February 15, 2011

Choosing Chickens

I've read a lot of books on raising chickens in the last year. I hope I've gained enough knowledge that my upcoming foray into chicken keeping will go fairly smoothly. My chick brooder is already setup, and I have all the supplies and food on hand. Now I just need to add the chickens!

I'm planning on getting my chickens from Townline Hatchery in the next couple weeks. They offer at least 13 breeds of chickens (both broilers and layers). The minimum order at Townline in 15 chicks. This is a slightly more reasonable number for me than the well-known Murray McMurray Hatchery's minimum order of 25 chicks. However, since my municipality only allows 5 chickens per household (and I'm not sure how they decided on that number), I can't even handle the minimum order at Townline. That said, I'm planning on picking the chicks up in person! I have to head over the that part of Michigan anyway to pick up some ornamental grass plugs for a fundraiser, so I figured I'd swing by the hatchery and get my chicks the same day. Not only can I get exactly how many chicks I want, but I'll avoid the shipping fees.

From the offerings at Townline Hatchery, I'm interested in getting one each of the following breeds:

Barred Rock
Golden-laced Wyandotte
Silver-laced Wyandotte
New Hampshire Red
Buff Orpington
Black Australorp

...except that this adds up to 7 chickens. I guess I'll have to pick and choose.


  1. I'm excited about your chicken keeping adventure! Though I'm curious about your municipality's decision as well. Does six chickens constitute a mob or something?

    Good luck choosing.

  2. I guess they don't want people abusing the municipal code. I guess if they didn't limit the number of chickens, people could technically have huge (smelly) chicken farms in their backyard.

  3. I've got a Golden Laced Wyandotte "Goldie" she's beautiful and a reliable layer. We've had New Hampshire Reds and Easter Eggers (a hyrbid of Araucauna and something else...) that were also good layers. I have a Barred Rock now who looks cool, but I haven't been able to deduce yet if she's laying or not. Easter eggers are fun becuase they lay green and blue eggs. We've gotten chicks from both hatcheries you mention as well as mypetchicken.com and they all seem to do about the same. I don't know much about the other breeds, but make sure they're "winter hardy". Very important!

    When you get your chicks, give them water right away but wait a couple hours before you give them food. This will reduce the probably of pasting (when poo sticks to the outside of their bums... watch for this! you will have to clean them up or it can be fatal). You have to show them where the water is by picken them up and dipping their beaks in the water.

    I would make sure you don't get more than one male too. We had multiple roo's for a while.... they picked on eachother (something you need to watch out for in your hens too) and would cockadoodledoo back and forth all day. NO fun.

    Good luck with your birds! They're a lot of fun. You'll have to post pictures!

  4. Thanks for the advice. I'm especially looking forward to the Wyandotte's. They look so pretty.

    We are not allowed to keep roosters in my city, so I'm hoping to get all hens (assuming the hatchery is able to sex them accurately).

  5. We're preparing for chickens ourselves this year. Have you seen photos of the blue laced red Wyandottes? They're gorgeous! There are a couple of breeders in Michigan, and I can't get over their colors. I was planning on gold laced, but as soon as I saw the blue laced red I knew I needed some. We're thinking Brahmas for meat and Marans for eggs, and then Wyandottes for both, culling the cockerals for meat before they mature and letting the hens mature and lay. I wish I lived closer to townline, but they do a lot of large-scale deliveries to local feed mills so I should be able to find their birds nearby. I can't wait to read up on your chicken pursuits.

    I wanted to ask you, would you consider ever doing a post or two about how you got started at the market? I know you're fairly new to it, but this is my first year growing for market and there are so few first-hand accounts and resources!

  6. Yes, the blue laced red Wyandotte's are very cool.

    I could probably write a little about how I got into the farmer's market last year. I'll see when I can fit it in.

    My basic tactic was to grow way too much of everything, so I had enough to sell. I did learn pretty quickly that certain things sold well and other things were a complete waste of my time and money (like flower bouquets and heirloom tomatoes). I think I could have done a much better job at the market if it was my full-time job, but being a grad student doesn't leave much time for growing perfect produce!


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