7 Tips for Successfully Buying Chicks From the Feed Store

Make Sure You're Prepared Before You Get to the Feed Store

For a few months each spring, when you walk into your local feed store, you're greeted to the chorus of tiny chicken chirps as the annual chick season tempts so many shoppers. If you're not sure of where to buy baby chicks, this is a great place to pick up your first flock members or add to your existing flock of backyard chickens. It's local. It's immediate. And it's fun.

Here are some tips to make the process easier on you and your new flock members.

1. Stay in touch with your local feed store.

Whether you're raising chickens for eggs, for meat or for both, backyard chicken keeping is more popular than ever. So, don't assume your local feed store will always have chicks on hand in the spring. There are tons of stories of people going to the feed store only to find a sold out sign and lights out on the brooders. Plus, it's good to get your chicks as soon as possible so they're not exposed to outside factors for a long time and you can start bonding with them quickly. Your feed store placed orders for their chicks many months to even a year before they appear in the store. So, don't be afraid to call ahead and ask when chicks will be available. Store representatives will know the answer and you can plan ahead.

2. Have your supplies on hand or buy them as you're buying your birds.

If this is your first flock, it's good to have your supplies on hand and take some time to get acquainted with your set up before your chicks arrive. That familiarity will definitely increase your chances for success. If you're a veteran chicken owner, then you usually have everything you need on hand and it's just a matter of getting it all from storage and set up. So, you have a little more wiggle room to make an on-the-spot purchase. But, either way, don't forget to add a bag of food to your cart!

3.  Know your backyard chicken terms.

At the feed store, you'll likely find brooders marked with the terms straight run or pullets. You've got to know what those terms mean because it makes a big difference in what you'll be taking home. Straight run means that none of the chicks are sexed so there are definitely males and females in that brooder. Pullets are female chickens.

4. Pick out the healthiest chicks. 

This is important because once you take your chicks out the door, you have to deal with any health issues they may have. Normally there are no returns when you buy chicks. With that said, at least in my area, I normally see healthy chicks in the feed store brooders.

It's good to know baby chick health basics ahead of time. Here are some signs of a healthy chick: active, alert, eating and drinking. Look to make sure your chicks don't have scissored beaks and that their legs are straight and facing forward, not splayed. You will see chicks that are sleeping and sometimes a sleeping chick is so comfortable it spreads out for a good snooze. Don't confuse sleeping with sick. A sick chick will stand and sway with its eyes closed. It may be isolated from the others. And it will be limp if it's picked up.

5. Be aware there could be roosters in your box.

Hatcheries readily admit they are not 100% with their sexing. And, at the feed store, many times people are picking up chicks and then sitting them down in the brooders. Sometimes they don't get put down in the right brooders and a chick from the straight run brooder with roosters ends up in the pullet brooder. This happens easily if they have a straight run and pullet bin with the same type of chicken like Buff Orpingtons. All the chicks look the same and it's easy to make a mistake.

6. Don't miss out on breeds you really want.

If you have chicken breeds you really want, you don't have to settle for what's at the feed store at the moment. If you call the feed store ahead of time, you can often piggy-back on their order and add in your own special order.

7. Make your chicks comfortable for the ride home. 

I see so many people just plop their chicks in the take home box and head out the feed store door. I don't like to do this. I either bring a baggy of wood chips with me or ask the store personnel to add some wood chips to the bottom of my box before they add my chicks. This makes the box warmer and it helps keep the chicks from slipping on the cardboard surface. Plus it keeps them cleaner since the wood chips will absorb any poop vs. having it smear on the cardboard. Also, it's a good idea to get your car warm so you can pop right out the feed store door and into a comfortable climate for the chicks.

How to Make Marbled & Tie-Dyed Easter Eggs

Why make Easter decorating hard on yourself or expensive? You can make marbled eggs and tie-dyed eggs with everyday ingredients from your pantry including food coloring. These techniques produce beautiful eggs that look like they came from a fancy egg dyeing kit. Both you and your kids are sure to love them!

If you have backyard chickens, you may have white egg laying chickens. I have a Brown Leghorn and I hoard her eggs before Easter. If you have chickens that lay brown eggs or colored eggs, this is good too. When I first started dyeing my backyard eggs, I worried the brown and colored eggs wouldn't work well. That's a myth! Those eggs produce a deeper and richer tone than white eggs. Just use some common sense, a brown egg is not going to dye well with a pink color, but it will take a stronger color like red.

Marbled Egg Ingredients

  • Food Coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water

For this, you can start out with a plain hard boiled egg or an egg already dyed in one color. To get the swirls, add food coloring, vinegar, and vegetable oil to warm water. Swirl the mixture and then quickly drop your egg into the mixture. Quickly pull the egg back out of the mixture. You'll see beautiful swirls of color.

Marbled Eggs

How To Care For A Shamrock Plant

This is the time that shamrock plants are in abundance at local grocery stores and nurseries. Should you lay down a few clams and purchase one? Yes! Shamrock plants are worth it for a holiday treat and an easy-to-care-for houseplant that will rebloom again and again. 

The first time I purchased shamrock plants, they were for my young kids. Needless to say, the plants were in their bedrooms and they didn't get much care. But never fear, these hardy plants are actually bulbs. Instead of dying, they revived and turned into lush houseplants that have bloomed ever since. The lack of water sent the bulbs into a dormant stage. And once a little TLC resumed, the plants were back in business.

Check Out my New Instagram Profile!

If you're like me, Instagram is one of your favorite social media outlets. I love to see the pictures of people's lives and flocks. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's what I get each time I visit Instagram.

Recently, Instagram made a change where you can add your stories to your profile. You may have seen these cool circles and wondered what they do.

Each Instagram page handles these differently. On my page, I think these profile stories are a quick and fun way for you to get to know me and my flock better. Check out my new profile stories below and be sure to look for new stories as they are added in the future.

Breed Spotlight at a Glance - This quick and informative story features a favorite breed and basic facts in case this is a breed you'd like to add to your own flock. More breeds will be added, so stay tuned!

Video Fun - I love sharing the antics and daily life of my flock through videos. Be sure to check back often for new flock flicks.

On the Blog - Don't miss out on new stories and information to keep your flock happy and healthy.

On the Farm - We don't just have chickens here at Elm Ridge Farm. Share other adventures through gardening, herbs, wildlife, pets and more!

Looking for Good Egg Layers? Here's a Top Ten List to Get You Started

It's safe to say that most folks keep a flock of chickens for their eggs. They may use the eggs for their family and friends or may go into the business of selling eggs. But, whatever the motive, it's important to pick the right chicken breeds to get the maximum amount of eggs. In this regard, not all breeds are created equal. So if your motive is to get eggs, check out this top ten list of productive breeds in my article for Backyard Poultry magazine. You'll soon find these breeds will be the backbone of your backyard flock.

1. Australorp
2. Leghorn
3. Sussex
4. Rhode Island Red
5. Ameraucana
6. Easter Egger
7. Olive Egger
8. Wyandotte
9. Marans
10. Orpington

Meet Peepers, my Speckled Sussex. She's a great egg layer and has a friendly personality.


How to Use Prebiotics and Probiotics for a Healthy Flock

We hear about prebiotics and probiotics through commercials for yogurts and other foods. We know they're good for us, but are they good for our chickens? Yes!

What are probiotics? They are live organisms that live in your digestive tract and promote regularity and cleansing.

What are prebiotics? Simply put, they're non-digestible plant fibers that feed the probiotics.

Since probiotics and prebiotics help with healthy digestion, giving them to your chickens can have some awesome benefits.

One, if you've got a chicken(s) with diarrhea and a rear-end that's covered in feces, try adding some probiotics to their feed. The probiotics can help clear things up. Clean butts equal fewer flies around the coop and that's always a good thing!

Two, chickens that have a healthy digestive tract are healthier themselves so they're able to maintain a good weight and maintain good egg production.

And three, chickens that regularly consume probiotics and prebiotics can have poop that's less smelly and contains less ammonia. This means your coop will be a nicer place to hang out.

While many commercial feeds do contain prebiotics and probiotics, if you're giving your chickens treats, you may want to consider some of the sources below. Just remember that dairy should be kept to a small amount. While chickens can digest milk and it does have good health benefits, they can't digest large quantities.

Sources of Probiotics for Chickens  

Dairy Products
Goat Milk
Apple Cider Vinegar

Sources of Prebiotics for Chickens

Bananas (Do not feed the peel.)
Dandelion Greens
Flax Seed
Wheat Bran

For more on this, please visit my post at Countryside Network.

Backyard Chicken Video Favorites

Enjoy these video favorites from the last few weeks. You'll see my flock jockeying for position as treats are served and eaten. You'll also see the hens free ranging in the woods. While my flock free ranges every day, they are in a very large fenced area. When I'm in the yard working or outside a lot, I'll open the gates and give them access to our wooded acreage. It's obvious they love it!

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