By John Hummer
Exponent staff writer
Dreaming of raising your own chickens? It’s not too late to get your “pick ‘o’ the chicks” at Napoleon Feed Mill.
The mill hosted its annual Chick Day March 21, and had nearly 1,200 chicks ordered, they will sell anywhere between 1,600 and 2,000 baby birds throughout the season.
Most of the chicks come from Townline Poultry Farm in Zeeland, Mich. Some come from the Meyer hatchery in Ohio.
“They have to be a good quality hatchery with good safety standards,” said store manager Dave Smith. “Both of those are very reputable.”
Napoleon Feed Mill gets about 25 different varieties of chicks in for chick day.
Jumbo cornish rock cross and freedom rangers are two of the main meat birds, also known as broilers, available. The former is the most popular broiler type available and are bred for quick growth, having broad breast, thighs, and legs. They are great for fryers or roasters.
“Generally, you’re looking at about eight weeks from when you get them to finish them off,” Smith said.
Of course egg layers will be around longer.
“Generally, you’re going to be looking at them laying eggs in about 20 to 26 weeks, depending on the breed” he said. “Around two years they’ll start tapering off on their eggs. Those will vary from breed to breed and bird to bird. After a few years, they’ll stop laying. Some people will actually keep them as pets.”
Napoleon Feed Mill officials will place orders for more chicks throughout the spring and into the summer as customers demand them.
In addition to chicks, Napoleon Feed Mill orders ducks, turkeys, pheasants, and hatching eggs.
“A lot of the time it comes down to personal preference,” Smith said. “Do you like white eggs, dark eggs, and how productive do you want them to be? Some can be used as dual purpose birds – for eggs and for meat.”
Smith said a lot of customers choose their chicks based on what they’ll look like and how they’ll behave.
There are a lot of different looks out there,” he said. “Each of them have their own behavioral set as well. Just like breeds of dogs that have different traits and personalities, the same goes for chickens.”
Bonnie Hiatt and her family from Onsted took part in the mill’s recent “chick day”. She said they took home 25 egg layers and around 50 meat chicks. They also have two roosters.
Hiatt said they simply raise chickens to feed their family. Their chickens basically have free range of their yard. They use all the chicken meat and most of the eggs, but do end up selling some extra eggs.
Although she does a large share of the work to raise the chickens, she said, “My husband (Mike) likes to go out and feed them snacks and socialize with them. So he helps me out a lot.” Hmmmm. A lot?
Hiatt said her egg layers usually lay eggs around 20-22 weeks old, and her meat chickens are fully developed by around 14 weeks. She added that some are around 10 pounds butchered – a pretty good size chicken.
To his credit, husband Mike does do some of the cooking.
“He usually cooks one on Sundays and we eat it Sunday night,” Hiatt said. “Then we have leftovers that we pick at for lunch or make stir fries.” She said their chicken supply lasts the entire year.
“We have one freezer that’s packed full of chickens,” she said with a giggle. “I don’t want to run out of my chickens. They taste better than the store-bought ones. And I know what they were eating and what they were fed, because I feed them.” Of course they get their chicken feed from Napoleon Feed Mill.
For more information, contact Napoleon Feed mill at 536-8311 or visit their website at www.napoleonfeedmill.com.