Buying chicks: the pros and cons of where to buy

Compare chicks purchased from local breeders, professional hatcheries, and feed stores to weigh the pros and cons of each.

by Kylie Vaughn

You have decided to buy your first chicks! Or maybe you’re adding some new chicks to your existing flock! Either way, it’s an exciting time in every chicken breeder’s life! Of course, you want to make sure the experience is as positive as possible for you and your new chicks. Because of this, one of the first things to consider is where you should buy your chicks.

While you can purchase chicks from a variety of places, the three most popular are: local breeders, professional hatcheries and feed stores. In this 3-part series, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.

Of course, breeders, feed stores, and hatcheries vary depending on your location and region. But, for the most part, there are a few consistent factors to consider before choosing where to purchase chicks. You’ll want to be able to choose the option that best fits your budget and the needs of your flock. Today we are going to discuss some of the pros and cons that you should consider before purchasing chicks from a local breeder.

Purchase chicks from a local breeder or chicken breeder

Local breeders vary greatly in both their knowledge of chickens and the quality of chickens they breed. Some breeders may have extensive breeding programs while others may do it just for fun. Many breeders will focus on a particular breed or style of bird. Because of this, the first step to finding a breeder that fits your needs is knowing what you want! Assessing your flock’s goals will help you decide what type of chicken breeder you should work with.

egg chick incubator

Here are some other things to keep in mind if you’re considering buying chicks from a local breeder:

Pros of buying chicks from local breeders:

  • age difference: Local breeders often have different ages of poultry available for sale, including hatching eggs, chicks, and broilers.
  • Breed Diversity and Quality: If you want high quality chicken or a special breed, a local breeder can be a great choice. They can often offer high quality chicken and even show quality. They may also specialize in heritage or specialized breeds that are hard to find elsewhere.
  • Local supplier: A knowledgeable breeder can be an invaluable source for questions about all aspects of raising chickens.
  • No shipping: Since the breeder is local, you can pick up the chicks and bring them home right away, without having to go through the shipping process.
  • You may be able to view the facilities and ranching: A local breeder may allow you to see their facilities and chicks/chickens available for sale. While it is nice to be able to watch facilities and animals, be aware that different breeders may have restrictions because of this. Biosecurity risks. They may even have standards for where you can go on their property. This is actually a sign of a responsible breeder who ensures that his chickens are safe from diseases that can easily spread from one farm to another.Purchase chicks from a local breeder

Cons of buying chicks from local breeders:

  • It may not be authorized: A local breeder may not have national or local certifications and inspections. Regulations vary by state and are often not required for small operations. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does require that the buyer do their due diligence to ensure that the breeder produces healthy, high-quality chicken.
  • May or may not be vaccinated: Unlike large hatcheries, a local breeder may or may not administer vaccinations to their chicks. If vaccinations are important in your area, talk to the breeder to see if they offer vaccinations or if they can show you how to order and administer your vaccinations.
  • Chicks may or may not be sexed: Some breeders are good at sex with chicks. However, there is always room for error! Other breeders may only sell the chicks as live-run (meaning they are not sexed). Talk to the breeder to find out if they are having sex with their chicks and see if they have the option to go back if the sexed hens turn out to be roosters!
  • It may or may not be true to reproduce: Depending on the breeding program, the chicks may or may not be true to a particular breed. If you are okay with mixed breed chicks, local breeders may offer a discount. However, if you want chicks that will agree with a breed, make sure you find a breeder who can verify that there is no crossbreed.

Where are local breeders located:

  • craigslist
  • Facebook groups
  • Facebook market
  • word of mouth

Buy chicks from a professional poultry hatchery

Professional hatcheries are a great place to find a variety of chicks. While it may seem unconventional to send day-old chicks from the hatchery in the mail, it’s actually very common! Buying chicks from a professional hatchery can be a great way to get your first chickens or expand your existing flock.

Here are some things to consider before ordering new chicks from a specialized hatchery:

Pros of buying chicks from a professional hatchery:

  • Breed variety: Many hatcheries offer a wide variety of breeds for sale. They may also sell hatching eggs in addition to old chicks. Hatcheries provide chicks consistent with their breed and there is a very low chance of cross-breeding. Chicks are usually sold as either sexual or direct (asexual).
  • License: Depending on their size, large hatching facilities may have to comply with state and national regulations and inspections. They may also have additional certifications (such as the NPIP certification) which demonstrate their commitment to being a high-quality facility.
  • Vaccinations: Larger hatcheries usually offer the option of vaccinating chicks for a small additional fee. This is often much easier and more affordable than trying to vaccinate the chicks yourself.
  • Ease of ordering: Ordering is easy and many companies offer catalogs to browse. You can usually place your order online or over the phone and then the hatchery will contact you directly once the chicks are ready to hatch and ship so you know when to expect them.
  • Return policy: Most hatcheries have some sort of refund or exchange policy if the chicks die after arriving. They may also offer refunds or exchanges for chicks whose exact sex is not specified. Chicks in the shipping box

Cons of buying chicks from a professional hatchery:

  • Chicks should be shipped: Day-old chicks will be shipped from the hatchery using the US Postal Service. While most chicks handle charging well, there is always a risk that the chicks could become stressed or sick, which could cause them to die. You will also need to be prepared to pick up the new chicks from the post office when they arrive.
  • Seasonal restrictions: Most hatcheries only hatch and ship during certain times of the year (usually spring through fall). For this reason, buyers will usually need to place their order in advance and wait until a suitable hatching time to send the chicks out.
  • Online reviews can be mixed: Online reviews are one of the best ways to gauge the quality of a hatchery before ordering. Unfortunately, many of the online reviews are very polarizing: some people rave about a particular hatchery while others only share negative experiences. This can make it difficult to know which hatchery is best suited for you.
  • Unable to see facilities and chicks: If you order chicks from a hatchery, you won’t be able to pick up the chicks or even see the facilities. Even if the hatchery is local to your area, it is unlikely that you will be able to see the facilities due to the strict biosecurity regulations. Remember that these regulations are in place to ensure that infectious diseases are not spread through hatcheries.

Some popular professional poultry hatcheries:

If you decide you want to order chicks from the hatchery, there are plenty to choose from! Here are some of the more popular hatcheries to get you started:

  • Myers Hatcher
  • Cackle Hatchery
  • McMurray Hatchery
  • hoover hoover
  • My pet chicken
  • The perfect poultry

Buying chicks from a feed store:

Feed stores are one of the most popular places for new chicken breeders to purchase chicks. If you’ve been to a feed store during the spring, you’ve likely heard their chirping and seen tubs full of adorable yellow chicks! Admittedly, it can be hard to resist bringing home a few!

Chick sales vary greatly depending on the feed store. Most feed stores put chicks on sale in early spring. Some stores offer a few standard strains. However, some feed stores have “Chick Days” events where they offer special breeds and even bring in trained volunteers/staff to help you pick out the new chicks!Buy chicks locally

Before you rush to the feed store to bring home your new fluffy chicks, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Pros of buying chicks from a feed store:

  • Ease of purchase: It couldn’t be easier than driving to your local feed store to pick up your new chicks! You can also purchase feed and other necessary supplies at the same time, which can be very convenient for new chicken breeders.
  • The ability to pick chicks: In the feed store, you will be able to see and choose exactly which chicks you want to buy. This can make the process of getting new chicks a lot of fun, especially for new chicken owners!
  • Affordability: Feed stores offer chicks at very affordable prices. They may also offer discount prices at the end of the sale season, which can be a very economical way to purchase a large number of chicks.Feed store chicks

Cons of buying chicks from a feed store:

  • Limited Breeds: Feed stores usually offer a limited number of strains for sale. These breeds are usually the most popular breeds for white layers, such as the Rhode Island Reds and ISA Browns. They may also offer a meat breed such as Cornish cross.
  • Limited sale period: Chicks are usually available at feed stores only once a year for about a month in the spring. For this reason, it’s important to know when to expect the chicks at your local store so you don’t miss out on the sale.
  • Race and Genus May Be Misnamed: It is very easy to put chicks in the wrong basket or move them to the wrong basket after handling them. This can cause confusion about the breed of chick, especially if it looks like any of the other breeds on offer. There is also a possibility that the chicks may be incorrectly sexed.
  • Well-informed employees may or may not be: In general, feed store employees are not trained in how to care for chicks or other aspects of chicken keeping. If you have questions about raising chickens, it may be best to find a local guide or other source of information.
  • Chicks may be stressed or ill: Depending on the feed store, chicken coops may be more affordable to customers. This often leads to people and children handling the chicks. While playing with the chicks may be fun, it increases the risk of them getting sick or stressed. Before buying, you may want to make sure that your feed store has protocols in place to keep chicks as healthy and as stress-free as possible.

Kylie Vaughn It is a house in the suburbs, taking care of chickens and goats and a large garden on just under an acre. She and her family strive to create the most efficient housing possible in the small space we have. Not only are their chickens a beautiful decoration in the yard, but they are also a vital part of housekeeping practices! “We use them for manure production, pest control, composting, and more.” Kaylee called them “gardeners” because they’re always in the garden, working hard — and redecorating sometimes, too!

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