* Aracauna/Americaunas – GREEN EGGS!
* Brahmas
* Delwares
* Orpingtons
*Cornish-Crosses/ X-Roc (NOTE: They perish in hot climates because of the strain on their hearts due to massive growth rates in my experience and cannot be easily reproduced)
* Don’t Bother.
For a long while, I’d decide which scrawny, leathery bastard was going to be made into stock and pulled sandwiches based on who irritated me the most that day – was it going to be the Andalusian that screeched so loudly one day that I truly thought a girl was being attacked nearby?  Or the twin Sumatras that plucked most of my flock bald to this day in their aggression?  You want a docile bird to work with.  Many sites and books are out there dedicated to just this purpose, such as and Storey’s Guides on any subject relating to farming culture, available at
But, that’s my two cents.  Go for practicality, not for showmanship unless it just happens to be your calling for a hobby.