When getting into pet chickens, one of the most common disappointments in the process happens even to people who have done all their homework and have done their best to prepare. They've checked their local laws to confirm pet chickens are permitted. They've researched chicken care, purchased a brooder, and built or bought a coop. They may even have egg cartons in readiness, and special treats. They've done their homework on chicken breeds, and have chosen which breeds they want for their situation. They've chosen beautiful breeds, or friendly breeds, or those with colorful eggs or friendly personalities... or a combination of rare chicken breeds! They may even have some names ready for the baby chicks they can't wait to receive. However, they've wisely put off purchasing their rare breeds of chickens until everything---or so they think!---is in readiness at their house.
Does this sound like you? (If so, good for you for taking the time to really prepare!)
But here comes the disappointment: when they go to order those lovely, wonderful, rare chicken breeds they've picked out, they're sold out! It often turns out that the rare breed chicks they want aren't available for 6 months---or next year! They've failed to realize that they want the chocolate or olive egg layers for various reasons of awesomeness... but so does everyone else! And everyone else got there first. If you don't want to stick entirely to relatively common breeds like Rhode Island Reds, you may be in for a shock.
It's a terrible feeling. Unpleasant surprises like this---and this is truly a very common "mistake," if it can even be called a mistake---are one reason why we wrote our book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook. Our book warns about issues like this in advance, so you can plan like an expert, even when you're just getting started.
But if you weren't aware that in many cases you'll have to order so far ahead, don't despair. There are still TWO ways to get rare chicken breeds, even if you didn't think to order them months in advance. Let me explain.
Like all hatcheries, ours has to count the chickens before they've hatched, too. Literally! Our hatchery must predict how many of each breed's eggs will hatch, because not all eggs hatch, even in high-tech commercial incubators (or even under a hen). So buying chicks is akin to purchasing an airline ticket... but it's a ticket for a plane that capriciously changes sizes and on the day of your flight, may have 35 seats, or only 28. Does that sound awkward to manage? It is!
When the hatchery knows there's a good chance only 28 seats---er, chicks---will hatch, that's how many we make available to reserve. We don't want to sell 35 Welsummers when only 28 may be available, because we don't want to disappoint the people who---in a wibbley wobbley timey wimey way---ordered 7 chicks that didn't exist!
Being completely without the power of time travel, hatcheries must estimate how many eggs will hatch based on how many eggs have been set, and referring to various statistics relating to the hatchability of the eggs of that particular breed at that time of year. At My Pet Chicken estimate with good accuracy (but conservatively, to avoid disappointments), and we may adjust availability if we find our flocks are producing more eggs each week (or more eggs are hatching each week) than we anticipated.
So, how to get those chicks you want if you didn't realize you had to plan so far in advance?
Top 2 ways to get "sold out" rare chicken breeds
1 - Check 21 days before your hatch date for updates due to having more eggs to set than predicted.
Chickens take 21 days to hatch, so we often ADD more chick availability if there are significantly more eggs to set that week than we anticipated. This additional availability usually happens Mondays and Tuesdays at My Pet Chicken. But act quickly if you see your chicks available, because we may only make an addition of, say, 5 chicks! There won't be many! But if you're dying for, say, White Silkies, then you may not have to wait until next year. If you check on Mondays or Tuesdays, you may see additional availability about 21 days out.
2 - Check early morning on Mondays for "overhatch" chicks that can ship THAT DAY.
We don't have solid numbers until the chicks actually pop out of their shells and are sorted by sex. We estimate how many will hatch, and we estimate how many of each sex we'll have. Chicks normally hatch at a 50 - 50 ratio of males to females. However, that ratio is never exact. If we hatch 100 chicks, there is no guarantee that exactly 50 of them will be female. We account for normal variations (and having "rare breed" assortments helps us to manage small differences), but occasionally we're off by more than a few and can add "overhatch" chicks, chicks available that very day, to be reserved. Again, these go quickly. Sometimes we have quite a few overhatched, but with rare breeds, it's seldom more than 10, and sometimes as few as one lone chick.
You'll want to watch our Facebook page every Monday morning for overhatch updates, and place your order ASAP when you see the chicks you want--reserve them before anyone else does!
Are there any breeds you've been dying for but can't seem to get?