One of my favorite things about raising chickens is that day when the chicks come home for the first time. They are so adorable with their little fuzzy bodies and their peeping and cheeping. We’ve never gone the incubator route, simply because I’m afraid of something going wrong. Eggs in the mail seem such an iffy thing. I know that lots of people have done this successfully, but I also know about mail carriers who leave them on the porch in freezing cold temperatures instead of ringing your bell to alert you or calling you in the morning to come down to the post office and pick them up like they are supposed to. That’s never been a risk I’m willing to take so far.
We could get fertile eggs from the feed store or from the local farms, but I have this idea in my head, no matter how responsible of a person that I am, that I will hard boil them and that would break my heart. I’m all for eating the food you raise, and allowing for the circle of life, but wasteful death bothers me a great deal. So we’ve always brought home day old or 2 day old chicks instead. It takes out one layer of possible death in a world that seems almost like it was designed just to kill baby chicks. Despite that, out of the 3 dozen chicks we’ve had over the last three years, only two died in babyhood, the exact same breed, and we think there was an illness as everyone else who bought silver lace winged wyandottes from that place lost them. We were the only ones to have one survivor (out of the 3 we bought), so I didn’t feel too bad about that in the long run.
If we move somewhere we can have a rooster, which is the plan, I’ll let some of the hens go broody, but I doubt I’ll ever brave the incubator unless it’s something my son decides he really wants to do.
So far in our little homesteading ventures we have only raised our chickens for eggs. I have thought about doing broilers this year, but I’m not sure there is the space to do more than ten. We currently have 3 hens and 9 pullets and the coop could easily hold another dozen, but I’d have to sacrifice garden space if I wanted to free range more than our current 12. I’ve thought about maybe tractoring them, which would allow for pasture feeding but not for ranging.
I won’t have to make up my mind until the end of March. My mother, who grew up on a farm, knows how to butcher chickens so I’d have someone with experience on hand. You can watch as many videos of the process as you want, but nothing beats learning it from someone first hand in my book. I’d really rather do rabbits, but it’s not quite in the cards right now. We have the infrastructure for chickens so if I do meat animals at all this year that will be the route I go.
We won’t be raising chicks for eggs this year, that much I know. I think we will all miss the experience, but it will be nice to have that extra bathtub free during the early spring for once.