In the spring of 2008, we embarked on an adventure. After minimal researching (there wasn’t a lot of information available for backyard chickens at that time), we placed our order for 14 pullets from a commercial hatchery. The goal was to produce our very own farm fresh eggs for our farm family of four and maybe for our extended family when quantity permitted. Everything we read said to prepare for losing some chicks before they reached adulthood, so we ordered more than needed with the expectation that we would lose a few, especially with our limited experience in raising chickens. Cut to three years later, and we lost our first chicken – a heavy breed Brahma who succumbed to our horrible Alabama heat wave that summer. With the growing interest in chicken keeping and constant research, we have since been able to find more information, better ideas & products, and share & glean great ideas & tips from many others. Here’s an example, Brahmas are a heavy breed bird with a lot of feathers from head to toe (literally), and while adorable in appearance are not really the best suited for our humid, hot weather. We would not have chosen them had we found this information early in our adventure. However, we have treated this adventure as a never-ending learning curve, and we have been fortunate enough to learn a lot…evidenced by the fact that we still have three of our original hens (we did also sell three to a friend years ago).
They are showing their age, but if this winter is kind enough, they will be 10 years old this spring. They are in a mixed flock of 12 with varying ages and breeds, making it difficult to know positively if they still lay any eggs. However, when the chicken bug bites, it’s bad…We get plenty of eggs not only from the younger ones in that flock, but from any of the 60+ other layers we now have!
We quickly began growing our chicken count…hatching and breeding the following year, 2009, after purchasing an incubator and hatching eggs…and, of course, more chicks. We planned to grow our mini farm into a mini hatchery of specialty breeds like Ameraucana and Marans to offer breeds that would create a colorful egg basket. Now, ten years later, we are considering a change of goals. It is difficult to hatch out a lot of chicks with the hopes of selling them all, and collecting hatching eggs for incubating or selling really cuts into the amount of eating eggs. In 2018, we are planning to focus more on selling farm fresh eggs to interested buyers. We will still hatch some chicks, sell some birds/chicks, and collect/sell hatching eggs, but it will not be our primary focus. We hope this will better supplement our feed expenses, and allow us to reorganize our flocks to larger mixed flocks able to free range more often – hopefully daily. You can’t get tastier eggs than free range farm fresh eggs!