Silkie Chicks 5 Weeks Old

Girls? Well, I have my doubts. Silkies are a new breed for me, so I’m having to rely on those who can better identify the early characteristics of their gender. According to the Silkie forum on backyardchicken.com (the chicken bible,) there is good reason to question the accuracy of my female sexed chicks from My Pet Chicken.

I’ll wait and see, until then, I will enjoy watching them grow and try not to worry that I may not be able to keep them all. Buying sexed Silkie Bantams is a gamble, so I’m wondering…

Will I be Lucky?

BB Flock 5 wks Oct 2013 3

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Preparing for Baby Chicks

Decisions, Decisions…

The brooder is all set up and now it’s time to decide what kind of chicks to order. October is the best time to start day old chicks here in Phoenix.  Hopefully the breeds I’m interested in will be available.  You’d think 3 months advance notice would be sufficient time for a hatchery to ship my breed preferences, but most likely, it still boils down to LUCK.

Hatcheries don’t make it easy for the little guy, they only ship minimum orders of 15 birds and most all the fancy breeds and bantams (miniature chickens) are a straight run, not sexed.  Urban chicken keepers who have city codes banning roosters avoid straight run chicks because chances are good they’ll have unwanted roosters to re-home. Feed stores sell sexed chicks, but they are rarely the fancy type such as Silkies or the Crested varieties.

I bought a straight run from Murray McMurray Hatchery a few years ago, out of 15 chicks 9 were roosters! After spending 5 months of worrying about who was a hen and who was a rooster, I ended up with only two fancy pullets on my wish list… all six roosters went on CraigsList. I didn’t learn my lesson and again bought 12 non-standard variety chicks from a private party… half turned out to be roosters.

I can however, be guaranteed all pullets (hens, females) if I order standard breed chicks,  the minimum of 15 chicks still applies. But wanting just a small flock, I’ll be able to easily sell the unwanted female chicks.  So, there are decisions to make, the breeds I pick must be marketable, and marketable means good layers of large eggs.  Good egg layers are not what fancy chickens are known for, they are often considered exhibition birds, and only fair layers of small eggs. Fancy roosters are not in demand at all, and will most likely be looking for a home with many others in the same situation.

So I must decide, do I play it safe and buy standard breed sexed chicks, or take a gamble on fancy chicks and hope I don’t get stuck with a bunch of roosters who’ll be hard to re-home. I’d like to raise Polish and Silkie Bantams, those two breeds are at the top of my wish list… both sold in a straight run only.  And, both fair layers of small white eggs.

 

 

 

If I Play it Safe…

I can order all standard bred ladies, my chicks of choice are Delawares.

This breed was founded in the state of Delaware from an original Barred Rock and New Hampshire cross. The Delaware is considered a heavy breed which lays a nice size brown egg.  Cute babies!

But, this is what I really want,  the Silkie Bantam: Fair layer, small white eggs.

It’s either or, I won’t split the order and buy both Delawares and the Bantams…. however, if I order the Silkie Bantams,  I’ll probably mix the order with  7 White or Golden Polish Crested, for resale purposes.

Golden Polish Crested

Feed Store Chicken Lottery

The Pullet is a Rooster? Options and Solutions

They’re pullets, all female, and that’s why you bought those cute little chicks from the feed store. You certainly didn’t expect to get stuck with a rooster, but now you’re the unlucky one who has fallen into that teeny tiny margin of error and have an unwanted cockerel.

Considering your Options

Check your city ordinances, roosters are often banned in suburban areas, so considering the impossibility of hiding him, an eviction notice is definitely in order. I know this is a hard decision, but it only takes one neighbor to complain and the law will be snooping and sniffing around your property.

If you are allowed to have a rooster you still may have a problem if you already have one. Rule of thumb… more than one rooster to a flock is a no-no.  Another thing to consider is your hen’s eggs are going to be fertile, not exactly an ideal situation if you’re selling eggs.

Not all chicken keepers raise meat birds, so us folks who keep only layers have completely ruled out killing and cooking one of our own birds for dinner. That’s an art in itself, and if you’re like me, one better left to somebody else.

Check with the feed store you bought the bird from, sometimes they’ll take it back.  But realistically, most unwanted cockerels share the same fate, a dinner plate.

If the feed store idea is a bust, it’s time to re-home the roo. Ask  friends who might live in a more rural area. The almighty Craig’s List has come through for me time and time again. Last year I had six roosters to re-home, and they all sold for $5 bucks each.  Just keep in mind, cock fighting does exist, so weed out the riff raff and dust off your good judge of character skills.

Beat the Odds of the Chicken Lottery

There is a solution to that 1% margin of error when buying sexed chicks.  If you want to be assured you’ll never get stuck with a rooster again, buy sex-linked chicks.  They’re idiot proof in the sexing department because the hens hatch one color and the roosters another.  They’re hardy, and I wouldn’t be surprise if they wrote the book on egg laying.

Sex Link Chickens

Two common varieties are the black sex-link (also called Black Stars) and the red sex-link (also called Red Stars).