Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chickenless



The 18 chicks that were supposed to arrive at the end of March, and then mid-April, are still not here, and won't be until June. At this point we're not quite ready to believe we'll even get them then. The reason? Apparently the hatchery just can't keep up with the demand. We are very disappointed, as there's now no chance of our own home-grown (home-laid?) eggs before next spring, since if young hens don't start laying before winter, they won't at all until spring.

I'm trying to figure out why I am so disappointed. The best I can figure, I was counting on those chickens to make me feel like a real farmer. That's lower-case-f-farmer, not capital-f-farmer - I'm not entirely delusional. But somehow the chickens were going to make us official.

We've hunted around for local alternatives, but it's clear that for every chick looking for a home, there are about 10 homes looking for chicks. There are more options for buying adult hens, but they have a limited egg-laying lifespan, and without experience at figuring out how old a chicken is, we don't feel confident spending money on it. (For those of you who are interested, a hen's age can be determined by looking to see which of various body parts have been bleached, which happens sequentially as more and more eggs get laid. At least that's what we've read...) So, for now at least, it looks like we're stuck waiting for June.

It's making us reconsider the possibility of keeping one of the roosters we'll eventually get - it looks like having chicks to sell could be a nice little source of income.

6 comments:

~Kim~ said...

I guess you were "counting your chickens before they hatched?!" Sorry, I had to say that...I am also sorry that you won't be getting your chicks because I know the work that went into getting ready for them. Have you thought about guineas? I don't know much about them, several of the farmers around us have them, and I think they are very intersting...

Toni aka irishlas said...

Don't get totally disheartened yet - my hens laid all through winter without adding light or heat to the coop. The girls sporadically started laying at the end of September and didn't really get steady until January! I expected them to not lay, but, they did. I wasn't getting six eggs a day and somedays none were laid at all. Now, you know how bad a winter the east coast had and they even continued to lay through the blizzards!
Guinea hens are great bug eaters, but, are a little on the noisy side and have a tendency to fly away. They lay small brown eggs (if you can keep them from leaving)

So, don't lose hope! You still can have your home grown eggs...

jeanives said...

It seems crazy that you can't get chickens. I realize that some urbanites are keeping chickens as they are legal in Vancouver and Victoria but surely those people haven't scooped all the chickens on Vancouver Island? What about your local 4H kids?

Paula said...

Ah Miriam- I am truly bummed for you. Out of curiosity, from what hatchery did you order? I'd like to avoid them next year. Have you tried other hatcheries? When did you place your order? I'm trying to figure out when I'll need to place mine to get chickens next year. What a bummer. Have you guys a farm store where you could go get chicks? There are a couple here in Portland- I'm wondering if I should have grabbed chicks when I went in one the first time, but I'm truly not ready. Maybe a neighbor has some chicks they could sell you?

Opening a hatchery might not be a bad idea after all!

Miriam said...

We ordered from the Rochester Hatchery in Alberta, and we placed our order in February, which seems like well in advance to me...The folks at our two local farm stores act as distributors for this hatchery, so that's where their own chicks come from. According to them, the hatchery has, over the last few years, bought up and closed out the smaller hatcheries on Vancouver Island, to eliminate the competition.

If we hadn't been so set on getting a heritage breed (the Buff Orpingtons) we probably wouldn't have had the same problems with lack of supply.

But I am heartened to hear there may be a possibility for eggs this winter after all!

Paula said...

Bought up the local hatcheries and closed them!? Who do they think they are? WALMART?

Murray McMurray in (Iowa, I think) is an old, very well-respected hatchery that specializes in heritage breeds.
Here is their availability matrix:
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/availableview.html

Try them, and good luck. Stinkin' Alberta hatchery....

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