What Stage of the Chicken do You Start With?
How do you even start going chicken? There are many different ways to get started. Once you have done your research on the breed and reason you want chickens (laying or meat), you find a supplier for your chickens.
You may want to start out with grown chickens, pullets (female birds not yet ready to lay but soon) or baby chicks.
You may even want to purchase, rent, or borrow an incubator and hatch your own eggs. That would mean purchasing hatching eggs.
To Incubate or not to Incubate
Hatching chicken eggs at home does have some rewards, some heartbreak and disappointment. An incubator needs to be watched carefully for humidity, heat, and rolling the eggs to properly hatch eggs. If any or all of these things are not correct, it could cause your hatching rates to be very low.
Hatching your own eggs does not give you any idea how many females or males you may hatch out. You may be disappointed that twenty per cent (20% +) or more of your eggs turn out to hatch baby roosters. But that is the fun of hatching!
Hatching your own eggs does take time, patience and supervision. It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch from the time they are placed into the incubator. It is fun though to watch and anticipate the hatching of your eggs to see these little birds emerge from their safety of the shell.
I used Silkie bantams to hatch out a small handful of chicken eggs this summer. I like the hen hatching the eggs as I don’t have to worry about temperature, humidity or rolling the eggs….the
hen does all the work for me. The down side is that I can only put 3 to 6 eggs under a small Silkie hen to brood. I also have to match your incubating time with the chicken’s brooding time.
Where do you get hatching eggs? Same places as you would for finding baby chicks, pullets and layers. Keep on reading!
Where do I look to find what I want?
There are many opportunities to purchase hatching eggs, live baby chicks, pullet chickens or layers. You can search Facebook groups that offer baby chicks for sale, newspapers, online websites, trade shows, hatchery, local chicken sales, or breeders in your area.
Any of these are a great way to get certain breeds of chickens; common, heritage, mixed or rare chicken breeds. I do advise that you do research on any breeder. You want your chickens to be as healthy as possible to have a great start at life.
You can take your chances on where you get your chicks or hatching eggs, though it can lead to money loss and disappointment, meaning some of the chicks may be diseased and/or weak or the hatching egg rate very low.
My flock of laying chicks have come from a hatchery in Alberta, Canada. I order them early in the year (to ensure I get what breed I want) to be delivered by mail or to a local store (I have to pick up when they arrive) when I want them. I usually like to receive my chicks in late April to mid May. This time of year is usually warmer and it’s easier to keep a consistent temperature in the building where they will be raised.
Keep ‘em Warm!
If you have decided to go to the incubating hatching chicken eggs or already hatched baby chicks, you must keep them warm! “Even the hatching eggs?” you ask? Yes! You don’t have to keep them as warm as live baby chicks but you must keep them from freezing.
Refrigerator storing temperatures are too cold for hatching eggs. If your hatching eggs get too cold or are frozen before getting them home into your incubator, you may find your hatching rate very, very low or none at all! They should be kept at room temperature until they go into the incubator.
Hatching eggs should not be any older than 2 or 3 weeks. The fresher the egg; the better the hatch rate you will have. You can still hatch out eggs after 3 weeks, but the hatch rate will become lower the older the eggs are.
Baby chicks need to be kept warm as well. Make sure you have a solid box with breathing holes in it and not expose them to any cold for longer than moving from a warm building to your vehicle and then to their building or area they will be raised in. Baby chicks do not do well in cold or drafts.
Older laying birds – Are they worth it?
Starting out with pullets or hens, makes life easier as the chickens have already gone through the chick phase and extra heat is not needed. They will already be on grower or layer (depending on their age). They will be feathered out and will soon lay or are already laying eggs for you. Put them in your coop and let them do their thing.
What is a pullet? Is there a difference between a pullet and a hen? Yes! A pullet is a fully feathered chick that is not yet laying eggs but is fully grown. A pullet becomes a hen at around the age 6 months (depending on the breed) when it starts to lay eggs.
Getting pullets means you may have to wait a bit to get eggs, but you know they are young and able to lay eggs very soon. Continue to feed them poultry grower until they start laying eggs.
Older hens have done most of their egg laying in their first three years. If they are older than 4 years, the amount of eggs they lay may be very sparse or none at all, depending on their age.
Now to Get Busy!
You now have some ideas on where to find what you are looking for and at what stage you are willing to start at.
Incubation is not for everyone, that’s why there are the options of live chicks of all ages up to a hen. The decision is yours and what you have time and money for.
I have not used an incubator yet but plan on using one just to see if I can hatch out my own eggs instead of using a brooding hen. I think my children would love to watch the hatching if they can keep patient enough for the wait!
I would love to hear your stories of how you got your chickens?
Do you prefer to hatch, get live chicks or older chickens?