This week we were thrilled to get to welcome our new little flock of chicks! In every single way this has been our best experience getting new chickens.
Unless you are lucky enough to live near a good breeder chicks usually have to arrive by mail which is always nerve wracking: knowing that these tiny little creatures have endured a rather traumatic first experience always gives me regret. We have received a few mail-order chick/duckling deliveries and always when the box arrives a few chicks have died en-route, usually the hatchery provides a few extra to make up for the loss. Our worst experience (when half of them died) the chicks were clearly more than a few days old; the delivery was expected to be 30 chicks what arrived was only 18 and then a further three died and we just managed to save a little Easter-egger we named Pig-widgen who never quite recovered her full wits but was very sweet regardless. After that we had decided not to order chicks by post because opening the box and not knowing what we would find felt too traumatic. However we realized that the chicks we could buy at the farm stores in town were delivered by mail and basically you were being buffered from the chicks trauma but not in fact preventing it.
As M. feels quite passionate about the welfare of his animals and believes that for a chicken to be in its best condition it needs as little change in habitat as possible so buying a chick which has been shipped to a third party just for us to collect it from them at a later date did not seem to suit the animal’s (or M.’s) needs. He researched the best possible breed for our needs- dual purpose birds (good for eggs and meat), who give a good number of eggs a year and pure-bred so that we could breed our own flock further down the line with good results maintaining the breed characteristics.
M.’s design Red Barn Chicken Hutch is big enough to house 30 chickens who free-range during the day. The barn is equipped with a solar-powered door which opens on a set timer- best small farm product EVER!
He found Whitmore Farm. They are a heritage breeds farm with a strong emphasis on animal welfare without antibiotics or hormones. Our experience with Whitmore has been beyond brilliant. They have such a genuine concern for the chicks they ship M. and I have been thrilled with the service, communication but especially the birds. The chicks all arrived alive and energetic with plenty of vim. They were clearly shipped within the first day of life as the box they traveled in had tiny spots of the green poop that chicken’s pass soon after hatching- just like human babies pass meconium. Early shipping is important because they have a little bit of the egg-yolk sack left inside their body after hatching to help them adapt and if shipped later than a day that yolk sack can be too depleted to help them. They all responded to the food a water enthusiastically and immediately began exploring their enclosure in the barn. Usually chicks are quite skittish of humans but these little balls of fluff are insatiably curious without any fear and have been chasing my hand around their box to get a closer look. We haven’t lost a single chick even three days later when it would be usual for the weakest to have shown the stress of shipping.
We ordered a mix box of breeds. We did pay more money per bird (for the purebred breeding and ethos of the farm) from Whitmore Farm than we have previously from other “big box” breeders. We specifically requested half Delaware which are dual purpose and the other half were to be whatever was hatching at the right time: which happened to be Welsummer. So the little cream-yellow chicks are Delaware and probably about half of them will end up in our freezer. We intend to keep one male but the rest of the males will be reared for meat. The adorable little Chipmunk striped chicks are the Welsummer. Welsummer have sex-linked features so we can tell already which are male and which are female. For those of you who are curious the female Welsummer have a thicker eyeliner and more distinctive stripe on their head than the less strongly marked males.
Female on the left, Male on the right.
They are such beautiful little creatures and for once I feel that we made the perfectly right decision with our breed suppler.