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Help! I need advice from an experienced chicken farmer.

We want to raise three or 4 laying hens in our back yard. How many baby chicks should I purchase? I know some will die and not survive shipping, and some may be males.

We are building this:

It can be moved daily and we have a big back yard. Someone is giving us all the stuff to raise them till they are several weeks old...heat lamps and such.

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I have had excellent luck

I have had excellent luck with Meyer Hatchery.

Some chicken breeds can be sexed when they are hatched, such as Dominiques. I have seven hens I ordered from Meyer last year, all shipped beautifully and arrived live and all survived. Be sure to read up, build your coop and yard and have your brooder prepared and operating at the proper temperature BEFORE you order your chicks. Good Luck!

BTW during laying season I average 4-5 eggs a day which is sufficient for my family of 5.

If my need to be RIGHT is greater than my desire for TRUTH, then I will not recognize it when it arrives ~ Libertybelle

We had some chickens

(No, we didn't really have chickens. It's just a funny little song I know. But as they say, Many a true word is said in jest! Actually, it's called The Rooster Song.)

We had some chickens
No eggs would they lay
We had some chickens
No eggs would they lay

My wife said, "Honey,
We're losing money
This isn't funny
Why won't they lay?"

One day a rooster
Came into our yard
He caught those chickens
Right off their guard

They're laying eggs, now
Just like they used ta
Ever since that rooster
Came into our yard
They're laying eggs, now
Just like they used ta
Ever since that rooster
Came into our yard

My wife said, "Honey,
We're making money
It's really funny
How those chickens lay."

Poor rooster's dead now
They've laid him away
But his sons are making
Those pullets lay

They're laying eggs, now
Just like they used ta
Ever since that rooster
Came into our yard
They're laying eggs, now
Just like they used ta
Ever since that rooster
Came into our yard

(Found this on youtube. I now see that there are different variations of the song - both lyrics and tune. This is the tune I know. I hope you didn't find the song offensive. If so, all I can say is I'm sorry, and I wouldn't advise checking out those other variations.)

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Nothing offensive about a Rooster

making things alright.

Guess my parents felt the same way.

Hearing that song sung at family gatherings - with everyone chiming in with gusto for the refrain - is one of my earliest childhood memories. Sex education in the 50's/60's. My, but how times have changed.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir


There are chickens available on Craigslist in coastal California (high density people populations), so I imagine they're available everywhere.

I have to imagine that buying chicks is akin to buying from puppy mills. Why not adopt from someone local?

What do you think?

Agway and Tractor Supply Stores

Have live chicks for sale in "cycles".
TSS has an order form with different breeds and info on each.
And I once had a great beginner's book (softcover) that I purchased at the local AGWAY.
There is nothing to compare to the sage advice of an old uncle who raised chickens as a child, and tried his hand at breeding and raising a variety of animals is no longer alive....I do miss his common sense advice on many things and he just seemed to know more about animals...and people... than anyone I ever knew.
He was a family legend, and loved by all.
Good Luck in your endeavors!

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

I know what you mean

Not about chickens, per se, but the sage advice of an old farmer. As a society, with such reliance on science and technology, these days we seem to be losing our wisdom and common sense. Growing up, I'm glad I got to spend summers in the country, dairy country in the Poconos. Our family was good friends with a farmer whom I was reminded of by what you said about your uncle. He had a great sense of humor, too!

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Sense of Humor...Yes

And I still can see him...relating a humorous story.
He'd get this "twinkle" in his eyes, pure joy! A sight to see.

Those old-timers were also great "horse-traders" and loved to bargain with you for a good price...a fair price, where nobody was fleeced, just an "honest deal".....we need more of them today.

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

Exactly as I remember,

that twinkle in his eyes. And when he got to the end of the story, the punch line so to speak, he had the greatest laugh - it was this hearty, staccato-type laugh. (Something like the end of Woody Woodpecker's laugh.) I can still hear it, and it makes me smile just to think of it. I wasn't privy to any trading, but my father and I did go with him to a couple livestock auctions. What a trip, those auctioneers! As you seem to have had chickens at one time yourself, let me ask: did you know the rooster song? (Lyrics above.)

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

I've had good luck

ordering through the mail but most places want you to buy 25 at a time, it improves survival. 25 is way more than you want but you could share an order with one or two others. Laying goes way down in the winter so buying chicks now so they're laying in the Spring might work. I like Rhode Island Reds for free range. Very smart, forage well, watchful of predators. Don't start hand feeding chickens (esp roosters) or they'll be a nuisance later. I know someone with an obnoxious aggressive roo that was "so cute" when he was little being hand fed.

and another thing

free range birds lay larger eggs with yolks that are more orange then yellow. They clean your yard of bugs all summer long. You can really see and taste the difference between free range vs caged birds. Commercial feed is a poor substitute for a natural diet. If you want real old fashioned natural eggs, don't cage your birds. In the evening, they will return to the coop to sleep all by themselves and all you have to do is close the door. Watch where they go in the daytime and you will find the spots they are using to lay the eggs. Leave 1 egg (mark it - or even a plastic egg will do) in the spot they like and they will always come back to it. The down side of free range is you may lose a few birds to foxes, snakes, cats, dogs, etc. -- but why even have egg chickens if you're going to raise them like a factory farmer- in cages?

I don't know where you live

but chickens generally take 4 - 6 months before they start laying. You can buy laying hens for $4 a piece. I buy mine in Lititz, Pa from the Amish farmers. Make sure you don't buy the debeaked ones because they can't eat very well as free range birds. They really need to eat mash, so check the beaks before buying. Don't bother with a rooster as they serve no purpose except fertilizing eggs. Fertilized eggs have a bloody red spot on them and nobody really wants to eat that. A rooster can ruin all your eating eggs and you can buy laying hens cheaper then you can raise the chicks yourself. Remember that birds of a feather flock together - literally. If you are only getting six, get six the same kind.

Rock solid advice

Roosters can be good protectors and they don't always fertilize eggs (though not for lack of trying). I agree with you though, if you don't need a rooster to protect from predators, don't bother.
Buying laying hens from a local livestock auction or farm is also the perfect way to do it. The morning after you bring them home, you have eggs. For the slow, stinky and hassle ridden raising chicks experience, it's best to find a local feed store or TSC in the spring and buy some healthy chicks.


I marvel at the information one can read about on this site from the DP family!
Absolutely amazing!

" In Thee O Lord do I put my trust " ~ Psalm 31:1~

Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in their water

Helps them survive the first few weeks. It is also important to see that they get a drink of water when they arrive. Dip each chick's beak in water and you can tell if they did drink, as they lift their beak to swallow.
To encourage them to find and eat the food--'peck' at the food with your finger.

there's a minimum that some hatcheries will ship

the survivability rates goes up when there's more of them to huddle together. I went with McMurray hatchery out of Iowa.

Barred Rocks, I call them the model-T of backyard chickens.

figure you won't see any eggs for the first six months, so plan ahead.

They are so much fun!

We are only allowed to have four in the area where we live. We purchased ours at a week old from a feed barn the next town over. We kept them in a heated cage (in the house) in a room off the kitchen until their feathers had grown in, changing their cage once every day.
They definitely have their own personalities, the Chinese Cochins (known for the feathers on their feet) are very independent and the Buff Orpington loves to be held, if you call her she will come running over to you so you will pick her up or tug on your pant leg until you pick her up. The most dependent one we have is an Ameraucana, she is also the most bazaar looking as well as the largest. She would rather be sitting in your arms than running around the yard with the other girls and you have to be careful not to step on her as she is always under foot. She has the sweetest personality but they all are very lovable in their own way.
Have fun in your new adventure, they really are very entertaining.

I used to raise chickens as a kid

There are many things to consider.

Do you want eggs only, or meat as well?

What is your climate, if you live in a more northerly location you may want to choose a more heavy set breed such as white rock which will do better during the cold.

Are you in a location where you could easily sell off a few extra birds.

Do you want to to keep a rooster in order to raise more chicks in the future?

Generally chicks are available in any number. They can be purchased either sexed (all males or all females) or straight run (as they come out of the shell about 50% male, and 50% female) On average a laying hen will lay about 2 eggs every three days, so a few extra laying hens than the amount of eggs you want is advisable. In my experience mortality during shipping is minimal, probably 1 in 25 or less, but I generally ordered in amounts of 50-100. Most often you can find chicks in the spring at a farm and home type store, and avoid shipping concerns.

Josh Brueggen
Jack of all Trades
Precinct Commiteeman Precinct 5 Rock Island Co Illinois

My experience

Study the varieties of hens, some are better egg layers than others, and they have different dispositions. My Winedots are not great egg layers, but the are beautiful, and very loving.

I suggest you find a feed store close to you and you like the people and buy chicks from them, because you may wind up needing other things (medicine for one example) including information and it's good to have a good relationship for support.

I have 12 hens and a rooster, one of the winedots is brooding now. Unlike some, I have increased my flock three times with no problem, my trick, I raised the chicks seperated by a screen with the rooster. He adopted them into his harem. There is always a pecking order, and the rooster is the king.

I find that routine is really important with them.

I do not feed my chickens layina or any hormone feed to help them lay eggs, I find the hormones also make them like PMS. They LOVE protein.. they would eat a cow if I put it out there.

I have as assortment of coop/cages, the rooster has a time out cage I can put over him anywhere at anytime, also I have sticks to tap him when he might get the idea to spur me,, he likes to tell me when to feed them and I have to remind him who owns the ranch.

My coop is split so I can divide the flock, and this works well when raising chicks around an adult flock, and my perches are staggered, because they are like people, some will get along well together, and then they have a disagreement and want to seperate, or one will want to be with another and not an other...

I use mats with pine litter, their nesting boxes also have pine litter, I just find Lifting the mats up and out to clean makes cleanup fast.

Anyways, they are a lot of fun, will scratch and eat your gardens to death if you let them, mine don't mind wearing Ron Paul tank tops... LOL anyways, I seriously suggest you do not mail order chicks as a beginner, they will come with many baby roosters that you either need to kill or give away and that is not easy to do.. make friends at a feed store, especially one that sells chicks regularly, make an informed decision about what breed you get, start small. God Bless Your Coop.

I loved reading that, Granger!

How's your move coming along? Are you living on the farm now?

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox

Thank You Nonna

I would like to move this month but I have a lot going on, and a lot to co-ordnate, so it may not be as soon as I would like, and it may not be at all.. I have a pretty busy period coming up, tomorrow I'm excited because I'm going to get my eyes tested to see if I can get lasics for a second time, different place, far away. I have two eye doctors here, one of them is a surgeon who is always pulling fiberglass out of my eyes, and removing pterigiums, damage I got from repairing surfboards for years.. everynow and then I would do a quick job, and fiberglass gets in the eyes, works it's way in, and then takes years to work it's way back out as cysts.. so I may not be able to get lasics, but I have to drive a long way for some complicated tests.. I've been tested at the surgeon's office (he's a great surgeon and he said he would do it, and then he backed down and refeered me to a Big City doctor/specialist) and he said I could, but the institute says, nothing is wrong with his tests, but I'm a special case... as usual... had this appointment for a long time, long drive.. and just have a lot piling up.

Would sure make life easier to just be in one place, with my girls.. funny, lil chick is sitting on a bench outside and singing to me. By the way, they communicate through blinking at them. I blink, they blink.. they sing, I blink, they stop singing and blink back...

Love you!

So sorry you have to go through all that.

Hope things turn out well. More prayers going out for you, my friend.

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox


No need to be sorry. I did it to myself, I was addicted to surfing, it was my life and I LOVED it, loved repairing boards, so I wouldn't take any of it back. It's like war wounds. With my dyslexia, I could never see straight anyways.. surfing was a great equalizer, I could see way out to the swells, able to line myself for a wave before many knew what was going on.

God said, "Let some else catch a wave". That's all.

Thank you for the blessing, accepted, and returned with LOVE.

Ok, since you are worried about surviving shipping

I don't know of anywhere you can buy that doesn't require a minimum for shipping because of warmth issues. I bought fifteen and they shipped sixteen. One died young and two were eaten by a possum after a couple of months.(I killed him good). The rest are fine. I also ordered guineas which are growing just fine along with my chickens and I haven't lost a one. Now I have turkey chicks that just came in Friday and they are doing just fine and I expect them to continue as well.

Anyway like I said there is usually a minimum order of 15 when they are being shipped to you. Any less and they run a very serious risk of dying before they get to you. has no has no minimum and all 5 of mine survived.

Thanks for the info

After reading there shipping policy it does state that they can ship as few as three heavy breed chickens to urban areas, like for people with back yard coops or such. But that policy only applies to those such areas.

"...the smallest minimums apply only to the areas that the USPS tells us it can get chicks to in the least possible amount of time, which is usually major cities."

I live in the country thus the false assumption. Can't find the info on their shipping charges. But for the record if you want larger quantities most of the minimum order sites like have a little better pricing and free shipping.

Thanks for the heads up and the link.

Yes, Mypetchicken is a great site for small flocks!

Oh boy, Chicken talk! [laughing] Love em' Great pets along with the eggs. Started with 6 'rescue'hens due to get in a soup truck coming that eve to pick them up 5 years ago and think they were 2 or 3 yrs old when I got them. I still have two. Two died of..? heart faliure? and two were snatched by Coyotes while free ranging. The 2 ladies left have wrinkled dryfeet they're so old but still get 3 or 4 huge white eggs a week. The rest are Rhode Island Reds I raised from chicks. Have a large Badger who isn't afraid of the chicken protector, a large Nubian goat with a 'tude'. Anyone have ideas on getting rid of a Badger? Saw it 2 weeks ago for the first time but wasn't 'packing' [grin] so just said hello to it as it played peek a boo with me from the hole he dug outside the pen area. Cute thing, but ears like Obama. It's gone from the hole, can find no other holes except for those where it borrows in about every 3 or 4 nights to stock up, getting 2 or 3 hens. I thought my coop was Fort Knox but they can start 4 or more feet away and dig a hole to tunnel under the fencing buried 3' out from coop wall ! I fill and put concrete blocks on it, it digs somewhere else. HELP!

Information on raising chickens is available on the net in detail. Here are a few tidbits usually not mentioned. New chicks, keep checking rear ends Most deaths right after shipping occur from being plugged up. Hold them with little rear ends in warm water to clean.....they'll be fine/ Don't mix young with old, the older will peck the younger ones bald, never accept them/Read up on breeds, some are very aggressive. Rhode Island Reds are very calm, good for meat, prolific layers of brown eggs..... and make good pets too.
You're going to enjoy having them.


reedr3v's picture

Can the badger chomp right through

chicken wire? We had that on the floor of our chicken coop to discourage varmints digging under, but we didn't have a badger.

Tks reedr, Anyone.....BAdger chew through chicken wire??

I don't know reedr. This is my first encounter with a badger. First time I ever saw one. Came inside, looked it up on the net and the choppers on them look like a Wooly Mammoth! So wide, long and pointed! Sounds like a great idea, I have extra wire. I'm sure with it's size, would just push it up unless naled into the wood on all sides. That's a lot of work but worth it if it works. Anyone here know if a badger can chew through chicken wire??

Hog wire would probably be best but that's not on hand and prety expensive.


I use a combination of weld wire and chicken wire

I use the 4 x 2 weld wire for covering and fencing all around the yard lined with standard one inch chicken wire around the base or bottom to prevent chicks from escaping. I take three foot wide chicken wire and fold it and lay it so that it is half way up the fence and the other half lays out on the ground on the outside of the pen. Then I cover whats on the ground with dirt. This impedes animals from digging underneath. On the bottom of the coop, because of my layout, I have weld wire and chicken wire. I put pieces of tin on the ground underneath to catch the poo which is excellent for the garden.

I do believe a badger could easily tear through chicken wire alone as could any large predator like a coyote or perhaps even a fox.