Hatcheries Sold Out From July – December 2020

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
*Wyandotte
*Buff Orpington
*Production Reds… etc.

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Leaving a Rat Snake in the Chicken House

This may seem counter-productive, but two rat snakes have been allowed to stay in the chicken house. Usually, if a rat snake (aka chicken snake) is caught in the chicken house, it is dealt with with extreme prejudice.

However, awhile back a good size rat was spotted in the chicken house. For those of you who do not know, one of the worst creatures that can be in the chicken house is a rat. Not only will they eat the chicken feed, but the will kill chickens. Yes, a rat will kill and eat part of a chicken.

When it comes to pullets, which are chickens less than one year old, a rat can easily kill and eat one. Then there is the egg issue. Rats will eat whatever eggs they can.

Simply put, a rat in the chicken house can wreck havoc.

A live trap was put in the chicken house to catch the rat, but it kept getting out of the trap. Poison is out of the question. Old style spring loaded rat traps are also out of the question. What’s the next best thing to do? Let nature take its course.

In other words, let rat snakes do what rat snakes do.

Rat Snake in the Chicken House

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Rethinking Buff Orpingtons For My Prepsteading Chicken Flock

There have been some events which have caused me rethink the Buff Orpingtons for my prepsteading chicken flock. Buff Orpingtons have been part of my chicken flock for around four years, and during that four years I have noticed a common trend.

When new chicks are bought from the local feed store, they are brought home and put in a six feet X eight feet brooder house. The house has perches, plywood walls, screened in floor, heat lamp… everything the chicks need to be safe.

The chicks are usually kept in the brooder house for around six weeks, and then put in the main chicken house. A lot of it depends on outside temperatures, and how feathered out the chicks are.

Buff Orpingtons

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Three Broody Hens in The Chicken House

Three of my hens have gone broody and are sitting on eggs. One of them even hatched out a chick.

For those of you who do know, broody means a hen has gone into a mothering mode and is sitting on some eggs. The eggs are called a clutch. Some chicken breeds go broody more than others, and some breeds rarely if ever go broody.

What gets me:

Two of the hens are Barred Rocks, which rarely go broody.

One is an Australorp, which has a reputation of going broody.

My first set of chickens was back around 1987 or 1988. My wife and I butchered out that first set of Barred Rocks when they were around two years old, and I did not get any more until 2012.

So in the seven years I have kept chickens, only two barred rocks have gone broody.

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Losing Chickens To Predators

Over the past couple of weeks I have lost several chickens to predators. Several of them have gone missing, with just a few feathers in the chicken yard. From the trail of feathers, something drug the chicken from the chicken house.

It is not a chicken hawk, because there is no body. Chicken hawks do not eat the bones.

A trail camera in the chicken yard showed a couple of raccoons and an opossum.

Opossums will not drag a chicken off. It will eat the chicken in the chicken house.

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Spent Day Cleaning Out Chicken House

My chicken house is a mess so it is time to do some cleaning. About a year and a half ago I set up a water barrel system inside the chicken house and is a 35 gallon drum going to a stainless steel pan with a float. The chickens have been getting on the drum and pooping all over the top of it. When I fill the drum up chicken poop is all over the place.

Then there is the metal trash can I store feed in. It is next to the water barrel and close to a corner of the chicken house. The chickens get into the corner and lay eggs, right where chickens get on the feed barrel and poop.

There is barely any room between the feed can and the wall, but enough room for the chickens to get into.

I decided to rearrange everything.

The water barrel is getting moved outside.

The feed can is getting moved away from the wall. Now I can get in there and clean out.

The chickens are getting a laying box put in the corner.

Lessons learned

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Chickens Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Chickens would be great farm animals for SHTF if they were not so stupid. The honest truth is they will find a way to get themselves killed.

Build them a nice cage and they will find a way to get out.

They will wander away from the flock and get killed.

They will stay out to dusk, right when coyotes start looking for an easy meal.

They will spill their water.

They will crap in their food and water.

They will crap in laying boxes.

They will roost in high places so if they fall at night they will be hurt.

They will eat stuff that makes them sick – free ranging eating weeds, rocks, pieces of glass, etc.

They will free range out in fields where hawks can see them. They chickens can have all kinds of weeds and cover to forage under. But no, they have to go out in the open away from the flock so a hawk can get them.

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Farm Update June 9 2015

Things are moving along nicely, but rather slow. The new chicken yard is working out well, the new chicken house is nearing completion, a large pen oak fell on the property so I need to cut that up, still need to clear fence rows for the cattle field, have not started on the pole barn, one of my newly planted fig trees may have died, the new pear tree might have drowned from all the rain,,,, just all kinds of stuff going on.

Lets talk about target goals for surviving a post-SHTF world.

Egg Production

My target goal for egg production that I think my family would need in a post-SHTF world is at least 2 dozen eggs a day. For my parents, my wife, our kids, our grandkids, close friends and other family, I think at least 24 eggs a day is a reasonable number. Keep in mind that 2 dozen eggs a day is a bare minimum. Good laying breeds should be able to produce at least 1 egg a day for every 2 – 3 chickens. Those are conservative numbers, but depending on the time of year and quality of their feed egg production goes up and down.

For the sake of discussion let’s say 1 egg for every 3 chickens per day.

Including the chickens that are supposed to arrive June 10, 2015, my wife and I will have 64 chickens.

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Mr Man The Rooster Has Passed Away

Kristy and I knew it was just a matter of time, but we held out hope. We hoped that somehow Mr Man, Kristys Buff Orpington rooster would recover from his stroke. We held out hope that one day he would be back on his feet protecting his girls.

That day will never come.

It started the morning of Sunday, July 27th. Kristy and I walked out to the chicken yard to check on the flock. We found Mr. Man laying on his side unable to walk. We thought that he was suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. He was brought inside to cool off. By Monday morning he had not improved.

He was not eating or drinking on his own. So Kristy and I started giving him pedialyte, gerber baby food and water with a syringe, but with no needle.

After a few days of force feeding Mr Man seemed to regain some of his strength. He was kept in the bathtub so his poop was easy to clean up. By the end of the first week he started growing, however so weak he was.

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All Of The New Chickens Are Gone

I need to explain the title in a little more detail. When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

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Update on the New Chicken House

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

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Buying Chicks in the Summer

For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.

You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.

My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.

Some of the popular hatcheries:

  • Cackle hatchery
  • Ideal Poultry
  • Murray McMurray
  • Privett Hatchery
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Update on the Chicken Flock

When my wife and I moved to the farm in august 2013, we arrived with 13 hens. The hens were a little over a year and a half old. Those 13 hens were laying around 9 – 10 eggs a day.

With that 9 – 10 eggs a day I tried to estimate how many chickens and eggs my family would need during a long term SHTF situation. In a previous article we got an estimated number of around 75 chickens or so to satisfy our egg and chicken meat production needs.

In the past 3 months something happened that has thrown a serious kink into my chicken flock plans.

Out of the original 13 hens, only 8 remain.

Out of the 24 chicks my wife and I bought in February 2014, only about 12 remain.

In other words, we have lost about 1/2 of our flock in the past few months.

A Fox Appears

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Lost a Rhode Island Red Hen

Monday April 21 one of my best Rhode Island Red hens got out of the chicken yard and the puppies tried playing with her. Lets just say things did not turn out too well.

A couple of weeks ago the puppies tried playing with the same hen. A lot of the feathers on her neck were pulled out. Besides a couple of small bite marks she was otherwise ok. It looked like she was going to make a full recovery. Then Monday came along.

After my wife and I got home from work I opened the chicken yard for the chickens to free range until dark. The puppies were roaming free while the chickens were in their yard.

Maybe around 6:30 or so I opened the chicken house and that is when I saw her. She was in the nest with a broody Australorp. I knew right then something was wrong. She was missing feathers around her vent and she acted scared.

I picked her up out of the box and that was when reality set in. She was more than just scared, she was missing chunks of flesh under one of her wings and around her vent. I am going to guess she jumped over the fence of the chicken yard. The puppies saw her and and tried to play. Chickens just are not as durable as puppies.

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One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes Died

The day start out as any other. I woke up, threw some clothes on and went out to the chicken house to let the chickens out. This has been my daily routine for 2 years.

Today was different. When I opened the door, one of my Silver Laced Wyandottes was laying on the floor dead. I opened the door to let the chickens out, then grabbed the Silver Laced Wyandotte to get it out of the chicken house. The body was cold and rigor mortis had set in.

A couple of days ago something killed one of my Black Jersey Giants. That is two of my full grown hens who were 2 years old have either died or been killed. That sucks. It really sucks. These hens were in their prime years, spring is here, egg production is picking back up and bam out of nowhere this Silver Laced Wyandotte dies out of nowhere.

On Friday, April 4th my wife and I picked up a Satsuma tree along with 5 bags of cow manure and compost mix. We already have two Satsuma trees in the ground and growing, but we wanted a third tree.

Instead of burying the chicken, or throwing it out in the woods for some wild critter to eat, I planted the Satsuma tree on top of the Silver Laced Wyandotte.

Hopefully the circle of life will continue.

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Predators Killing My Chickens

Something is killing my chickens. In the past 2 weeks my wife and I have lost 3 chickens. Overall we have lost something like 5 or 6 chickens.

  • 1 Speckled Sussex about a year and a half old
  • 1 Rhode Island Red about a year and a half old
  • 1 Barred rock pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Australorp pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Black Jersey Giant about a year and a half old

The Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red just disappeared. One day they were there and the next day they were gone. No pile of feathers, no blood, no nothing, just gone.

The Black Jersey Giant was a different story. I found it inside the chicken yard half eaten.

The Barred Rock pullet, all I found was some feathers.

The Australorp pullet, something had killed and gutted it.

Chicken Hawks

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Taking Care of New Baby Chicks

Are you interested in raising some baby chicks, but are worried about how difficult it is to get started? If you take the right precautions raising chicks is neither difficult or hard, but it is a labor of love.

Chicks are small and cute, but provided they have the right conditions they are not fragile. During the late winter and early spring hundreds of thousands of chicks are mailed from hatcheries to farm supply stores and directly to customers. The vast majority of those chicks arrive alive and well.

Baby chicks should be provided with 5 things, safe place that will protect them from predators, heat lamp / heat source, food, water, and a clean place to sleep.

Let’s discuss each of those points in detail.

Keeping Baby Chicks Safe

Baby chicks are an easy target for just about any kind of predator. They are an easy target for house cats, feral cats, aerial predators, snakes, opossums, minks, weasels, raccoons,,, to name a few.

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First Chicks Added To The Farm In 2014

My wife and I got our first chicks of 2014, 6 Buff Orpingtons and 6 Australorps. Circle 3 Feed here in Jasper Texas got an early shipment of chicks. Usually the chicks do not start shipping until late February and early March, which is when Kristy (my wife) and I got our first set of chicks 2 years ago.

Circle 3 had Bantams, White Leghorns, Australorps and Buff Orpingtons. My wife and I were only interested in the Australorps and Buff Orpingtons.

My wife has been wanting Buffs for a long time. Now that we live in a rural area I told my wife to get as many Buff Orpingtons as she wanted. On Friday February 7th I picked Kristy up 6 Buff Orpingtons, and we are supposed to get another dozen on Monday February 10th.

We have two Australorp hens that are turning 2 years old in 2014. While Circle 3 had them in stock I picked up 6 more.

White Leghorns

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Got Our First Rooster

My wife and I obtained two heinz-57 roosters that have been rather “neglected.” These are our first roosters, and our first steps to building a self-sustaining chicken flock.

The roosters are going from being wild, never handled, roosted in trees at night type of life, to being in a chicken house with a dozen hens who have been socialized.

Rooster #1 – looks like it has some Rhode Island Red, or maybe Delaware. Its spurs were maybe one and a quarter inches long.

Rooster #2 – is a white body with long black tail feathers. The people who handed the roosters over said #2 had been fighting other roosters, so it had been kept in a cage.

Both roosters are very skinny.

Feather quality of both roosters were poor.

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Building A Chicken Yard Part 1

For those of you who are planning on raising chickens after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI, have you put any thought into building the chicken yard? People who have lived in a rural area may have been exposed to the hard work of building a chicken yard. But people who live in the city or urban areas, the vast majority have no idea how much hard work building a chicken yard takes.

As some of yall may know my wife and I are planning on moving to a rural area of southeast Texas. We have moved past the planning phase are are moving to the implementation phase.Barred Rock chicken

When my wife make the move to the homestead, the chicken coop will be loaded on a trailer, taken to the farm, unloaded and bumped up to the new chicken yard. Before all of that can happen the new chicken yard has to be built.

After spending a lot of time on the dimensions, how many square feet each chicken needs, how many chickens I wanted, and room for growth,,, I came up with a chicken yard that is 75 feet long and 30 feet wide.

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