Grit Blogs > Tillys Nest

Introduction to Keeping Chickens Part 1 of 5

So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you're like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you'll just troubleshoot along the way.  However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier.  So, lets start at the beginning.  How do I get the chickens?

Ordering the Flock 

There are a few things that you need to ask yourself before you start.

1.  Do I want roosters?

2.  Do I want baby chicks or full grown egg laying hens?

3.  How many chickens do I want?

4.  What type of climate do I live in?

5.  What do I want my chickens for?  Pets, meat, eggs, or a combination?

There are many ways to get chickens.  Many hatcheries have mail order services.  The United States Postal service has been delivering live baby chicks in the mail since the early 1900s!  Depending on where you live, you can order day old baby chicks on-line from hatcheries.  Chick quantities depend on how fast they can deliver your chicks.  Chicks will huddle to keep warm.  The greater the number of chicks, the longer they can maintain their heat.  Thus if you are far from a large city, you may need to order a larger number of chicks.  Once hatched, baby chicks can survive 3 days without food and water because they ingest part of the egg prior to hatching.  My minimum order for Cape Cod was six.  We are about one hour from Boston. 

Once the baby chicks hatch, they start their journey.    I chose to have my birds sexed because I wanted all females.  YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER TO GET EGGS.  All pullets, female chickens under one year of age, are born with about 4000 eggs.  Pullets start to lay eggs as early as 20 weeks to about one year.  Based upon the breeds you select, some are better at laying eggs than others.  I wanted chickens that were friendly, docile, good egg layers and cold hardy; thus the Austrolorp, Buff Orpingtons and the Silkie Bantams.  Note:  The Silkie Bantams lay smaller eggs.  Two of their eggs are equal to one standard breed's egg.

I paid extra to get all pullets.  I also paid for them to be vaccinated for Marek's disease.  With the sexing and the vaccination, each bird was on average about $12 and it was about $30 to overnight the package I loved the experience. 

The other option is to purchase egg-laying pullets.  Yes, you do get instant gratification.  If not stressed, the pullets will lay eggs immediately.  However, you must be careful because it is difficult to determine the age of the chicken and its overall health.  By researching on the internet, you should be able to find a reputable local farm or vendor that sells egg-laying pullets.

So now that you know about ordering chicks, how about getting ready for those chicks?  What are you going to order?

mellisa fernandez
4/2/2013 1:50:32 PM

I only wash the eggs I sell. Most people don't want to buy unwashed eggs, even if they are clean looking. Anyway, none of my eggs sit for longer than a week so following USDA recommendations isn't an issue. For boaters and others who want eggs to last for a long time without refrigeration, I leave the eggs unwashed. I also don't wash any I might decide to brood.

cathy hill
2/1/2013 4:31:21 PM

melissa caughey
1/14/2013 6:29:27 PM

Eggs can be cleaned if absolutely necessary. I prefer to leave them alone to preserve the natural bloom (coating) that the chickens provide around the egg that help keep it fresh and bacteria out. Here is a post that I did on egg care. Much more information on this subject can be found there.

lisa steele
1/13/2013 10:40:44 PM

Eggs should not be washed because that destroys the natural bloom on the egg which keeps air and bacteria out. Lightly scrubbing off any dirt is much preferred - your wife's late grandfather was right. Lisa

michae pringle
1/12/2013 11:22:54 PM

I have only a comment and a couple of questions pertinant to the comment. The comment is this: I have heard/read that washing new chicken eggs in order to clean them off after just being laid is not good because water can seep in somehow. My question is this: Is this true? My wifes late grandfather had a turkey ranch on the West coast and would scrub those eggs with fine grade steel wool so my wife does this with our eggs. He brother and sister-in-law in Montana wash them off. Which way is better? Thank you.