Chicks came yesterday. I love chick days! We already have some babies here - these are mutt chickens; mixed breed chicks from our own farm. We have given hatching eggs to a local elementary school for the last two years. This year the teacher set 2 dozen eggs in the incubator, turning them carefully every day until hatch day. Nineteen chicks hatched. They are a week old now, and very adorable. I have fun guessing which chick came from which parent.
Chicks come through the mail in boxes, just like a book or a new pair of shoes, except that the chick boxes have holes and make a lot more noise. We order all of our chicks straight run, which means that we get a mix of boys and girls. Some hatcheries call this "as-hatched". You can assume you will get about 50% boys and 50% girls in an order. The girls, if they are layer chicks, grow up to lay eggs. The boys, well, they end up in my freezer mostly. We do keep a couple of roosters for breeding stock and for security. A good rooster can help to cut down on predator loss be alerting the hens to danger or by taking the hit himself when Mr. Coyote comes to call.
This year we ordered our laying birds from Meyer Hatchery. Normally all of our birds come from Sandhill Preservation, so this was a change for me. Meyer does not offer Express shipping, which I prefer - less time in transit means healthier chicks. When the post office posted tracking information was posted, it indicated that the chicks would not arrive until April 21, although they were received by the post office on the 18th. For me that's a bit too long, much too long, and I was VERY worried. Would any of the chicks even make it after four days in transit? Well, yesterday evening the phone rang and a worker from the local postal distribution center called to say that our chicks were here, and he would be delivering them to us. No one has ever delivered chicks before - usually I run to fetch them at 7AM from the local post office. Such service!
The box contained 52 live, healthy, peeping chicks, about twenty five on each side of a cardboard divider.
Welsumers lay a rich, dark brown egg. Ameraucanas lay the blue and green eggs everyone loves. Silkies, well, they lay teeny itty bitty eggs that are a little silly, but the birds themselves are fluffy and sweet, make excellent mothers, and are prized by Asian cultures as a gourmet meat bird - we will see about that!
Buckeyes. Buckeyes are the only American breed developed solely by a woman, and the only pea-combed bird bred in the United States. They are currently listed as "threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. When I ordered them they were "critical", so the good news is that I am not the only person interested in this dual purpose breed!
Ideally we will be able to hatch all of the birds we need in the future, both for meat and eggs, right here on the farm. I spend a lot of time sighing over a certain incubator. (Go look. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Thermostatic controls. Egg turner. SO lovely. A farmer can dream, can't she?) It is important to me that we produce as much of what we eat as possible right here on the farm. Although the chicks do well flying across the country, I'd prefer it if they didn't have to.
This is one of the Silkie chicks. Meg has a Silkie hen named Celia. Celia has been with us for a very long time. She is about 11 years old now, which is very old for a chicken. She is now the oldest hen in the yard. I decided it was time to order some new Silkie babies to take her place.
Here is everyone all together; the new kids and the slightly bigger kids. The adjustment went better than I expected.