Deciding how many chicks to order can be challenging. Often the determining factor comes down to how many you want, versus how many you need, versus how many your local regulations allow you to have.
When starting a laying flock, decide how many eggs you want and size your flock accordingly. As a rough average, you can expect two eggs a day for each three hens in your flock. Since hens don’t lay at a steady rate year-round, you may sometimes have more eggs than you can use, and at other times too few.
If you plan to exhibit your chickens, not all of those you raise will be of winning quality. Given the amount of time involved in training and grooming chickens for show, not to mention the time and expense of attending exhibitions, you’ll certainly want to increase your chances of success by putting your best chickens forward.
Once you decide how many chickens you want in your flock, a good plan is to order at least 25 percent more than you wish to end up with. Those extra chicks are to compensate for the following contingencies:
- Sadly, some chicks may die. The chicks you want the most always seem to be the ones you lose.
- Statistically, any chicks you lose are likely to be female, since female chicks tend to be more delicate than the stronger male chicks.
- Sexing is only about 90% accurate, and even less so when it comes to some of the rarer breeds. Your all-female order may therefore include one or more unwanted roosters.
- Mother nature may throw you a curve, and you might need to remove from your flock any chicks with undesirable traits that weren’t initially obvious. Crooked toes or off-color feathers are basically aesthetic issues in a layer flock, but they render a show bird ineligible for exhibition. A crossed beak can interfere with a chicken’s ability to get enough to eat.
- If you plan to establish a successful backyard breeder program, you will want to remove any birds from your flock that do not bring you closer to your goal.
Hatcheries sometimes add extra chicks to an order to cover the occasional loss during shipping. “If Cackle Hatchery has a few extra chicks of the breed and sex you order, we’ll add them to your order,” says Jeff Smith of Cackle Hatchery.
But there’s no guarantee that extra chicks will be available at the time your order ships. It’s therefore up to you to order a few additional chicks, to ensure you end up with the size flock you want.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow is the author of Hatching and Brooding Your Own Chicks