Over the past couple of months I have visited 4 different local feed stores, and called several more. All of them have the same story – “They can not get chicks.”
So I decided to call Murray McMurray Hatchery to get first hand information. Why Murray McMurray Hatchery? Because they are the nearest commercial hatchery. The nice lady who answered the phone says they are shipping chicks out like they always do, but demand is outstripping supply. I asked about your typical dual purpose heritage breeds:
- Black Australorp
- Barred Rock
- Rhode Island Red
- Buff Orpington
- Production Reds… etc.
She told me just about all of their breeds were sold out until July. Popular breeds such as the Barred Rock were sold out until December 2020. I had to take a step back and think about the situation. The nice lady and I spoke for a few minutes, in which I explained I had wanted some earlier than July.
After hanging up I made a few phone calls and found a local guy who has an incubator. He had around 27 chicks that were 2 months old. I bought all 27 chicks. They had not been sexed, so some of them may end up in the freezer.
The guy said he was putting eggs in the incubator and should have more chicks for sale in around 21 days.
The chicks I bought were a mix of heritage breeds that I had been looking for. The rooster was an Australorp, and the hens were a mix of Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Production Red or Sex link… and a few others.
I typically buy around a dozen to 18 chicks ever spring. Last tear (2019) I was working away from home all spring, so I have not had any new chicks in two years. Hopefully this will be my flock back up to around where I want it to be.
The chicken house is 16 feet X 16 feet, and the chicken yard is around 180 feet by 200 feet. The yard is a little wider and longer on one end than the other. When the chicken house and yard were built I had originally designed it to hold around 40 – 50 chickens. The current additions bring me up to around 36 or 37 chickens, and two guineas.
Depending on how this Coronavirus situation plays out I may add another dozen chickens. This gives me around 3 weeks to figure out if I want more chickens, or this is enough.
One deciding factor is how many of the new chickens are roosters. I would keep a couple of the large roosters, then butcher the rest. Even if half of the new chicks are roosters, that gives me around 2 dozen laying hens.
Back to the original topic, this whole Coronavirus plague has shown how easily demand can outstrip supply. Shelves have been restocked, but now we are looking at meat shortages.
Time will tell how this plays out, but my family and I are prepping the best we can.