When we moved into our new house last June, we inherited a couple of chickens. I'm not sure why the previous owners left them and took the rest. I assumed it was because they were old or didn't lay well anymore. Less than a week after we moved in, one of the hens died. Not sure why - I just found her in the run dead. I was pretty sure the second one will die soon as well.
That was 9 months ago and we still have the other hen. And I'll admit that I've become pretty attached to her. She is an Australorp and beautiful in her shiny black plumage. Sugar (my wife named her) is inconsistent as a layer, but has a sweet disposition and is now a member of the family.
We have been wanting to get a few more chickens, so last weekend I built a brooder based on a few designs I saw on backyardchickens.com. Basically, I took a clear plastic tote, cut a section out of the lid, and replaced it with hardware cloth. Some shelf liner down on the bottom and you have simple brooder.
Now it was just wait and see what kind of chicks show up at the local Tractor Supply.
Our local store gets its chicks on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I've been calling the past couple of weeks when I'm not too busy with work to ask if they have chicks. Most of the time I've been too late as the chick's are scooped up pretty fast.
Today I called and was informed that they had Buff Orpingtons and Bantams in, straight run and no pullets. Doing a little research on my lunch break showed that the Orpingtons would be a good breed for we wanted, but I didn't want to deal with the possibility of getting a bunch of roosters.
A quick note on Tractor Supply (or at least our's): There is a minimum purchase of 6 chicks, but you can mix and match. I was also told that they don't know what kind of chicks they are getting in until they show up and I even varies store to store. The next closest store to us received Wyandottes last week, but our store did not. It seems like you basically have a chance of getting sex-link pullets, meat chickens, a specialty breed (like the Wyandottes or Buff Orpingtons), and Bantams.
So I was a little bummed that there weren't any pullets, but I had pretty much talked myself into the Buffs and thought that I'd either give away or barcher any roosters in the 6 I'd buy. Knowing my luck, they would all be roosters...
I stopped in on my way home, and to my surprise they had at least 50 pullets! I was told that the truck showed up late today. I was stoked. Now I wouldn't have to worry about 6 roosters.
So what did I do? I bought 4 golden sex-link pullets, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Bantams. I'm pretty sure we only have 1 rooster Buff, but I don't know about the Banties.
Supposedly with the Orpingtons you can tell the sex in young chicks by the length of the primary wing feathers. Do an Internet search for "feather sexing chicks". Trust me, you shouldn't get any weird results - at least I hope not since I was using my work computer...
I'm not sure why I got the Banties besides the fact that they were so small and cute. One chick is black and the other gray, so I'm really interested in what they look like when they grow up.
The kids are enamored with the chicks and spent the better part of the evening just lying in front of the brooder watching them. I got a few out so they could hold them and the really thought it was funny when a chick would poop on dad's hand. I plan on letting them handle (gently, of course) and spend enough time with them so the chicks become accustomed to people and aren't too skittish or mean.
So this is day one of the next chapter in our chicken saga. Stay tuned for updates.