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meat chicken return on investment

 
Posts: 173
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But the ebst thing you know what it is? IT TASTE SOOOOOO GOOD.!!! Lean meat but a lot of juice...very tasty. Best chicken ever
 
pollinator
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Jeremey Weeks wrote:I think less than 13 weeks to be 5 lbs is great. I hope I can eventually do that. I think you have a great accomplishment.



The Sasso is a slower-growing commercial hybrid, fairly similar to the Freedom Ranger and some others. Not as quick growing as a Cornish-Rock Cross, but don't mistake it for a heritage breed bird.

I tried a batch of Freedom Rangers a couple of years ago. They were nice in that time to butcher weight (average 4.5 to 5 lb. dressed) was about 12 weeks, versus the 8 weeks give or take of the CRX. But the Freedom Rangers still had the accompanying disproportionate growth rates, resulting in broken/weak legs, heart attacks, etc., just to a lesser extent. I've never seen that with a heritage bird.

Point being, Jeremey, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to grow that kind of bird to 5-ish lb. in 13 weeks. That's just what they do. For what it's worth, there was an interesting grant project a few years ago that compared six different hybrid chickens across three farms, funded by SARE. It's what inspired me to compare the heritage breeds. You can read about that particular project here.
 
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Wes, that project made for depressing reading. I think some of those double digit mortality rates are awful.
 
Wes Hunter
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Did you read all of the text? I don't know that I've read the entire thing, at least not any time recently, but I saw two of the three farmers present their findings at a local farm conference and if I recall there was a problem with heavy rains flooding one of the farms overnight, killing a bunch of birds in one fell swoop. That certainly affected to the total number of mortalities, to be fair. But, although I think they adjusted their relative mortality rates to reflect this, they were still fairly high, at least higher than I'd want to see. Such is the nature of high-bred birds like those, it seems.

edit: Nevermind. Just glanced at the project report, and those double digit rates seem to be adjusted, so really they're just high.
 
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What an absolutely awesome thread!

Thanks so much for the info, guys!

I have to admit, I have never tried the Jersey Giants because of the propaganda attached to them for slow growth. Awesome info, Adam!
 
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I agree with you Mick, This thread is great.
Thanks for the info.
 
Jeremey Weeks
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I hit a couple earth muffin stores in Spokane and price checked chicken, turkey and eggs...

Spokane chicken, turkey and egg prices
 
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Is just looking at cost like this a good idea ?
Would it not be better to sell quality ? The idea of quality and goodness in your birds .
Invite people to come and buy the chickens at your place , even choose their own chicken or pick their own eggs etc sell more than just the chicken sell the experiance it adds value to your product .

David
 
Isabelle Gendron
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David, that is what we are going for....experience...quality.....unforgettable

Isabelle
 
Jeremey Weeks
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David, I agree with you. Something I wasn't willing to say in the post was that I sampled the fresh chicken. I wasn't impressed. The eggs were good. I wasn't willing to try their turkey since it was past the sell date.

I think quality will be a differentiator. I also think I'll have to start my prices at market rates and then raise once I have a following.
 
Wes Hunter
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Jeremey Weeks wrote:I hit a couple earth muffin stores in Spokane and price checked chicken, turkey and eggs...

Spokane chicken, turkey and egg prices



Jeremey, a few comments on your blog post.

First, why Delawares? They're not a bad choice, but in my experience you could do quite a bit better in terms of cost and efficiency and whatnot. Unless you know there's local demand for the Delaware specifically, which seems unlikely, I'd suggest a different breed. But that's just my two cents.

For $4.49 a pound, I'd at least expect the frozen chickens to be shrink wrapped. That loose bag means the bird is going to get freezer burn a lot sooner than a shrink-wrapped bird. I'd expect a shrink-wrapped bird to keep up to a year, maybe longer, but I wouldn't give that thing more than a few weeks.

I expect the "sell by" dates are reflective of when the bird should be sold by while still fresh. So as they approach the "sell by" date, they would naturally start freezing the yet unsold birds. There's nothing wrong with this at all, and is what should probably be expected. Freezing won't really affect the 'freshness' of the bird; think of it more as just a preservation method.

As to your inquiry of whether an unfrozen bird might be worth more per pound, I'd say it's certainly likely. In my experience farmers market shoppers will frequently enough request unfrozen chicken, but for one reason or another they don't apply that same request to, say, ground beef or pork chops. But a chicken that you can take home and have for dinner that night might be worth a bit of a premium.

That's a nice price per pound for the local turkey, but keep in mind there's a cap to the market there. People don't eat turkey year-round like they do chicken. The market will bear fairly high prices for turkeys for special holiday celebrations, but your sales per customer aren't likely to top two birds or so per year. Not a discouragement, but something to keep in mind.
 
Jeremey Weeks
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Wes, I'm planning on Delawares, Jersey Giants and a third breed of chickens. I haven't decided exactly what yet. Recommendations would be appreciated! I only plan on doing 25 Delawares.

I was careful to not include my thoughts concerning packaging on the blog. I didn't want to offend (the few) local readers that I have.

I noted a lot of things that were done differently than I would choose. I agree completely about the shrink bags. I think they make the bird look more round and plump. I also plan on going with an opaque bag. Hopefully I can order the bags with our (soon to be) logo won't cost too much.

Some of the chickens I saw still had their feet on. I don't think most customers would find that desirable. I believe that leaving your product in the hands of a store really limits the customer's view of you. Packaging is the first impression you get. It's not such a big deal if people are coming out to the farm to pick it up.
 
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Adam,
I sure appreciate what you are doing. I have a couple questions about the specifics of salting your slaughtered birds. I'd like to try it, having raised my own meat birds for many years and never hearing of it before. Do you salt them once they are sort of drip dried from the chill tank? Leave them salted if they are going in the freezer?
Just to contribute my experience here, I've raised Cornish Crosses from McMurray hatchery for the most part. I usually raise them with other egg laying breeds, in Salatin-style tractors, with daily moves to fresh grass kept short by lambs. I usually grow one round a year. I've had great luck, as far as low mortality, few leg problems, quick turnaround, easy processing, and delicious meat. I also feed whole or cracked local grains, fermented with excess dairy product from my Jersey cows, no soy or antibiotics. This summer I got 26, and lost one to a bull snake early, the rest went in the freezer at 11 weeks and 4.5 pounds, average.
 
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Dan Verniero wrote:Do you salt them once they are sort of drip dried from the chill tank? Leave them salted if they are going in the freezer?



Hi Dan, To answer your questions, yes and yes. Salting makes the meat tastier. It also prevents bacteria growth. I dont really know why it all works so well, but having compared side by side many times, I wont do it any other way.

I salt the birds inside and out, using 'kosher salt', which has a rough texture and a lot of surface area. I use about 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt to get the entire bird. Give it a try, I think you'll be pleased.
 
steward
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Adam Klaus wrote:The other thing not accounted for is the fertilizer value of having 100 chickens manuring my fruit orchard, the value of the pest control in the orchard, the value of the chicken manure compost I collect from under their roosts, and the additional income bonus that is possible with a slightly lower mortality rate, and the ugly but tasty carcasses that I keep. All in all, I think Joel would approve.



Adam, I am definitely in the camp of approvers and admirers! Curious though, what do you do with the feathers?
 
steward
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Curious though, what do you do with the feathers?



Poultry feathers (just like human hair) are 15% (by weight) Nitrogen.

If not used for pillows, comforters, or other insulation, they make a nice addition to compost/soil amendments.

 
Adam Klaus
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

Adam Klaus wrote:Curious though, what do you do with the feathers?



I compost them. Although in all honesty, they do not compost very well for me. Seem to take forever to break down, and end up blowing all over the place in the process. Maybe burying them deep in a compost pile would work better. Experiments for next year....

 
mick mclaughlin
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Wes Hunter wrote:

Jeremey Weeks wrote:I hit a couple earth muffin stores in Spokane and price checked chicken, turkey and eggs...

Spokane chicken, turkey and egg prices



Jeremey, a few comments on your blog post.

First, why Delawares? They're not a bad choice, but in my experience you could do quite a bit better in terms of cost and efficiency and whatnot. Unless you know there's local demand for the Delaware specifically, which seems unlikely, I'd suggest a different breed. But that's just my two cents.

.




What breed would ya suggest? If that sounds smart assy, I don't mean it to. I have seen the Delaware's and the indian river cross recommended as a good combo bird in several different areas and catalogs. Of course , many of the same catalogs say the Black Giants are a poor meat bird, because of their meat to feed conversion. I have never tried either, but I am very tempted to. I would love to find a decent meat/egg combo bird.

Also to whoever uses them.....

What brand suck-n-seal so ya'll recommend? I am considering taking the bite on a commercial one.
 
Jeremey Weeks
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Honestly, the heritage bird market is pretty grim. I've picked a dual-purpose bird that I think can handle the cold in my climate. I recommend picking a bird that will work well in your weather.

I'm choosing to raise chicks, so I'm going to cull my birds because I expect poor quality in the beginning. Hopefully I'll have a good product after a few years. You can buy from heritage growers if you don't want to do this.

Adam Klaus is making his own breed. He's got a lot more experience than I have, hopefully he'll chime in.

There's a lot of interesting info out there to help you determine the breed you want. For example, a chicken's comb is used to cool. A big comb means the bird can cool itself well. On the other hand, that bird will suffer and not do well in cold winters.
 
Adam Klaus
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mick mclaughlin wrote:
What breed would ya suggest?



I would start with White Rocks. They have maintained production qualities far better than most heritage breeds. They are meatier than barred rocks. The real key is the source that you use. Ideal Poultry in Texas is a good hatchery. Their Dark Cornish are really good too, but much poorer layers. I used their Dark Cornish for the rooster in my breed development, along with Blue Jersey Giants from Sand Hill Preservation Center.


mick mclaughlin wrote:
What brand suck-n-seal so ya'll recommend? I am considering taking the bite on a commercial one.



I used shrink wrap bags from Naida's Poultry and was very pleased. I have a vacume sealer that I use for vegetables and beef, but for chicken, I much prefer the shrink wrap bags.

 
mick mclaughlin
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I am not familiar with the shrink wrap bags, I will have to check them out.

Thanks!
 
Jeremey Weeks
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The shrinks look a lot better and don't require anything complicated or expensive.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Ok cool, like a store bought chicken!

If anyone else is interested

http://www.nadyaspoultry.com/shrink-bags.html
 
mick mclaughlin
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Adam Klaus wrote:

mick mclaughlin wrote:
What breed would ya suggest?



I would start with White Rocks. They have maintained production qualities far better than most heritage breeds. They are meatier than barred rocks. The real key is the source that you use. Ideal Poultry in Texas is a good hatchery. Their Dark Cornish are really good too, but much poorer layers. I used their Dark Cornish for the rooster in my breed development, along with Blue Jersey Giants from Sand Hill Preservation Center.


mick mclaughlin wrote:
What brand suck-n-seal so ya'll recommend? I am considering taking the bite on a commercial one.



I used shrink wrap bags from Naida's Poultry and was very pleased. I have a vacume sealer that I use for vegetables and beef, but for chicken, I much prefer the shrink wrap bags.



Just for folks info, Ideal is sold out until May on standard chicks. Seems odd, but maybe it isn't? I am glad their business is good!

Do you still recommend Mt.Healthy, Adam?
 
Adam Klaus
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mick mclaughlin wrote:
Do you still recommend Mt.Healthy, Adam?



Yes. I bought 100 Black Jersey Giant cockerels last year. They seemed a little less uniform than in past years, but still perfectly good for my meat production.

I plan to hatch all my own chicks this year, for the first time, so no bought birds for me this time around.
 
mick mclaughlin
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I gotta say one more time, I have spent about 4 years looking for info on raising heritage breeds for meat, and this is by far the most information I have been able to find. I have tried several breeds and I am yet to be overly pleased with any of them. Soooooo many I haven't tried yet, though....

I ordered 50 white rocks from Mt. Healthy for mid march delivery. This is a breed that I have not tried. I really think that eventually I may work on a breed of my own. I do believe we should support these heritage breeds, but I also believe a breed should be productive......

I would sure rather find a bird I like already in existence , though. By nature, I am not a patient person. I do not know that I could afford to see through the goal of a breeding program. I lease land for my farming, so my product needs to be financially viable fairly quick. My main gig is vegetable farming, heirloom maters to be exact, but I like the chickens to at least pay their way.
 
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Mick, there is a fair amount of talk on the Back Yard Chickens site in the Meat ETC forum about breeding meat birds. I think it is interesting and probably something someone doing small scale home meat production can look into. For me, the chickens have to earn their keep and produce enough profit to be worth the effort. This means for now the Cornish Cross. I may eventually try another breed for meat birds again, but after being burned once I am very cautious. If raised right, Cornish Cross are not really that much more prone to early death than other breeds. If I have more than a 5% mortality rate on a batch, it cuts deep into the profit margin. I expect to lose 5-10 chicks in the first week or so out of a batch of 200-300 and maybe a couple at 16 to 20 days when they go on pasture but later life mortalities are not something I want. This means don't raise them in the middle of summer here is the best action.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Paul Ewing wrote:Mick, there is a fair amount of talk on the Back Yard Chickens site in the Meat ETC forum about breeding meat birds. I think it is interesting and probably something someone doing small scale home meat production can look into. For me, the chickens have to earn their keep and produce enough profit to be worth the effort. This means for now the Cornish Cross. I may eventually try another breed for meat birds again, but after being burned once I am very cautious. If raised right, Cornish Cross are not really that much more prone to early death than other breeds. If I have more than a 5% mortality rate on a batch, it cuts deep into the profit margin. I expect to lose 5-10 chicks in the first week or so out of a batch of 200-300 and maybe a couple at 16 to 20 days when they go on pasture but later life mortalities are not something I want. This means don't raise them in the middle of summer here is the best action.



Well in total honesty, I raise some cornish cross. As ya said, money talks, and I must justify my chickens. I am working on this, though. I must use tractors here. I do not like the results with completely free range and I am not a huge believer in the paddock system, although admittedly I have not tried it. Honestly, the basically salatin style tractors work so well, I see no reason to do it another way.

Honestly, I have very little mortality, very few leg issues ect... in my cornish x's. I think the tractors are why. It's that the cornish x's just ain't natural, and they are freakin nasty. They are a fairly tasteless chicken, with lot's of white meat. I have been raising lots of heritage breeds over the years, but other then a few I have given to friends, I have ate them.
 
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Mick,

Have you looked at S&G Poultry? They are breeding some of their own hybrids for sale, which may be a viable alternative to the CornishX. I know some small scale producers are using them. http://www.sandgpoultry.com/

Something that may merit consideration in developing your own line is the idea that in the near future, it will be illegal to ship chicks through the mail. Industry folks like Kelly Klober and Jim Adkins keep talking about this as an impending danger to small scale producers.
 
Paul Ewing
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J D Horn wrote:Something that may merit consideration in developing your own line is the idea that in the near future, it will be illegal to ship chicks through the mail. Industry folks like Kelly Klober and Jim Adkins keep talking about this as an impending danger to small scale producers.



IF this happens you will probably see an increase in local hatcheries again. I am getting my broilers from a guy that hatches out thousands of eggs every two weeks. He gets the eggs from Cobb and has an small walk in incubator setup. He is about 120 miles away from me so I am getting them mailed to save gas and driving time, but if mailing was not an option I could drive there and back in a morning.
 
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I have raised the Red Broiler from S&G and would like to give their Rainbow Broiler a try, however, it seems they run out of stock on that one fairly quickly each year. My experience with the Red Broiler was much better than with the freedom ranger, however, like the Freedom Ranger your still buying a hybrid. The Red Broilers seemed to have a higher percentage of breast meat compared to the Freedom Ranger and the growth rate was probably a week faster. As far as sending chicks in the mail goes last year the postal service increased the shipping rate for live chicks. I believe they will continue to do this until it become much more cost effective to hatch your own. As it is I might start selling chicks this year since I buy large quantities and can beat the online prices. I like the idea of decentralizing the poultry industry and enabling small hatcheries and co-ops "group buys" to pop up all around the country. Being able to sell heritage chicks hatched from your own hens could go a long ways to making your breeding programs more profitable.
 
mick mclaughlin
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J D Horn wrote:Mick,

Have you looked at S&G Poultry? They are breeding some of their own hybrids for sale, which may be a viable alternative to the CornishX. I know some small scale producers are using them. http://www.sandgpoultry.com/

Something that may merit consideration in developing your own line is the idea that in the near future, it will be illegal to ship chicks through the mail. Industry folks like Kelly Klober and Jim Adkins keep talking about this as an impending danger to small scale producers.



I have looked at the S&G site many times. I have just been a little hesitant to pull the trigger.I read some reviews on their super whites, or whatever they call them, and sounds like they are basically a cornish cross?
 
Dan Verniero
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I usually raise CRX from McMurray's in Salatin-style pens and have been very pleased with them. Low mortality, good foragers, nice big carcass in a short time, and good tasting. Last summer I bought a couple different breeds of layers for home production, and I bought some straight run because I think a good rooster is essential, even if you aren't hatching eggs. So I started butchering the excess roosters a couple weeks ago, and gotta say, they are a whole different kind of bird. First, it's the only time I've ever butchered birds in cold weather and the amount of down was staggering, compared to summer raised CRX's. Since I'm using them fresh, I do one at a time and dry pluck, so the down is usable, anyway. Second, the carcass is almost all dark meat, the broth it makes is almost beefy looking, and the taste is incredible. They are over 7 months old, and the meat is not chewy at all. We slow cook them, after hanging salted for two days. (Thanks for that tip, Adam!) They were in the chicken tractor with the CRX's early, and have free ranged ever since, they are Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes. The hens started laying at 6 months, dead of winter, minimal shelter, and whole grain supplemented diet. I will probably continue to raise the CRX to fill the freezer and sell, but I may get a batch of dual purpose roosters for the gourmet market (including us!)
 
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Just a quick question to all of you who are selling the chickens as meat. We had thought about it but didn't know exactly what the regulations were.

Right now we just have a home flock but this has been so informative.


Adam, I definitely will try the salting. I never thought about it and I should have because we salt the hams when we slaughter wild pigs and the meat is to die for.

April
 
Shane Gorter
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April Swift wrote:Just a quick question to all of you who are selling the chickens as meat. We had thought about it but didn't know exactly what the regulations were.

Right now we just have a home flock but this has been so informative.


Adam, I definitely will try the salting. I never thought about it and I should have because we salt the hams when we slaughter wild pigs and the meat is to die for.

April



The regulations vary from state to state, unless you slaughter USDA which is typically only done by large commercial operations. Here in Washington State I have my birds slaughtered in a WSDA "Washington state department of agriculture" approved facility being run by individuals with food processor licenses and I am able to sell anywhere with in the state. Another option in WA is the on farm slaughter exemption which allows you to slaughter up to 1000 birds a year as long as you sell directly to the end consumer so no farmer markets, grocery stores, or restaurants and you do not store the bird for over 48 hours.
 
John Polk
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Another option in WA is the on farm slaughter exemption which allows you to slaughter up to 1000 birds a year



Another limitation on this exemption is that the birds must be whole - not cut up.
Here is a Handbook which pretty well sums up the entire permit (including prices).

An easily affordable and simple procedure for small scale producers in the state.

 
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We have had great success getting chicks from Meyer hatchery, but they are the closest commercial hatchery to us. If you go to most hatcheries at the end of the week, (they hatch and ship on Mondays and Tuesdays) you can get great deals on the excess chicks, (pennies on the dollar). There is a lady not far from us that does this and raises these unsold chicks to a couple of months old and sells them on Craig's list for a profit.
kent
 
Shane Gorter
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kent smith wrote:We have had great success getting chicks from Meyer hatchery, but they are the closest commercial hatchery to us. If you go to most hatcheries at the end of the week, (they hatch and ship on Mondays and Tuesdays) you can get great deals on the excess chicks, (pennies on the dollar). There is a lady not far from us that does this and raises these unsold chicks to a couple of months old and sells them on Craig's list for a profit.
kent



Selling chicks and live birds is definitely going to be part of my business plan this year. I have a Black Austerlorp flock which is currently laying and Muscovy ducks that should start laying any time now. I bought a GQF Sportsmen thinking I could save money on the CRX chicks, but then found a local hatchery that will sell them to me for $0.87 so it has been collecting dust for the last couple years. I am really counting on the chick sales and free replacement hens to make my heritage flock profitable. I took a real gamble on 150 birds and right now I believe I am spending more on feed than I am getting in egg sales.
 
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J D Horn wrote:Mick,
Something that may merit consideration in developing your own line is the idea that in the near future, it will be illegal to ship chicks through the mail. Industry folks like Kelly Klober and Jim Adkins keep talking about this as an impending danger to small scale producers.



Does anyone have any more information on this? I could not find anything on the USPS site and I have to think it would jeopardize the business model of some people with deep pockets.

Don't get me wrong I fully support hatching my own chicks and being able to get them locally, but I cannot find anything to substantiate this claim that "soon you will not be able to ship chicks via USPS". I did find some branches would not accept live animals due to them being remote and thus adding a day or two to shipping times ("2-day" shipping is really 3 or 4). Also some politician proposed something to stop it, but that didn't go anywhere.
 
Shane Gorter
Posts: 36
Location: Everson, WA
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They did raise the shipping rate this year on chicks being shipped alive "although not always arriving alive." I would not fear this to much as there is no threat against hatching eggs being shipped. If you do not want to fork out the cash for an incubator you can most likely find someone to hatch them for you. This could even be a good thing as it may open the door for some small hatcheries to start up supplying the local feed and hardware stores with chicks as well as selling them on craigslist. The threat on mailing live chicks is real, but the dangers of small farmers not being able to acquire birds is not, worst case scenario is the price may go up per bird supporting local, but in my experience the opposite is true local chicks are about $.50 less per bird. Also if you have ever gotten a box of dead birds you might be willing to pay an extra quarter for guaranteed live chicks. Also if you get the birds fresh out of the hatcher you have a few days to get them on their feed and water, where as, if you get them in the mail 2 days after hatch if you don't get them on their feed and water soon they die. Also picking your chicks can help eliminate splayed leg and other defects which is also worth a bit more money per bird.
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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