|Our last batch of chicks were Buckeyes (reddish-brown), Buff Orpingtons (golden) and Cuckoo Marans (black and white).|
My favorite shopping event just may be Chick Days at the local feed store.
In February, the store takes chick orders, and in early April, an employee drives to the hatchery to pick up chicks.
When we first ordered Buckeye chicks from a preservation center nearly 20 years ago, the chicks arrived by mail. The postal worker called me at 6 in the morning and said my chicks had arrived, and no, I did not have to wait until 8 a.m. when the post office opened to pick them up. After the mail delays I've experienced in the past six months, I wouldn't want to risk mail-order chicks.
For years, we kept 25-30 Buckeye hens and several roosters and raised our own chicks. Sometimes hens sat on eggs. Usually, we incubated a batch of eggs as in insurance policy. This resulted in a beautifully uniform flock and hens and roosters everywhere.
And then I got sucked into Chick Days.
(Okay, keeping a breeding flock is a lot of work and resulted in more roosters, eggs and work than I wanted to deal with. And shopping for chicks is just so much fun.)
Here are the Three Truths about Chick Days
1. There are so many chicken breeds and so little time. When I walk into the feed store, I tell myself that we are only getting 12 chicks, and Randy said he wanted more Buckeyes. Then, the clerk hands me pages of chicken breeds. The number of Buckeye chicks I'd planned to order dwindles to four.
At home, we have five hens: one Buckeye, one Cuckoo Maran and three Buff Orpingtons. I like the Cuckoo Maran and her lovely chocolate colored eggs. The Buff Orpingtons have a 100 percent survival rate on the farm. Somehow these golden hens have evaded foxes and hawks. I'd get both breeds again, but there are so many other choices.
2. Egg envy is real. A few years ago, a friend opened up her carton of eggs collected from her chickens. There, in the carton were chocolate brown, tan, light green, bluish green, white and brown eggs. It was a sight to behold. At home, my carton contained uniformly brown eggs (still quite beautiful, but quite monochrome).
3. A long, gray winter makes me seek color. Our hens free range in the sheep and horse pastures. I wanted hens that stand out against the grasses.
And, in the end, I went with colorful feathers over colorful eggs. Here's what I selected:
Four Buckeyes (mahogany feathers and brown eggs)
Two French Blue Copper Marans (slate gray with copper heads and necks, and dark brown eggs)
Two Silver Laced Wyandottes (black and white feathers and brown eggs)
Two Rhode Island Blue (a cross between Rhode Island Reds and the black Astralop and brown eggs)
Two Oliver Egger (a cross between Black Maran and Americana and green eggs).
What would you choose? If you want to see the choices, check out the Mount Healthy Hatchery catalog.