In addition to getting married this past September, my wife and I passed another milestone when we ordered twenty-six chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. Earlier in the summer we had moved to a small organic farm outside Baltimore City. With the farm, we inherited nine Rhode Island Reds used for small scale egg production (and slightly larger scale fertilizer production). It wasn’t long, however, before we were running out of eggs as they were a favorite among the CSA share holders. It only made sense to expand our brood.
Years ago, I had read the review for Murray McMurray here at Cool Tools and chuckled at the thought of ordering chicks in the mail. My wife will be the first to admit how surreal it is to hear the post-mistress coming in from the back room with a cacophonous box full of chicks. But our experience actually began much earlier with the decision about which chicks to order from the expansive catalog. After a fiercely contested debate about whether to go for fancier chicks, or to stick with the tried-and-true breeds we placed an order for their brown egg layer special (which includes 26-chicks of at least five different species). Now in their sixth month, we’re finally confident in declaring what breeds we ended up with: Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas (also known as Easter Eggers), Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, and a fancy Sicilian Buttercup rooster.
In addition to Murray McMurray we relied heavily on advice taken from the also previously reviewed Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, wherein we learned to expect a certain mortality rate with any new hatch of chicks. However, to this day we have not lost one. This is more likely a testament to the quality of Murray McMurray’s chicks than our caretaking abilities.
Murray McMurray ships their chicks in a perforated cardboard container (which emits an incredible amount of noise). Due to the nutrient rich egg newly hatched chicks can survive up to three days without food or water (which allows them to be shipped via USPS, just beware of federal holidays when chicks might get caught in a dusty back room). Upon arrival, it’s critical to dip their beaks in a water or electrolyte solution to reduce stress, and have their home pre-heated. After that, you just have to try and keep up with their astonishing rate of growth. In the past, the smallest order from Murray McMurray was 25 chicks, however, as of April of this year it looks like you can order in batches of 15 (which makes it easier for households looking for a smaller brood). And for those looking for breeds other than chickens, Murray McMurray also carries rare breeds of pheasants, quail, turkey, ducks and geese. For a real treat, order a copy of their catalog if only to look at their wonderful illustrations.
Raising chickens presents a certain number of unknowns, but by ordering from Murray McMurray you can eliminate many of them by ensuring the quality and heritage of your flock.
[Note: Lloyd Kahn first reviewed Murray McMurray Hatchery back in 2009. --OH]