Where Do I Buy Chicks?
Feed Store Chicks vs. Hatchery Chicks
So you decided that you are going to dive into the world of backyard chickens, but where on do you buy chicks?
Are the chicks at the local farm store any different than the special order chicks from a hatchery?
In my experience, the problem with buying from farm supply and feed stores is that you don't always know what you're actually getting.
Not just in gender but breed as well.
Chicks at our local farm supply store are sometimes mislabeled–i.e. Easter Eggers being labeled as Ameraucanas–and I suspect that some of my “Rhode Island Reds” may have been of mixed heritage.
This was not really a concern for us, though, since we were focused on having chickens that are good layers and healthy.
Farm Store chicks can be a good option if you are not too picky about breeds.
Feed Store Chicks
Most first-time chicken owners start at a local farm and garden store. Store staff can answer usually most questions you have about raising baby chicks. Usually, they will know about the particular breeds they are selling, like how aggressive they are, and how well they lay.
Most farm and garden stores stock live chicks during the spring, but call ahead to find out what breeds they have and when they get new shipments.
The store will also have the feed, heat lamps, bedding, and everything else you need to get started. It’s a great one-stop destination.
Another important benefit of buying baby chicks from a store is that the chicks are going to be slightly older.
Since stores get large batches of chicks but don’t sell them all at once. An older chick is healthier and more resilient.
Like all babies, very young chicks are fragile and hatcheries typically ship chicks at just a few days old.
Also, picking up at the feed store allows you to purchase a small quantity.
State laws dictate minimum sale quantities at the store but usually, it is either 4 or 6 chicks at a farm store.
Some problems that can arise with feed store chicks is employees at farm and feed stores may not be well-acquainted with chickens.
They may be misinformed about the breeds or genders of their stock. They may not be able to answer your questions about your chickens when you have them.
You don't really know where the chicks are coming from, and do play a bit of chicken-roulette with your purchase as far as what breeds and gender you might actually end up with.
But if you're just starting out and not looking for pedigree stock and are willing to chance an occasional “surprise” rooster, they're just fine.
To save money, you can buy chicks from hatcheries at a better price. This is an inexpensive way to expand your chicken operation, but there are serious drawbacks.
All mail-order hatcheries have a minimum order quantity when you place an order of chicks.
There are a few different reasons for this.
Probably the biggest reason is that there has to be a certain number of chick to generate heat during shipping so they can keep themselves warm.
So one problem, that can stem from this is that you may be forced to either get more chicks than you really want.
Or have to pay a premium to get a small number shipped and risk high losses.
Often, hatcheries have minimum orders of 25 or even 50 baby chicks.
Twenty-five chickens sounds like a lot, but it’s actually pretty manageable if you have space. If you cannot have 25 for space or zoning reasons, you can go in on an order like this with other friends.
Typically, the more chicks you order at one time, the cheaper each chick is.
So naturally, the next question when you buy chicks – how many chickens do I buy?
The number of baby chicks you order depends on what you are doing with them. Depending on her age, breed, and the time of year, a healthy hen lays between three and six eggs per week.
With six birds in their laying prime, you can generally expect to get four eggs a day. How many people are you feeding? How many eggs does your family eat?
Right now I have 22 hens and get about 16-18 eggs per day. So that is a whole lot of eggs to give away.
Be careful and don’t get more chicks than will be able to fit in your coop.
Also, city and county laws may limit how many chickens you can keep. In general, 10 square feet per chicken or more is a good estimate of the minimum space you’ll need for your run.
One serious thing you must consider when you buy chicks:
Baby chicks are shipped young and some of them won’t survive the journey.
This is true also in the shipments that go to farm stores but you avoid seeing it.
This can be emotionally challenging to deal with in your home when you are looking forward to getting a box of chicks in the mail.
Deaths during shipment are common and can also cause problems if you are aiming for a specific number of birds.
Have you had success with farm store chicks? Where did you buy chicks?