General FAQ

A list of Frequently Asked Questions, and the best answers I can provide.

  • How long have you been keeping poultry?
    I started with poultry as a boy and joined 4-H where my uncle and cousins were active in the poultry projects. I got involved in other thing for many years, then started getting serious about keeping some more interesting breeds about 10 years ago.
  • How many chickens do you have?
    Really, I have no idea. Several hundred I would guess. I can keep better count of the larger birds. 4 peafowl, 13 geese. Of course in hatching season the number swell.
  • Are your chicks vaccinated?
    All chickens are vaccinated at hatching time for Marek’s Disease. We do not vaccinate for Coccidosis because it is prohibitively expensive and requires that you feed unmedicated chick starter. Coccidosis is also a treatable disease that birds build a natural immunity to, but Marek’s is considered incurable once symptoms start.
    We do not vaccinate ducklings, goslings, turkey poults, guinea keets or quail chicks. None of these are known to be affected by Marek’s.
  • Which breeds are the best layers?
    Many of the fanciest breeds are more ornamental than production hens. I maintain some of those because they are fun and popular (Marans, Ameraucanas, etc). But the biggest sellers are the production breeds, Legbars and Welbars, and hybrids that use those breeds (Olive Eggers). These are the 6 breeds/colors that are my recommendation for egg production and as pets:
    Cream Legbar – blue eggs
    Opal Legbar – blue eggs, lavender feather color
    Pennsylvania Blue Eggers – light blue eggs, black hens with muff, beards and dark legs. Excellent hybrid layers
    Gold Welbar – dark brown eggs
    Silver Welbar – dark brown eggs
    Gold Olive Egger – dark green eggs, hybrids of Welbars and Legbars
    Silver Olive Egger – dark green eggs, hybrids of Welbars and Legbars
  • Which breeds are best as pets?
    I love cochin bantams, the hens are naturally tame and trusting. The smaller size is an advantage with children, and their tendency to go broody and raise chicks is endearing. The frizzled cochins look like animated feather dusters, and when broody they remind me of the tribbles from Star Trek.
    The Genetic Hackle chickens are also excellent pets, and the roosters are absolutely the prettiest chickens on the farm. If you are allowed to have a rooster and want some docile pets that are also super rare, check these out. Very underappreciated at pet chickens.
    That said, all the other breeds I raise can also make great pets. I select for docile breeders and don’t tolerate aggression. The Legbars, Welbars and Marans have great reputations for having docile hens.
  • What is a pullet, and all the other odd names for chickens?
    – Pullet – a female chicken less than 1 year old
    – Hen – a female chicken more than 1 year old
    – Cockerel – a male chicken less than 1 year old
    – Cock – a male chicken more than 1 year old
  • What is “straight run”?
    These are chicks that are not sexed at hatch. The term comes from hatcheries that may sort chicks based on their sex, or sell them straight as they come from the hatcher trays. The term has become common in the industry and I use it to mean that I cannot sex the chicks, so you should expect to get some roosters. With a large enough sample size, most chicks will end up 50/50 pullets and cockerels, but with small sample sizes, they could easily be all cockerels, and you should be prepared for that possibility. Obviously, sexed pullet chicks are better for most people, and as much as you might covet a Copper Marans or Ayam cemani, the risk of getting a rooster that you become attached to and then must give up makes straight run chicks a non-starter for most people.
  • Why are some chicks sold as pullets and others as straight run?
    I am not able to vent sex chickens, as they do at commercial hatcheries. This is a specialized skill that is hard to perfect. Even hatcheries only guarantee 90% accuracy. That seems ok, but remember, a coin toss is 50% accurate as there are only 2 possibilities. I have tried to vent sex waterfowl, which is considerably easier, but I still am not confident enough to guarantee the sex of a duckling or gosling.
    Instead, I use the scientific approach and employ the genetics of color to sex the chicks. This always uses certain sex-linked colors and works in 2 basic ways:
    – Sexlinked Hybrids – these are commonly offered by hatcheries. I do more specialized work with these genes and can provide sexlinked quail chicks, ducklings, and chickens (Ameraucanas and Olive Eggers).
    – Autosexing breeds – these breeds of chickens and geese were developed with the ability to sex the babies as a primary feature of the breed. The most well known example is the Cream Legbar, but there are other breeds that are as easy or even easier to sex. I developed my own flock of Welbars (autosexing Welsummers) several years ago. They have proven themselves to be excellent layers and so easy to sex at hatch. In geese, the Pilgrims and Cotton Patch geese are autosexing.
  • I need a rooster to protect my flock, what do you recommend?
    Roosters are not adequate protection against most predators (only livestock guardian dogs can do that). That said, they are still useful for watching over the hens, and some small predators may be deterred by the presence of a rooster, especially a very large one. Of the breeds I keep, that largest are the Marans. The roosters are tall and commanding and would not hesitate to beat up a small hawk as needed. It also seems like the largest roosters are the most docile, perhaps they don’t feel they need to prove themselves as much as they are clearly the “big dog” in any chicken fight. A rooster can have a wonderful affect on the hens in his charge. They can sense that he is on watch duty and seem to be much more relaxed in his presence. If you are able to keep a rooster, I recommend you try one. Marans are my #1 pick, with Welbars being a close #2. Either of these roosters are beautiful to look at and worth having if you can.
  • Do you sell hatching eggs?
    Sometimes, depending on the demand for chicks. Buyers need to understand that not every egg will hatch, and not every chick will be perfect or survive. I hide this from chick buyers, but can’t when you purchase eggs.
  • Why are some chicks so much more expensive than others?
    There are several possible reasons for this. Some, like Ayam cemani and Pilgrim Geese, are rare breeds that are not prolific layers or hard to hatch. Others have a higher price because of their unique genetic potential. The “Breeder quality” Opal Legbars are a case in point here. These are from parents that have been genetically tested at significant cost to know that they are homozygous for blue eggs. The tested group of birds is quite small and most of the chicks they produce will be kept as breeders on my farm, but I want to make them available to other breeders so they can skip the expensive testing.
  • Are you NPIP certified?
    No, NPIP is a useless government program. Some states make it easy for small producers to get certified, but PA does not. It would be useful if they tested for serious and prevalent diseases, like Marek’s, MS/MG, Coryza, etc. But then no hatcheries would pass and the industry would fail, so they test for 2 diseases (Pullorum and Typhoid) that are no longer endemic in the US populations, and High Path AI, which kills nearly all your chickens within 48 hours, so you will know you have that long before the lab tests come back positive. Utterly useless except to employ government employees and raise production costs without any actual benefit.