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Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many great reasons to choose heritage breeds of chickens!  But sadly, it is becoming increasingly harder to find well-bred flocks that exhibit the traits, both visual and behavioral, that made the breeds so popular and valued 150 years ago.  In this section I'll attempt to provide honest answers to some of the questions I am most commonly asked. 


Why don’t you have many hens available in the spring?

By far, the highest volume of sales inquiries come to me from early February until the end of May.  This is when the weather is starting to improve and people begin to think about starting a flock, or adding some new hens to their layer flock. 

For me, spring is chick hatching and brooding season. By late fall I have reduced my flock numbers to only the top few birds I have chosen to keep over winter to use in my breeding pens. These are the highest quality hens and roosters I have raised over the past year, and possibly a few exceptional 2 or 3 year olds. These birds have been very carefully selected to produce my next generation of chicks.  It isn’t easy keeping multiple flocks during the cold Alberta winters and I also need to be sure I’m keeping an adequate number of roosters. To make sure all my chickens are well-cared for and content, I have to be very selective on who stays.  When spring rolls around and people want to buy these hens, I have to carefully consider whether I can spare a couple of my best hens.  And if I decide I am able to part with a couple of them, this is reflected in my spring prices.  Which brings me to another commonly asked question:

Why are your prices higher than other producers?

Chicken keepers have many choices when deciding where to purchase their birds. The current trend I'm seeing in "fancy" chicken sales is that people are willing to pay well over $100 for a dozen hatching eggs, but when it comes to young adults they are often hesitant to part with their money.

As in most every type of livestock or pets, poultry falls into different classifications and are available in several different levels of quality. There really are chickens to fit every budget! Many flock owners will be completely satisfied with lower-priced hens that are readily available directly from hatcheries or through distributors such as farm stores.

Most hatcheries do offer "heritage" or "dual-purpose" chicks in addition to the usual commercial layers. It's important to know, however, that the large-scale production model does not allow for the meticulous selection and breeding practices that are needed to preserve ALL the important features and functions of each breed. As a result, commercially developed flocks naturally become heavily selected for egg production, and in the process other important characteristics such as size, type and feather patterns suffer. 

Small-scale, independent breeders like myself become stewards of precious, irreplaceable genetic resources.  Breed conservation is a great responsibility. My goal is to ensure the bloodlines I'm working with not only survive for the next generation to enjoy, but that they continue to demonstrate every wonderful detail that makes the breed unique and special. I take this responsibility very seriously.  It’s a careful and ongoing balancing act to ensure my lines are staying true to the distinct form AND functions for which they were originally intended.

There is no way to compare this very intentional and purposeful type of breeding program to the very different objectives of a large-scale producer. There are also many cost-saving, and labour saving advantages in commercial production systems such as buying feed in bulk, using automated equipment or destroying male chicks at hatch. I grow out the cockerels I hatch along with the pullet chicks, even though it is a more expensive way to raise chickens.  My clientele is mainly made up of other breeders like myself as well as exhibitors, farmers and acreage owners who are interested in raising the same old-fashioned breeds as I have chosen, and can appreciate the value of raising them in the traditional ways.

It also bears mentioning that each of my breeds are highly acclaimed in poultry exhibition circles, with many championship awards at major shows in Canada.  If I was searching for high quality dogs or horses, I would check their pedigree and performance history.  Since chickens do not come with a pedigree, exhibition achievement is the only way to ascertain the level of quality of a particular bloodline. So, while I do enjoy selling some extra pullets to urban and backyard enthusiasts when I have them available, buyers need to understand the factors that influence pricing.

Why don’t you sell baby chicks or hatching eggs?

I grow out all of the chicks I hatch myself so that I can watch them develop, remove any that are not thriving, and eventually select the top performers to keep back for my own replacements and to share with others. This is the only way to maintain and/or improve the overall quality of a flock.  Also, by selling only well-started juveniles and young adults I’m better able to assess each bird and price it accordingly.  I charge a bit less for “pet quality, or layer quality" hens, and the top birds I raise each year will be in demand as breeding or show stock.  

Another reason is that I keep my mating groups very small, either 1 or 2 (or sometimes 3) hens per rooster. This allows me to track the chicks from successful matings and keep useful records that will help me continue to make informed breeding decisions each year.  As soon as I have hatched the number of chicks I feel I will need from a particular mating, that pen is broken up.  The hens can then return to communal layer flock to hang out with their hen friends, and the breeding pens are transformed into grow-out spaces for the new crop of youngsters.  For large breeds especially, too much rooster attention over a prolonged period causes feather damage and feather loss in the hens, and can even result in injuries, so I don’t extend their time in mating groups in order to sell fertile eggs. 

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