Monday, June 8, 2009

What if you don't want 25 chicks?

This weekend, I read about the plight of urban chicken farmer Mable Biccum of Henderson, Kentucky.

The quick and dirty retell: Biccum set up a coop in her backyard where she's raising 25 chickens for eggs as a way to supplement her fixed income and give the extra eggs to a social services group. Unfortunately, chickens aren't allowed on properties of fewer than 5 acres in Henderson, so Biccum's chickens have to go. She's vowed to appeal to the Board of Zoning Adjustment at their June 10 meeting.

What's caught my eye about this particular story is that Biccum got her 25 birds because that's the smallest quantity the local feed-n-fuel would allow her to buy: "Rural King will not sell you less than 25."

I suspect that's the smallest quantity because the big hatcheries (McMurray, et al) won't sell chicks in quantities fewer than 25 and it's likely Rural King simply ordered the chicks on behalf of Biccum.

Back when I got started raising urban chickens, while I wanted to pick out a specific breed from a hatchery, there was no way I could order the minimum quantity of 25. And back then, I didn't know enough other folks to go in on an order with me to make up the minimum of 25.

Thankfully, we've got folks like My Pet Chicken (MPC) who've stepped in filled the gap by allowing you to order as few as three chicks at a time. They're bridging the gap between the agri-business scale of chick production and the urban chicken farmer scale of consumption.

I recently learned that the fastest selling lines of chicken feed are the small bags of organic feed favored by urban chicken farmers (I don't have the citation at my fingertips, but I'll keep looking). I wonder how long before the big hatcheries start scaling down their own minimum orders? Or will it be the likes of MPC who will simply grow to fill the gap?

Where did you get your chickens from? The local Feed-n-Fuel? By mail?


Chris said...

Got our first chicks (four barrred Rocks and four black sex-links) from a hardware/feed/garden store.

Second two came from a friend with an accidental clutch of phoenix/Japanese bantam crosses.

Last six (Speckeld Sussex) came from an ad on Craigslist. Woman who wanted 3-4 chicks ordered 25 from McMurray and easily sold the rest on Craigslist, a great place to find or sell chicks/chickens.

Steve said...

Here in the SF Bay Area we have purchased chicks from two different feed stores.
In each case we have called ahead to find out what type they had in store finding at different times: Barred Rock, NH Red, RI Red, Buff Orpington, Leghorn, Araucana, Astralorp, Wyandotte, .... you get the idea. We just waited until they had a mix of chicks on hand that we liked at the time.

Meg said...

When we first started looking for chicks it was too late in the year to get them at a seed store and we are only allowed two chickens here (or so we were told by our neighbor who has chickens), so no mail-ordering chicks.

We found some chicks via Craig's List but 3 of our 4 turned out to be roosters. The guy said he'd accept any roosters back (and we assumed we'd be sending 2 back anyhow), but we gave them to my MIL instead because her neighbors were complaining that they missed the crowing after her old rooster passed.

Next, we bought young hens via Craig's List, one for ourselves and two for my MIL. Unfortunately, one of my MIL's still ended up developing into a rooster -- though an absolutely gorgeous one that she's very proud of.

And the last two times we've bought chicks for us & family we bought sexed chicks through the local feed & seed store. Hopefully no more sneaky boys!

Dani said...

I think MyPetChicken can only send orders of 3 to large cities though. I don't live near a distribution hub so I would still have to order 25.

Mike said...


Kevin said...

1 Rhode Island Red, 1 Ameraucana, & 1 Buff Orp....all from Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel. We called ahead a few times to find out what breeds they had in stock.

badgerpendous said...

We got lucky in that we got three pullets on our first try from the local feed store (Half Moon Bay), but several other families we know got at least one cockeral in their batch. The store claims 90% accuracy, though, and we're happy with our experience so far.

One family we know got three birds from the same store, then returned the two cockerals only to get _two more_ cockerals! They've given up on that store...


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