Its spring! Glorious spring! And, the farm stores are ready. All of our local farm stores are running their Chick Days which is generally a period of time when they fill empty water tanks/troughs with day old chicks, ducklings and baby turkeys. The stores are hustling and bustling with onlookers and moms bringing their children to experience these spring chicks and ducklings. There is “ooooing, aaahhhing” and exclamations of, “oh, they are so cute!”
Why people buy
In their own right, chicks, ducklings and bunnies are cute. People buy them like hotcakes and take them home for various reasons:
- new experiences for their children
- a desire to be a backyard chicken farmer, perhaps because they do not trust grocery store eggs or feel that backyard chickens lay tastier eggs
- increase a current small flock
- They are cute.
The first three reasons are excellent ways to begin connecting to the origins of your food. It provides a bird’s eye view of what poultry farmers do everyday but with larger amounts of birds. I can not stress enough the importance of exposing your children to science – embryology of chickens is a fantastic way to do so. This year will be Pudder’s first year in 4H as a Cloverbud (age 5-8) and he has decided on Embryology for a project. We love candling our incubating eggs and the anticipation in the days before they hatch is wonderful to see as a parent. Observing the eggs hatch and the miracle of life is an amazing experience for children. While I personally think the idea that our eggs taste better than store bought isn’t necessarily truth, I’m not here to stop anyone from that experience. Unless of course this is used for justification because your driving motive is actually because the chicks and ducks are cute.
Don’t buy because they are cute
Every spring animal shelters in our area report an increase in chickens, ducks and rabbits. The situations generally occur because the chicks, ducklings and bunnies were ‘cute’ in the store. People bring them home with the best of intentions but find the work is difficult. Especially where ducklings are concerned. They are as messy as they are cute. In our experience, its nearly impossible to raise chicks and ducklings in a clean environment.
Last year we experienced a situation which turned us into an animal shelter of sorts. A young girl convinced her parents to purchase some ducklings…because they were SO cute. Once they had outgrown the cute stage and the messes became too much for her to handle, they were going to release them into the wild. For someone who isn’t experienced with the difference between domesticated livestock and wild animals, this can seem to be a good choice. However, in reality, they may not have the necessary defense mechanisms to protect themselves from common predators such as coyotes, raccoons, owls and hawks.
While the ducks were cute, they also serve a purpose on earth and that is to provide humans with an excellent protein source. In fact, one of my favorite meats is duck. We did that the ducks in and have fed them until butchering size. We harvested two for a nice Christmas meal and will soon harvest the third. I would much rather use the meat than have the animal euthanized and wasted.
Most recently a random rooster has appeared in our pasture and flock. Apparently he left his owner or his owner left him. I’m flattered that the owner felt we would take great care of him but we are back to having two roosters which isn’t exactly ideal. In the back of my mind, I wonder if this was another case of a cute chick.
Buy with prepared intentions
Most who purchase poultry from farm stores such as Farm & Fleet, Big R, Rural King or Tractor Supply, need to be prepared and understand the commitment. Make sure you have the following in place:
- Proper housing (many farm stores offer backyard chicken sized coops). If you choose to build your own, be sure to have a plan in place. While the chicks may not be moved to the coop for the first week, you could run into issues and its always best to have your ducks in a row. 😉
- Research and understand the types of breeds which will serve you best. MyPetChicken.com has a neat feature which may help you determine the best birds based on location and needs.
- Know what you will feed and if you’ll supplement with preventive medicated feed which will ensure your chicks will grow in a healthy manner
- Understand that your pullets (young female chickens) will likely not lay eggs until they are roughly 20 weeks old.
I love raising chickens and the occasional duck but it is a lot of work. Just think before you buy! 😉