I’m Back in the Chicken ‘Business!’
My homestead really doesn’t seem much like a homestead without some chickens. So I placed an order for 25 chicks from Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and waited
I’ll be honest with you, going almost 9 months without chickens was kind of nice. At least, it was nice for a while. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of chickens while I recuperated from hip replacement surgery over the winter, so my flock went to another farm. Many thanks to Trogg’s Hollow Farm for giving my laying hens a good home! It was getting pretty difficult to take care of my flock last year, so I knew it was time to take a break from chicken keeping and concentrate on my health.
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What Kind of Chickens Should I Order?
Now, I’ve been itching to get some more chickens for a couple of months. I looked at numerous hatchery websites, weighed my options,
overthought and talked about it, probably to the point of being annoying. ‘What breeds should I get? Should I get just meat chickens and process them before we go on vacation this summer? If I get layers, what breed? Heritage? Hybrid? Brown eggs? White? Green? Straight run? All pullets?’
Sheesh woman, give it a rest! Kudos to my husband for just playing along and telling me to do whatever I want. 🙂
Placing the Order
I decided to try Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. I’ve never ordered from them before. They are a small family operation, not that far from our homestead. All chicks are given Marek’s vaccinations at no extra cost and the shipping is included in the prices. And, since we are on a budget, their prices were very attractive…as in, the lowest prices I have found. They are pretty limited on breed selection so I had to compromise a bit.
So, what I really wanted to order was: 15 Cornish x meat chicks, and 10 mixed heritage dual purpose breeds. I was thinking about Barred Rocks, Easter Eggers, Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds…a smorgasbord of pretty chickens . The only heritage layers Sunnyside carries are White Leghorns, a light weight breed with a high feed to egg conversion rate. I opted for a smaller upfront investment, low feed bills, and high egg production over pretty. My final order was 15 Cornish x and 10 White Leghorn, all straight run.
Operation Hatchery Order Complete…
New Chicks Are Here!
The post office called me Wednesday morning to come pick up my chicks. I grabbed my keys and hit the road. Well, I put on pants first. And poured a mug of coffee to go. The nice lady at the Post Office checked my ID to make sure I wasn’t a random weirdo trying to steal someone else’s chicks. (You never know.)
The scent of death emanated from the box, drat. But there was a lot of cheeping, so it sounded like most of them were okay. I had the heat turned up in the car to keep them warm on the way home.
When I got my box of chicks to the chicken coop and opened it up, sure enough, there was one that died. You get used to it after living on the homestead for a while. (I called the hatchery later and they are giving me credit for the chick that died. I plan to order another batch of Cornish x in the fall, so I am pleased with their response.) The rest of them seemed healthy and lively. So I got busy.
Teaching Chicks to Drink
Chicks usually start drinking and eating on their own without any problem. However, it’s a good idea to dip the tip of their beak in the water (just the tip!) so they get a sip of water. As I pulled each chick out of the box, I dipped its beak in the water and made sure it swallowed a bit, then set it down in the brooder. They all went back for another sip, which is a very good sign.
Electrolytes & Probiotics
I put electrolytes and probiotics in their water to get them off to a healthy start. I use packets of Sav-A-Chick electrolytes and probiotics for my newly hatched chicks. Each packet is mixed into a gallon of water. It has to be mixed fresh daily, so I only make 1 quart of solution each day to make the packets last longer.
I realized pretty quick that the seedling heat mats were not keeping the chicks warm enough. They were all huddled together and starting to pile up for warmth. I got a heat lamp set up with a 250 watt red heat bulb hanging over their brooder and adjusted it. After waiting a few minutes, they were still huddling up, so I lowered the lamp and watched. Finally they stopped piling up for warmth and started to acclimate to their new brooder.
I Can’t Sit Around Playing with Chicks All Day
Although I wanted to hang out watching the little chicks all day, I had work to do! I spent the day burning off the garden, setting up my Redneck Cold Frame, and hauling straw and supplies. Every so often I stopped in to make sure the chicks were doing well.
So far all of the remaining chicks are healthy and they are eating and drinking and being cute little fluff balls. It’s hard to tell the meat chicks from the layers at this point, but in a few days the Cornish x will start to take off in growth and I’ll know who’s who.
Do you have chicks on your homestead this spring? Have you ever ordered from Sunnyside Hatchery? Leave a comment!
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In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.