Chicks, round 1

With 5 Rent-A-Chicken clients, 3 additional regular clients, and a waiting list 10+ people deep I knew I needed to double my flock this year to meet demand for fresh eggs. It was a daunting thought – going from 4 to 20 last year was scary, but going from 24 to 50 is even scarier!

I’ve spent winter putting together my action plan. It included installing a new shed (to become a coop), reworking the duckling coop, strengthening the existing run and planning its expansion. As for the flock expansion – I want to add colored eggs to my orders, but also add chicks in such a way that I don’t have to supplement orders with duck eggs during the lean winter months. My plan is to add chicks in two batches – each with high annual brown egg layers and a few colored egg layers.

I picked up my first round of chicks this weekend! This is my third season purchasing chicks from Alan at Heartland Hatchery – he’s friendly, sociable, and I’ve always gotten healthy friendly birds. His hatchery is based in southern Missouri and he takes batches of chicks to feed stores around Missouri and Kansas. Saturday was a glorious bright day for mid-February, and there was already a lengthy line when I arrived at Valley Feed in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

I really like that Alan gives the option to call in advance to place an order. It’s easy to get distracted by all the cuteness and see my plan (and budget!) go flying out the window. I knew I wanted another dozen Gold Comets – I highly recommend this friendly, consistent layer. They are also a sex-linked bird, meaning you can tell by feather color whether male or female when they are chicks – perfect for city dwellers not allowed to have roosters. I also ordered 4 Ameracaunas – these are blue egg layers but not sex-linked so I needed to minimize possible roosters.

This is one of my new Gold Comets. I adore this breed and can’t speak highly enough of them. They are incredibly sociable and easy going – very few pecking order squabbles and definitely no attacking of one another. If anything they can be too friendly – my legs looked like constellations last summer from all their little love pecks as they asked for a cuddle! If you are researching your options for having backyard chickens I definitely recommend these gals. They are small but great layers – I collected eggs throughout the winter from them.

Here’s a close-up of one of the Ameracaunas. The four I received have a blend of brown, black, and yellow feathers. I really like the look of this one’s face – isn’t it striking? Her (I sincerely hope it’s a her!) eyes are wide and bright, and the dark streak behind her eyes reminds me of dramatic eye make-up. My first thought was of Diana, from the 1980’s miniseries “V”. Sure the series is pretty campy by today’s standard sci-fi, but I loved it then and likely still would! Diana ruled the Visitors – and I’m pretty sure this gal will, too! Now that I get chicks in large batches they don’t all get names…but this one will likely stick.

With this batch I added 17 chicks (he gave me a bonus chick) to my flock of 23 – giving me 40 hens. I’m planning to add another 10 in late April/early May – about the time these are large enough to live outdoors. First year birds tend to lay through the winter, and my thought is that adding a few later will help avoid any large lulls in production in December/January. At this point I’m leaning toward a few Gold-Laced Wyandottes (high producers), Welsummers (terra cotta colored eggs), Olive Eggers (green eggs), and Lakenvelders (white eggs). It will all depend on what’s in stock…and my budget of course!

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