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June 07, 2009

Chicken Run Around

One of our (my) main reasons for leaving the city was that local bylaws didn't allow us to have a flock of backyard chickens (of course, less than a year after we moved, they changed the rules).
Once we got our occupancy permit for the new house and were able to negotiate a regular, non-construction mortgage (back in mid March), we were finally able to relax a bit and start thinking about things other than the inside of the house (not that it's finished, mind you, but we can live with it).
I started researching hatcheries early in the spring, looking specifically for heritage and rare breed chickens, and preferrably sexed so that we could control the number of roosters we'd end up with (because as we've already established, I'm not going to be dispatching animals anytime soon). I found one that sounded perfect, but after placing my order and waiting for several weeks to hear back (the website was very reassuring that they were just busy and would be in touch), I finally managed to get ahold of the owner only to be told that their posted minimum of 24 chicks required for delivery is actually a minimum of 50 if they're being sent by airmail (why the website doesn't mention this, I don't know). After much deliberation, we decided to go ahead and order the 50 and find homes for the ones we didn't need. But, after nearly 2 more weeks of not hearing back from him, we gave up and started looking elsewhere (he did eventually get back to me three days ago - a good month later - to tell me that he couldn't fill our order. Good thing we didnt' wait).
We more or less gave up on getting the breeds we were after (my daughter was desperate for her Salmon Faverolles), as there wasn't much variety available from local breeders at this point, and rare breeds are, not surprisingly, kind of hard to find. I was beginning to think we'd have to order sex-link hybrids to at least ensure that we'd be getting females, but then we discovered that McMurray Hatchery would ship an order to the nearest US town and provide all the paperwork necessary to bring the chicks into Canada. Yay!
So, long story short, we've got 26 little fuzzballs arriving sometime in the next couple of days! We ordered 23 females, 1 straight run, and 1 male. We wanted one rooster to act as a watch dog, and decided to go with the Salmon Faverolle male, as they are reportedly very sweet and quiet, and are one of the best looking roosters out there. The females are:

2 Salmon Faverolles
2 Black Australorps
2 Dark Brahmas
2 New Hampshire Reds
2 Barred Rocks
2 Buff Orpingtons
2 Delawares
2 White Wyandottes
2 Speckled Sussex
1 Rhode Island Red
1 Blue Laced Red Wyandotted (this one's a straight run, so it could be male or female)
1 Jersey Giant
2 Black Stars
2 Red Stars

I decided to get a few of the hybrids (the Stars) because I'm going to be providing eggs for my mom's Bed and Breakfast and wanted to be sure that we'd have a consistent supply (and besides, they're just pretty).
One of my husband's co-commuters (he travels to work in a van pool) is also a small scale chicken/egg farmer, and he finds our mixed-bag chicken order (as well as the whole concept of choosing chickens based on looks and personality) rather amusing. I may never be a hardcore poultry farmer, but I think I've discovered a new obsession - there are many more breeds out there that I'm dying to get. Maybe "poultry collector" is a more accurate description.

We found this video on Youtube today. It's a segment from Dirty Jobs (a great show, if you've never seen it) where Mike Rowe goes to McMurray Hatchery to learn about chicken sexing. It's a little alarming to see what the poor things go through before they're stuffed in boxes and mailed to their new homes, but it's exciting to know that they're finally on their way!

10 comments:

Bob said...

We've got 3 salmon faverolles running around our back garden but they have to be the slowest birds we have. They are huge compared to most of the others and just lumber about everywhere. They look fantastic though.

Maybe it's because I've got wirey Scots Greys and a Leghorn running about like theres no tomorrow that makes them look so slow?

el said...

Ah Cheryl what drama to get those birds! I've experienced the same thing before so I trimmed my bird-y expectations to keeping just a few different breeds.

I have had 7 of the 14 breeds you listed. Having 2 of each should help you figure out what traits are "breed" and what are "bird," i.e., sure, Bob's flighty Greys and Leghorn sound exactly like the breed but each individual bird, just like people, can be kooky in their own way. It's fun!

Have your kids do a lot of chick-holding and petting (washing hands lots of course) and really try to get them eating out of your kids' hands early, like, on Day One. With that many chickens they'll pick up habits from each other kind of quickly, so the calmer birds can point the way to letting the flightier ones know that human hands = food and other good stuff, so they'll all be (relatively) tame in no time.

What a fun adventure!! Keep us posted! And get those egg recipes ready...

Pam said...

That is sooo cool! We just got the law changed in our town, I can't wait to get mine!

Michelle Ellis said...

We've only heard great things about the Murry McMurry hatchery. Be prepared for some mystery chicks. I believe they send a few extra just in case some don't make it during transit(:

Congratulations!

They are very fun.

We just dispatched of 30 fryers at my friends yesterday. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be(:

Michelle Ellis said...

Oh! I forgot,

Lets get bees next year(:

I know you do the small box but wouldn't honey from the back yard be awesome!

BurdockBoy said...

Our friend always orders from McMurray. We have their catalog at home, but we have several farm stores that are constantly ordering chicks so we went with them for convenience and the fact we didn't have to order 25. Can't wait to see updates.

deb said...

Our 26 chicks just turned 7 weeks old today. I never thought I'd say this but I love chickens! They are the *best* and for oodles of reasons; eggs that beat store bought ones all to heck, they love eating bugs and weeds of all sorts, the compost from their bedding is the best fertilizer, and of course they are great entertainment! Who needs TV when you can watch the chickens!

I love your variety of chicks as well. We have 6 varieties and would have gotten more if we had that option.

Definitely keep us posted... it's going to be a wonderful adventure! You're going to love it!

Cheryl said...

Bob - Well, it was definitely their looks that attracted us to them (as well as the fact that they lay through the winter). I'm glad to hear they're docile (lazy?)! :D

El - We've been taking your advice to heart, and the kids have gotten them used to eating from their hands. Some of them seem to love being held!

Pam - That's great news, they're a lot of fun!

Michelle - Yes, McMurray was really good to deal with. We opted out of the free Mystery chick (didn't want to risk a rooster of unknown temperament) but it would have been fun to get something unexpected.
I think there must be better methods of "dispatching" than what my family used to use, it always seemed so messy and traumatic! Did you get to bring a few home?
And yes, definitely bees next year!

BurdockBoy - Yes, the 25 minimum is a bit daunting. We thought we could just sell the extras, but I don't see that happening at this point.

Deb - I'm with ya, chickens are a lot of fun! I love being able to feed them our leftover veggies, and I can't wait to start benefitting from the compost (and eggs, of course)!

dawn said...

Glad you found a place to get them. I know the hatchery near us has a few heritage breeds and Canadian Crafter in Lillioot has ordered from them. It sounds like it worked out well where you found them anyway. I ordered mine and it is taking 5 weeks from when I ordered them. I will have to order them sooner if I want them earlier in the year.

Cheryl said...

Dawn - Is it Rochester you're talking about? I almost ordered from them, but they don't sex their heritage breeds, unfortunately. I've heard good things about them though, our neighbor orders from them.

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