To ebay or not to ebay
There are two main sources of hatchable eggs: Find a friendly local poultry breeder willing to sell you a few fertile eggs, or take an online lottery and enter ‘hatchling eggs’ into ebay.
The later gave around 1,500 entries the last time I did it, and can be a marvelous lucky dip, but lucky dip it will be. Eggs don’t particularly like being subjected to the vagaries of the British postal system, so don’t expect high hatch rates, and because you don’t get to see anything other than pictures of the parent stock, it’s a lottery in more ways than just the hatch rate. However, if you want something rare, or live miles away from the nearest source of the breed you are after, it might be worth a try.
Luckily for me, there was an enthusiast just up the road who had both Light Sussex and Rhode Island Red eggs for sale, so after just ten minutes in the car I was the proud owner of nine eggs of each breed. A rough rule of thumb is to hatch twice as many eggs as you want chicks, and count on half the chicks surviving. So 18 eggs would give me nine chicks and four or five adult chickens.
The eggs were only a few pounds, but worse for my wallet was that Professional Poultry, my chosen supplier happens to combine a poultry business with a full time job as a stainless steel fabricator. He makes the most amazing fully stainless steel brooders, which, for the uninitiated are boxes in which to keep baby chickens for the first four or so weeks of life. Of course, you can use a cardboard box, but given what happened to the last chickens and the fact that the chicks would be growing up in an outside barn with an ill fitting door, something both fox and cat proof seemed like a more suitable long term home. Beside which, I reasoned, you can use it again and again, so the real costs could be spread over several years and numerous broods.
At least, that’s what I told myself when I handed over the cash…