My Chick Order

Some of you have a already have a brooder filled with peeping, fluffy chicks, but I have to wait until the end of April for my dose of extreme cuteness. I had planned on getting the chicks this week, but the breeds I want aren’t available until the end of April. As it turns out, it’s a good thing that the chicks aren’t here. Temperatures remain well below freezing at night and barely above during the day. I’d planned on putting the brooder in the big barn. With this cold spell, there’s no way, even with a heat lamp, that I’d be able to keep a constant temperature out there for them. When chicks crowd under a lamp, the ones on the edges of the group become chilled and the ones in the center overheat. They can’t space themselves out and so pecking happens. Also, this year, I’m going to try to put a few chicks under a broody hen. It’s just too cold to do that now.

I could have changed plans, and kept the chicks in the basement, but 15 chicks grow really fast. A small cardboard box is fine for the first week, but then you start scrambling for bigger and bigger containers. Also, as they lose their down and grow real feathers they generate a surprising quantity of dust. And manure. I really want the chicks outside. Besides, this year, we’re going to have a ChickCam! And that requires the wiring that we have in the barn. (Many of you have asked about our cam set-up. It’s complicated and expensive and is detailed in this FAQ.)

In preparation for the chicks, I’ve cleaned out the Big Barn of the old bedding. I’ve used the shop vac to get all the dust and cobwebs out of the crevices and the rafters. I’ve put the roosts outside so that the sun will disinfect them. As soon as the ground thaws, Steve will turn over the dirt in the pen and I’ll plant grass. Dust and earth harbors diseases and although I can’t eliminate them, the cleaning will reduce the load.

I placed my chick order deep in the middle of this snow-bound winter. Even after years of having chickens and knowing what I like, it was still a hard choice! To make the decision easier, I ordered more than I want to keep, thinking that I could sell a few started pullets when they are about two months old. (Check back with me in June and see if I can bear to part with any.) I often get asked what is the best breed to start with. That’s like asking “what dog should I get?” It’s a decision that differs for each individual and situation. This is what I’ve ordered:

2 Blue Cochins – I’m not one for feather-legged fowl because they get muddy in the spring, but cochins are so pretty and fluffy and gentle and I’ve been lusting after blue hens for awhile. All of the other hens I’ve ordered are clean-legged (no feathers) and winter hardy.

2 Delawares – these are very pretty, hardy, docile and good layers, and a breed I haven’t kept before.

2 Welsummers – they lay dark brown eggs and I like their classic big brown hen look – like out of an old picture book.

2 New Hampshire Reds – I miss Marge and Petunia and am hoping that these girls will have their out-going, friendly dispositions.

2 Rhode Island Reds – Always a good choice, the RIRs are good-layers, good foragers, and all-around nice birds.

2 Buff Orpingtons – Buffy is a HenCam favorite. She’s sweet but no push-over. And gorgeous! She’s old and I can’t imagine my backyard without a Buff O, so I’m getting these to be in the wings.

2 Speckled Sussex – Lulu is my crazy lady. These are beautiful, busy hens that surprise. I’m hoping the new ones will be a tad saner in a pair. But not too sane. That’s the fun of them.

I realize writing this that I did not order any blue egg layers. A terrible oversight! I think I’d better call Meyer right now and order a pair.


  1. my paternal grandmother kept bantams. those were some feisty hens! more so than the rooster. there were always a few who weren’t satisfied with their coop & must needed to hitch a ride on anyones’ boots to get in with the ameraucanas (in truth, pretty sure they were just ‘easter egg’ chickens).

  2. Sounds like a fun combo pack. I have 2 hens that are already acting a little broody but I’ve told them, We bought chicks this year so NO HATCHING!! I hate to spoil their fun but I wanted to add some new breeds this year. I am excited about my 2 Welsummers too and can’t wait for them to grow up and lay some pretty eggs.

  3. You mentioned 15 new chicks but described seven pairs. Is there a singleton in the group?

    • I could use you for an editor :) I miscounted. I’m sharing the order with a friend and altogether there are 25 – he’s getting 3 Dominiques.

  4. Here is sunny California (except for this winter!!)my 4 new chicks arrived February 4th and just ‘graduated’ this week to their special enclosure outside. They are in sight of the two old hens but separate for now. The 4 spend their day in the chicken tractor in the yard, while the older 2 roam the ‘back 40’ of our suburban yard. This helps keep their feed separate, too. I agree – choosing new chicks is loads of fun. I stood at the feed store and chose from a big poster on the wall from Privett Hatchery in New Mexico. My new girls are: Golden Laced Wyandotte, Delaware, Buff Orpington, and Speckled Sussex. Although they are all the same age, the Sussex is almost half the size of the others – – do you think I got a bantam, or is this usual for this breed? Enjoy your new brood – such a delight to raise these little ones! We’re looking forward to the ChickCam.

    • The Speckled Sussex should be just as tall as the others – but they do run lighter in weight. Sure you got a Sussex?

      • I have 2 Speckled Sussexes, one is named Tank and the other is Dottie. You can probably guess why: Tank is almost double the size of Dottie who is standard sized. Interestingly enough, I also have 2 Partridge Rocks and Darla is almost twice the size of Daisy.

        The rest of the flock is evenly sized between the various breeds I have.

    • I have the same theory as Terry, may have been a mix up.
      Make sure the others are allowing ample access to the feeder, that type of behavior is not common with chicks.
      What type of bedding did you use when they were chicks? I have seen cases in which the chicks eat the bedding and consequently don’t get enough nutrition. Pine bedding especially can sit in the crop and not pass and the chick feels full and doesn’t eat enough feed.

    • Sorry, I meant to reply to your comment, not Terry’s. But I had a Welsummer runt that was always slower and half the size of the other Welsummers. Once they were full grown, we had no idea who was the runt. THEY are the top hens in the bunch as they are the oldest. I LOVE their eggs.

  5. I think ChickCam is going to be great fun! I am also interested in seeing how the broody hen helps out. Can’t wait.

  6. As I’ve mentioned my chicks arrived the 14th about a month earlier then I like but when “hitching” a ride on another order one doesn’t have much of choice. The weather here in Missouri in March is warm one week freezing the next. My white rocks will arrive in mid April.
    Terry you can do the broody hen and brooder bulb method. I generally us it each year, works well. I still find it easier and less worry to have a hen watch over the chicks.
    I confine them to a space with plenty of room for the hen and chicks to migrate to and from the heat source, the hen seems to know what is needed. My little broody hen has 12 chicks now that are too big for her to cover all of them now (she was able to cover them during the first week in my experience the most vulnerable week) but she sits close to the bulb and the chicks like you said space themselves around the hen and bulb or under the hen if there quicker than the rest!
    Enjoy each minute when they arrive, their like children, they grow up too quickly.

    • Ken, do the chicks with the broody hen and those without a mama share a heat lamp? I’ve no interest in having two heat lamps going! My plan is to have a broody coop, outside – no electricity. No fuss. Moveable on the lawn, so little clean-up.

      • Terry,
        All the chicks are with the hen and have the bulb in the enclosure. The hen is a “large bantam” hen and she covered my 13 heavy breed and mediteration chicks for the first week or so with no problem. I actually didn’t use a bulb for the first week. I only turned it on once the weather got below freezing to ensure all were warm and the chicks had grown to the size in which I wasn’t sure the hen could keep them all covered.
        In the same order I got 6 bantam chicks (4 survived) that I put under a old english game bantam and have not provided any additional heat source and all is well. In the cold weather the bantams just spend more time under the hen but I checked them at the end of the day and all had full crops so they were eating well.
        If Lulu goes broody and accepts the chicks I believe the first week she should do just fine in providing sufficient warmth for 15 chicks.
        When my white rock chicks (my laying flock) arrive in April they will be raised without a hen, keeps me from making pets out of them ;-)
        I love the outside broody coop, I had one years ago. Word of warning, broody hens scratch until they almost rub their toe nails down to nothing, therefore, the lawn can become dirt in a couple hours.

        • Lulu would be totally bonkers with that many chicks! :) And I wouldn’t want to do that to dear old Buffy. I want to brood both ways, just to do it. Not to worry about my lawn – there’s plenty of areas where if it gets scratched up you won’t notice a difference :)

          • LOL, I have this “cartoonish” mental picture of Lulu running hither and yon trying to keep track of the chicks and trying to keep them out trouble and at the end of the day running to exhaustion, her feathers going in all directions and her little tongue hanging out!!!!

  7. Please tell me this means we get Chick Cam! Who doesn’t love watching baby chicks?

  8. Oh, this is going to be SO much fun! I can’t wait for the chick cam. Buffy is nesting today (again), and hopefully she’ll still be in the brood mood by the end of April.

  9. Terry, Congrats on the chicks you ordered! This April, I am getting four bantams, I am not sure what breed to get though! I was hoping to get them around my Birthday, so the whole family can see them, but my Birthday is Sunday! So, I guess i’m not getting them this weekend, maybe next weekend! :)

  10. Hi Terry, sounds like you have picked some up some awesome chicks. Though no Polish, but you still have your two, so two are enough. Have they ever gone broody ? I know Polish rarely do, and I only have heard of one doing so. She was an okay mother, she lost four out of her six babies but raised the other two to adulthood. Was still quite protective of them at three months old.

  11. You know what this means, don’t you? These new girls will need names! Very exciting! Can’t wait for ChickCam! I live vicariously through you….. someday I will live somewhere that I have space for new chicks.

    • Have been thinking about that… so many classrooms are using the HenCam and Tillie Lays an Egg. Thought I’d ask the kids to name the chickens after their teachers! :)

  12. Terry, I so want to order chicks but am afraid of getting a rooster, as the are not allowed in my city. I can’t seem to locate a meat processing facility either. Other than ordering sex-linked chicks, what is your advice about getting rid of an accidental rooster? By the way, I used your Epsom salt cure for one of my chickens and it worked like a charm for a couple of weeks. She’s got odorous runs again this am. Should I give her another treatment? Thanks for your absolutely wonderful site!

    • You can tell the hatchery NOT to send the extra chick, but there still might be a mistake. I had a sex-link that I loved! Personable, beautiful and good layer. So pleased the Epsom salt cure worked. Yes, do it again. Yeast infections can be persistent!

  13. I can’t wait to see your chicks. I miss having chicks! My ladies are two years old tomorrow and we won’t be getting any chicks until they are gone (of old age, hopefully)–not enough space. So I’ll live vicariously through your chick cam. :)

  14. Excited and envious at the same time. Looking forward to the chick cam.