Chx3 I hatched a batch of Rhode Island Red chicks because a couple of people had requested them. Of course, they had found other chicks in the meantime, so these are for sale.

My incubator statistics are still bad: 19 hatched out of 42 set. I candled at seven days, but gosh, I can’t see anything in those brown eggs! So, I left them all in there. I think I need a real candling device, not just a flashlight, to see accurately into these eggs.

Two perished of peculiar failures this time: one nearly finished hatching out of his shell, then died suddenly. The other had a huge yolk that had successfully absorbed into the belly, but left the chick with a Jabba the Hutt shaped body, and thin skin that looked like it was barely holding in all that yolk! He hatched well and was vigorous but died the next day. The rest are all well though, it seems like after a couple of days of eating and drinking, they are usually through the woods.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it seems feasible to sell chicks this time of year, despite competing with other private parties advertising on craigslist and with the local feed stores, which carry mail-order chicks. Feed store chicks are certainly an option for someone just wanting a few chickens. And they are cheaper than what I charge, at $5 per bird (and it’s really almost not worth my time, at that).

But, if you’ve ever noticed, feed stores have a very high mortality rate, around 25-30%. They usually have a subtly hidden box of deads that they keep adding to, as they clean the brooders every half hour, to prevent customers from seeing how many are kicking the bucket. So, if you want six chickens, you’d better start with ten from the feed store.

The best strategy if you buy from them is to ask when the chicks are delivered from the post office, and try to get there asap to choose the best ones. If you can pick ones that are already eating and drinking, that’s good. The other strategy is to wait for a few days until the tail end of the chick sales, and let the store incur all the losses. The chicks left standing after day four or five are usually the true survivors! But then you might miss out.

You can also get your own mail order chicks. They usually require a minimum order of ten or more, but you can easily sell the surplus on craigslist if you don’t want so many. Mail order usually works ok, but on occasion there is a delay in the package shipping, and that extra 24 or 48 hours away from food or water is pretty brutal on survival rates.

The advantage of hatching chicks in small batches at home is that they don’t have to wade through 200 other chicks to find food and water. And they can start eating on day one, instead of waiting several days while being shipped. So mortality (other than genetically defective ones) is almost nil. I feed my chicks chopped greens in addition to chick starter, and keep them in the house for the first week to ensure they don’t get chilled. I also present mine with sand from our yard for grit immediately. I feel that exposing them to natural microbes, and all of the wild bird diseases they’re going to encounter anyway, ensures their immune system is prepared for living outdoors here. I don’t think that hatchery chicks, which are raised in a laboratory-like environment, have the same vigor as locally hatched chicks do.