When you’re first starting out with chickens, like us, you end up reading a TON about how to start. And, if you’re like us, you come across a bunch of differing opinions on the best way to start your flock. There are basically four options,
1. Hatching eggs with an incubator
4. Laying Hens
Option one we didn’t even consider because I just didn’t want to spend the extra cash on an incubator and go through the trouble of ensuring my small children didn’t disturb it. It’s the most expensive option and the most time consuming. Its something we may do later when our kids are older, though.
Laying hens weren’t ideal either because I wouldn’t be getting the most laying time out of the chickens that way, and as a novice chicken keeper, I really have no idea how to be sure that this person on craigslist is being honest with me about the real age of the hens.
So that left us with Chicks vs. Pullets. If you’ve been following along, you know we chose to start out with Pullets. There are a lot of reasons we did this. This post on the subject from Blue Yurt Farms, and several others like it were big contributors in me coming to that conclusion. And over all, I’ve been pretty happy with that decision, however we’ve learned that there isn’t one perfect solution. Everything has it’s pros and cons.
So here’s my list of the Pros and Cons of starting your backyard flock with pullets,
- No need for a brooder set up – This was a big one for us. We have very young children and a small house. It would have been tricky for us to find a place to keep those chicks safe from tiny hands. And that lamp makes me too nervous to keep it far out of my sight – I know someone whose porch burned down due to a chicken brooder lamp…
- Less time investment before eggs/meat – Whether you’re raising layers or broilers, starting from chicks means more time invested on your part before you get the end result you’re looking for. And less freedom to leave your house for extended periods of time. There are benefits from knowing exactly how your birds have been fed since day one, to be sure, but for us at this point in our life, cutting down the time invested was worth it.
- Less money invested before eggs/meat – It would have cost us at least $75 to build a sufficient brooder with all the bells and whistles, i.e. wood shavings, lamp, feeders, waterers, an appropriately large box, food, and the chicks themselves. The 7 week old pullets I purchased cost me $32, and they could go straight into the coop. Now, that brooder set up would be able to be stored and used repeatedly, but again, our goal was as cheap as possible this season – we did just buy this house after all!
- Less friendly birds – Granted I only have experience with our birds, but they are definitely not as friendly as they would be if we had raised them from day old chicks. You sometimes see pictures on blogs with chickens on farmers shoulders…ya, I don’t think that will ever happen with these chickens. It’s not that I’m longing for some kind of deeper connection with my chickens, trust me that’s definitely not it! But to be able to get them to come when I call them or give them food, would be beneficial. I need to be able to get close enough to pick them up and check their over all health and whatnot.
- More difficult to free range – This goes hand-in-hand with them not being as friendly. Because they basically want to be as far away from us as possible, it leads them to the far corners of our yard…where our birds promptly found a hole in the fence that we had not! So that was fun. Once that is fixed though, I believe we’ll still have to work with them quite a bit on staying in the yard – even with trimmed feathers. Because they can jump, in case you didn’t know…If we had raised them from chicks they would want to be near us, following us around the yard asking for food. Ours have a long way to go before we’re there. I think we can get there, but it will be a lot of work.
So do I stand by my choice to get pullets?? Ultimately, yes. I still think it was the right choice for us just because our family had a lot of other things going on and throwing baby animals in the mix would have been added stress we didn’t need at the time. Now that we have more time to focus on the chickens, we have begun the process of training them. However, in my very humble, novice chicken keeper opinion, pullets definitely have some drawbacks and they aren’t for everyone.
If you don’t have the ability or desire to free range your flock – I’d say go with pullets, hands down.
But, if you would like to enjoy the benefits of a free range flock – I’d suggest putting in the investment and getting chicks. It’s more time and work up front, but you’ll reap the benefits once they can go out into the coop….and still come running to you, instead of running away…
What about you? What’s your take on the great Chick vs. Pullet debate? Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences!
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