Although there is nearly a foot of snow on the ground, it's time to think about placing an order for spring chicks.
Why do we mail order chicks? Of course, chicks are available each spring at the local farm store, but that requires a minimum order of ten chicks and all of them must be of the same breed. It's also possible to network with local farmers, but we're limited to whatever breed the farmer has available.
As urban farmers, we're restricted by ordinance to a handful of chickens. We'd like our little flock to fit our needs and provide variety. In the last few years, some hatcheries have made it possible for backyard flock owners to order as few as three chicks from a wide variety of breeds, and it's easy to place a mixed order.
The day-old chicks are carefully packaged with a warm gel pack and shipped express mail. There is a risk that one of the little babies might not survive the trip, but overall the procedure is quite successful. The cost of shipping is not insignificant (around $35), so it's nice if friends can combine an order and share the shipping cost.
Hatcheries plan several weeks ahead of shipping dates so that they can keep up with demand of popular breeds. Also, it's good idea to plan the raising of chicks into your family schedule and summer vacation plans. Our family hopes to raise our chicks early enough in the spring that we can incorporate the new birds into the flock before we take a summer camping trip. We'll allow at least three months for the chicks to reach an adult size.
So get a mug of hot chocolate or coffee and start researching breeds. We'll be placing our order soon. Think spring!