I last ordered and raised chicks in September 2013. While I have had a few hens go broody and raise a clutch since then, because most were hatched and raised outside the coop, those chicks have had a short life expectancy. My predator losses have been significantly less since I finally finished fencing the perimeter of the property, but I have less than half of the number I raised in 2013. Between the reduction in numbers and the fact that egg production drops after the first couple of years, it was time to replenish my flock.
When I purchase chicks I try to do so in the fall (September) so that the chicks are old enough to be feathered by the time cold weather arrives. Chicks born in the spring will be old enough to lay in the fall (depending upon breed, between 5 and 6 months of age) but since I don’t use lights in my chicken coop, egg production does not generally occur until February of the next year when the amount of daylight increases. That means that I am feeding chicks / young chickens for about 9 months. I’m not sure where the phrase “eats like a bird” comes from, because, in my experience, young chicks eat voraciously. If I raise chicks in September, then by February the chicks are close to laying age and I’ve saved about four months of feeding without getting eggs in return.
To accommodate a friend who wanted bantam chicks which are not shipped in September, I placed an order this year to arrive the week of August 21st. So this past weekend I cleaned out the brooder section of the chicken coop, rebedded the brooder and enclosure with fresh hay, readied the feeders and waterers, and ensured the heat lamp was working properly. I had already picked up chick starter from the feed store.
Chicks were shipped on Monday and arrived at the post office early (I received a call at 5:28 am) Wednesday morning. My friend picked up the chicks as I was working at the office that day. When I got back into town that evening I stopped at her place to pick up the chicks I had ordered – Australorps, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Delawares and Red Stars plus two bantams – a white silkie and a red frizzle. Instead of the one free chick usually included, this shipment included several extra bantams which we split.