Mid-winter is a perfect time to order baby chicks to arrive in the mail as the weather warms in spring. Homeowners can create an international flock of six hens that will be fun to keep and produce many delicious eggs.
Many hatcheries allow customers to order a mixture of breeds, but often they require buying 25 birds so the chicks stay warm during shipment. Winter is a perfect time to get together with other families who keep chickens to place a joint order to meet the minimum. Stores that stock chicks will usually sell as few as six, but their breed selection is normally limited.
Winding Pathways encourages folks to start browsing catalogs and on-line sites now and order soon to make sure desired breeds are in stock.
We’ve been keeping chickens of many breeds for decades at Winding Pathways. Both our children, now adults living in distant states, grew up tending our small flock. We love our fresh eggs and also appreciate the personalities and characteristics of our favorite breeds.
It’s easy to create an international flock. Here’s how we’d choose breeds for a six-bird flock that come from many places, are fun to be around, and lay plenty of eggs.
One Buff Orpingtons. This is a golden hen developed in England. Large, fluffy, and gentle. Orpingtons are so-so layers but absolutely beautiful, fun to be around, and easy to care for. A young chick enthusiast named ours “The Golden Hens”.
One Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red. We like having a “Yankee” chicken in our flock. Rhode Islands are dark reddish in color and are outstanding layers. New Hampshires are a lighter red and good layers, although perhaps not quite as good as Rhode Islands.
One Barred Rock. Sometimes called Plymouth Rock, there are several colors of the rock breed and all are good. Not quite as friendly as the Orpingtons but a better layer. This is another “Yankee” breed either named for Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts or developed by a breeder in Plymouth, NH, depending on the source of information.
One Americana. People love the blueish/greenish eggs this breed lays. They are good layers that originated in South America.
One Maran. This French breed lays very dark brown eggs. Marans come in various feather colors that children love to gather. We sometimes collect feathers and give them to our fly-fishing son-in-law who ties his own flies.
One beautiful and unusual bird. Look at the photos in printed hatchery catalogs and on websites and choose an interesting and colorful brown egg layer. Often these ornamental breeds aren’t great egg layers, but they are interesting and colorful. Some possibilities include Wyandottes, good layers developed in New York; Brahmas, perhaps from India; Cochin, not so good layers but named for Cochin China – near the mouth of the Mekong River in Vietnam; Sussex, a good layer from England; Jersey Giants from New Jersey; or Buckeyes from Ohio.
In recent years we’ve purchased our chicks from Hoovers Hatchery but we’ve also bought them from McMurray Hatchery. The following three hatcheries have interesting websites and provide outstanding chicks of many breeds: Cackle Hatchery; Murray McMurray Hatchery; Hoovers Hatchery.