When you pick your first batch of chicks, it’s so exciting! Even now, everytime I walk into a feed store and see the bin of chicks, my inner little girl squeals! They are just so darn cute! I wanna scoop them all up and take them home with me!
Alas, I have limited acreage here on our backyard homestead. So I have to exercise a LOT of restraint, because we just can’t add to our flock any old time I get the fancy! But over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about chickens, and I get a lot of questions about chicks, so today I wanted to share some wisdom to help you pick your first batch of chicks like a pro!
It’s not rocket science, but there a few things you should ask yourself before buying your first batch of chicks so that you have a wonderful experience, instead of a dreadful one. So, I’ll walk you through a few questions you should ask yourself before bringing home your first batch of chicks, BUT I will not be covering anything about actually RAISING them in this post. For the purposes of today’s post, I’m assuming you have already looked into how you’re going to house them, keep them warm, and what you’ll feed them, etc.
How to Pick Your First Batch of Chicks like a Pro!
Decide WHY you want chicks? Meat or eggs?
cal question because different breeds of chickens are meant for different purposes. I’m going to assume since this is your first batch of chicks, that you’re probably wanting eggs, so we’re gonna roll with that. You want to make sure that you’re picking an egg laying breed. A dual-purpose breed is also a good choice. You can learn more about which breeds are which, and a bunch of other helpful stuff about chickens, HERE.
What are you plans for when they stop laying?
This might seem a strange question, or maybe a question that should come later on. But I firmly believe new chicken owners need to think about this before they ever bring home their first chicks. Egg layers don’t lay an egg everyday forever. So you have to decide if you will allow them to live the course of their natural life on your homestead without producing eggs, or if you’ll make another plan for when their egg production slows. If you break down the numbers, the cost of feeding a hen who isn’t laying is the same as the one who is…so your cost per egg is going to rise significantly. And if you want to replace the hen with a younger layer one day, space restrictions will begin to play a roll in the decision as well. So you have three options,
- keep them for the course of their natural life (which is can be around 10 years)
- rehome them to a friend or farmer who has the space and is willing to keep them on as pest control (this isn’t a very reliable option, risky to to count on this one working out…)
- butcher the older hens at around 3 years old when their laying decreases significantly and use them in stew or feed them to your dogs.
It may sound harsh, but these are the realities you’ll need to think about when you’re thinking about bringing egg laying chicks home. You’ll need a plan for them.
Straight Run or Pullets?
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, you’ll need to decide if you’ll buy chicks straight run or not. “Straight Run” is a term you’ll see a lot when you’re in the market for chicks. It just means that the chicks aren’t sexed, the males and the females are all in there mixed together and you don’t know what you’re bringing home (a baby hen or a baby rooster) until they are about a month or so old. For this reason straight run chicks are usually a bit cheaper, but you will need to have a plan for any roosters that may be in the mix. Too many roosters and too little hens will not only mean less eggs for you buy more stress in your flock. So keeping the roosters isn’t really an option – so see the above question for solutions for your roosters…Or you could go for the chicks labels “Pullets”. Pullet is the name for a baby hen, they have been sexed and you can rest assured that all the chicks in that bin are female and will lay you delicious eggs one day. They are a big more expensive but usually your best bet when you’re first getting started because you won’t have to deal with the rooster business.
So what breed will you choose? You’ve already decided on egg layers, but there are many breeds of egg layers to pick from! So you’ll want to consider their adaptability to your climate – do you need a heat tolerant breed or a cold tolerant breed? And then think about the size, do you have space for large chickens, or do you need some smaller bantam chickens? Once you’ve figured those to things out you can start to think about things like egg color, etc. I won’t get into all of that here because that’s it’s own post! But I will give two different suggestions – when starting out, if you can’t decide on one breed, you could get a mix of breeds to see which you enjoy most, or which does the best for your situation. Or, I’ve also seen the suggestion of getting one breed at a time, and then when the first batch are about a year old, you can add a new batch of chicks that are all another breed. This way it will help you keep track of how old each of your chickens are, and give you a better idea of who’s probably laying and who may be slowing down. Both ways have pros and cons, it’s just up to you.
Where to buy your chicks?
Okay, you’re finally ready to buy your chicks! So where should you buy them?? Depending on your area, there are a few options. You can go to craigslist or local FB homesteading groups, those are usually a little cheaper and you don’t have to pay for shipping, and it can help you make connections within your homesteading community. But it can be a bit hard to find exactly the breed of chicks you’re looking for, and the chicks will likely be straight run.
Or you could go with a feed store, which may or may not have pullets, and will probably have a few more breeds for you to pick from. But they will likely only have chicks seasonally so they may not have chicks when you’re ready to buy them.
And finally you could order from a hatchery and pick them up at the post office. This gives you the chance to pick out exactly what you want, but you will have to be ready to pick them up at the post office at a moment’s notice!
So there you have it! Five simple questions to ask yourself to help you pick your first batch of chicks like a pro! So go start your chicken journey with confidence!