We’ve got two brooder houses in operation now, one with New Hampshire Reds we got from Oregon State University, and another with broilers from Privett Hatchery (actually, they were drop-shipped from Welp Hatchery, but I know that anything ordered via Privett is going to be good).
We get a deal on chicks from OSU every once in a while. These were straight-run New Hampshires. Normally I recommend that people avoid straight-run chicks, because most people have no desire to butcher their own chickens, and even less skill, and the last thing you want is a zillion roosters cluttering up the place. But Karen is a whiz at chicken butchering and we can always get rid of the excess it the Woodburn Small Animal Auction.
(Important tip: never buy poultry at an auction. They’ll come with free parasites that you’ll spend ages eradicating. Auctions are for selling, not buying.)
We’re right in the middle of false spring right now, with warmer temperatures, budding plants, and occasional blue skies. This always happens, and the weather always turns savage again (well, for Oregon) later. But it’s hard to resist buying baby chicks and seeds and trowels and stuff at this time of year.
We butcher broilers at approximately 8 weeks, give or take. The outdoor farmers’ markets start in mid-April, so we’re right on schedule. Hens are in full lay at about six months, so the chicks will start laying just as the older hens enter their summer slump. Half the time we botch basic planning exercises like this (too many calls on our time), but it looks like we got it right this year.
Though the weather is still uncertain across the country, it’s a good time to start baby chicks. A lot of hatcheries have specials up until the March baby-chick frenzy starts. If you don’t know what you want, my rule of thumb is to call the hatchery and ask which of their commercial-quality layers are the most docile and non-cannibalistic. That maximizes the egg-to-heartbreak ratio.
And don’t forget to take a look at my book, Success With Baby Chicks while you’re at it. Even if you’re a pro, it’s easy to forget the fine points between the last batch of last year’s chicks and the first batch of this year’s. You’ll get your money’s worth out of the book within 24 hours of the chicks’ arrival, I promise.