Buying Chicks or Chickens: Where To Buy Chickens & How To Do It
The most exciting part of your journey is about to begin – adding new members to your family in the form of baby chicks or chickens!
Whether you buy baby chicks and raise them yourself or choose to go straight to buying chickens that are ready to lay will depend on a few personal factors.
Chapter 3 in our ultimate guide is all about identifying the right choice for you, and then showing you the right way to buy your hens!
Buying Baby Chicks Vs. Buying Chickens
Most people tend to buy baby chicks over buying fully grown chickens as it’s more a enjoyable experience, it’s cheaper and baby chicks are the cutest creatures on the planet.
The downside is that it does mean extra work though, so make sure you’re up to the challenge.
Buying Baby Chicks
- The enjoyment of raising young chicks into fully grown chickens
- You can socialize them so that they are very family friendly
- It’s cheaper than buying chickens
- You can order online and have them delivered very easily
- You can choose your favorite breed and mix and match from hatcheries
- You can raise healthy chicken (by feeding them and caring for them) that lay healthy eggs
- It’s more work especially in the first 8 weeks – they need to be cared for and nurtured
- Need to make a brooder or an area to raise them (see next chapter)
- Up to 6 months before you see any eggs
- Chance of getting roosters when ordering from hatcheries
If raising baby chicks just isn’t your thing, consider buying full grown chicken:
Buying Grown Chicken
- Ready to lay eggs soon, or immediately (depending on how old they are
- It’s more hands off (as you do not need to nurture or raise them)
- No chance of getting a rooster (IF you know what you’re doing, which we explain below)
- You have to physically go and buy them, you cant order online
- If they are not brought up correctly they may be anti-social and unfriendly
- You may not be able to choose certain breeds based on your location
- Its hard to tell how old the chickens really are (we show you how to do it below)
- Chance of buying a ‘lemon’ and being taken advantage of buy sellers
So, what’s right for you?
- Go for baby chicks if you have a little spare time to care for and raise them, and if you have children as you’ll be able to socialize the chicken, meaning they will turn out to be like your beloved family pet.
- Go for fully grown chickens if you’re just in it for the eggs and are not bothered with raising and nurturing for cute young chicks.
If you want to know more about raising baby chicks in your own home, get inspired with this awesome article on homemade chicken egg incubators! OR if your ready to leap into the deep end, take a look at our ultimate guides to Wyandotte, Red Star, and Silkie Chickens for some inspiration!
Where To Buy Baby Chicks
You have 3 options in general when buying baby chicks:
- Buy online from a hatchery and have them delivered.
- Buy locally from a feed store or local hatchery
- Buy from a local seller after finding them on a buy/sell classified (such as Craigslist)
Buying online from a hatchery is the most popular option as its cheap, quick, easy and you can generally pick and choose a few different breeds of chicken, rather than buying whatever is available locally.
The only problem with hatcheries is that most of them have minimum orders of 15 or more chicks, meaning urban chicken owners struggle to find somewhere that will only sell them a few chicks.
Here are 3 hatcheries that we highly recommend, that will also allow you to make smaller orders:
- My pet chicken – specialize in smaller orders for suburban farmers
- Meyer hatchery – have a low minimum order of just 3 chicks
- Cackle hatchery – Have a very large variety of breeds and will offer minimum orders of 5-10 chicks
If a hatchery is not your thing for some reason, a local feed store can help you out. Simply call them up and order your chicks when spring comes around.
Finally, online classifieds can be a great place to find local breeders in your area to buy chicks from.
Be aware though that when buying chicks in this manner they will most often not be vaccinated (however you can take them to your local hatchery to get vaccinated for less than 20c).
The best online classifieds for buying chicks are:
- Craigslist, and;
- The baby chick classifieds section of backyard chickens
Buying Chickens – Where To Buy Chickens & Traps To Avoid
When buying chickens it’s important to do your due diligence and ask the seller the right questions (especially if buying them privately) otherwise you may end up with a lemon!
Remember that anyone who raises or breeds chickens will more likely get rid of unproductive or less desirable birds over the better performing birds – and most of the time this means selling them to the clueless first-time chicken owner.
In particular, you need to watch out for:
- Buying an unhealthy hen
- Buying a hen that’s past its ‘used by date’ and wont lay as many eggs, or;
- Ending up with a rooster after you thought you were buying a young hen!
Avoid buying an un-healthy or sick Hen
A hen with health complications will be more trouble than it’s worth as it could provide less eggs or even spread the sickness to your other chicken.
How to avoid it: Pick up each chicken you are considering and hold it in your arms and see how it reacts – is it aggressive or does it seem like it’s in pain?
Be sure to also look out for the following warning signs:
- A discolored and blemished comb (it should be a nice solid red or pink if they are young)
- Flakey legs (they should be smooth)
- An un-clean bottom/vent (it should be clean which indicates that it has not been laying already)
- List ElementDull eyes and a dirty nose and beak (eyes should be bright and clean, as should the nose and beak)
Avoid buying a hen that has past it’s ‘point of lay’
The ‘point of lay’ is the time when a chicken starts laying eggs, so the closer to this time the better as chickens lay most of their eggs in the first few years; after that it steadily declines.
There are a big list of factors that will influence that age a hen starts laying, however in general, if you’re being sold a chicken at the ‘point of lay’ it should be between 16-18 weeks old (chickens generally start laying at 6 months).
It’s important that you don’t get sold a chicken that is actually well past its point of lay otherwise you may end up with a chicken that’s passed its ‘used by date’ meaning they won’t provide as many eggs.
How to tell if your chicken is really at the point of lay:
- The comb should be relatively small and the wattle and comb should just be starting to turn pink
- The feathers at the rear (called the vent) should be clean – if they are not, it indicates that the hen has already been laying eggs
- Ask the seller exactly how old the chicken is and wait for their reaction. They should have a good idea and respond with something like “18 weeks” If they ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ and give you a vague answer such as “a little over a year old” be suspicious. Be very suspicious.
”Are you sure you’re buying a hen, and not a rooster?”
It’s not easy to tell the difference between a young hen vs a young rooster, especially for first time chicken owners.
Once a chick hit about 2 months old the will start to develop in different ways, so there are a few signs you can look for to help you identify the rooster from the hen, and they are explained perfectly in this video:
BONUS: HOW TO QUICKLY TELL IF A CHICKEN IS A GOOD EGG-LAYER OR NOT
Not all hens are great at laying eggs; some are naturally good layers, and some are not.
Download our FREE diagrammatic guide that will show you how to identify a good layer from a bad layer in a few easy steps.
Congratulations – by now you should know exactly how to buy yourself some baby chicks or live chickens, and are one step closer to adding to your family! You can learn more about introducing new chickens to the flock here.
In the next chapter we show you how to raise your young chicks so that are healthy, happy and prepared to lay you some nice eggs.
If you’ve decided to buy mature chickens instead, jump to chapter 6 where we show you how to raise chickens after once they are ready to start laying.