Baby chicks! With spring (hopefully) around the corner, lots of people are thinking about getting baby chicks, whether they are looking for chickens to produce eggs on their homestead or just have some outdoor pets. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would have chickens, but here we are! They are a great addition to our little hobby farm out here, and they have been SO MUCH FUN. They have a ton of personality, and we are constantly laughing at the goofy things they do. And they give us LOTS of eggs! I am certainly no expert, but we got chicks last spring and thought I’d do a little series here on the blog of what we’ve learned so far to help you along if you are planning on getting chicks, too!
Picking Out Chickens
In this post I’m going to focus on picking out chicks, because quite honestly that is such a fun part! People choose different chicken breeds for a variety of reasons, including temperament, egg color, and what the chickens look like. I personally didn’t have much criteria because in my mind *most* chickens are the same, right?! Wrong, ha!!! We have 2 different breeds, and they are different in MANY ways!
Fun fact: The color of the egg depends on the breed of the chicken!
There are TONS of chicken breeds you can choose from, so if a certain trait or characteristic is important to you, just do some research!
Where to Buy Chicks
When we started, we literally went to Tractor Supply’s Chick Days and got a box of 6 baby chicks. The breed is called Bovans Brown, and it turns out they were a perfect starter chick! From my experience of always visiting the chicks when I’m in the store, it appears they get a variety of breeds in, and this just happened to be what was there when we went!
You can also order chicks online through a hatchery. We have a local location here in the Indianapolis area that orders from a hatchery, so that’s where we got our second batch from, which are Easter Eggers. A lot of the hatcheries have a minimum number of chicks you have to buy because the chicks get sent through the mail (!), so by ordering through this local location, we were able to just order a few chicks since we got to add our chick order to theirs! Hatcheries typically have a huge variety, and availability may depend on the time of year. Examples of hatcheries where you can order online are Cackle Hatchery and Meyer Hatchery.
Hens or Roosters
We knew we wanted all hens/females, so we shopped for pullets (that is what young hens are called!). There are pros and cons to having a rooster, so you will have to decide. A big pro is that they can help protect your flock from predators. But a few cons are that they crow early in the morning and can be problematic if you have neighbors (I’ve seen several sad rooster owners have to find new homes for their roosters), they can be aggressive (although some can be very sweet!), and obviously they can fertilize the eggs so you could have potential baby chicks. This can be a pro or con depending on what your plan is! Some hatcheries even sell ‘rooster insurance’ in case you order all girls and they accidentally send you a boy! We purchased all females.
Baby chicks themselves are inexpensive. Our Bovans from Tractor supply were just a few dollars each, and our Easter Eggers (which lay blue eggs!) were $8 each. It’s the rest of the supplies that account for the cost of having chickens, especially the coop and run!
I can only speak to the two breeds we have, but here is a little about each.
Our Bovans are SO friendly, they love people, are very curios, and they are egg-laying champs!!! Even through this first winter, their egg-laying hasn’t slowed down, and we don’t use any supplemental light (once daylight drops below 14-hours a day, egg production can slow. We passed the shortest day of the year, and they didn’t slow down at all). ISA Browns are a very similar breed from what I understand. These really have been the perfect chickens for newbies like us.
Our Easter Eggers are much more skittish and have never liked to be held (I asked around and this is very common for this breed), they are smaller and produce a little smaller egg, and they don’t lay eggs as consistently. Their blue eggs are so pretty though, and each chicken is so unique looking – they come in a variety of colors. Thankfully as they have gotten older, they like to be around us more, and they come running when we come outside! We do love our little Easter Eggers! But they still do NOT like to be picked up, which is very inconvenient when we try to round them up, ha!
One note… if you see Bantam Chicks, they are SO CUTE! Bantams are basically a mini-breed of chicken, so they are smaller, and their eggs will be smaller. But they are some of the cutest, tiniest chicks!
Integrating Our 2 Flocks
Getting our chicks about a month apart made it VERY difficult to integrate our Bovans with our Easter Eggers. 4 weeks is a big difference size-wise, so our Bovans bullied the Easter Eggers for a very long time! Once the Easter Eggers got close in size to the Bovans, we just had to start leaving them together as we watched, to make sure no one was hurting each other! Pecking order is a REAL thing!!! In retrospect, if I was getting 2 different breeds, I would try to get all the chicks at the same time so they were similar in size and could integrate better. There were some tough weeks in there as we were integrating them.
Time of Year
The last thing I want to mention is regarding the time of year you purchase chicks. We live in Indiana, so our springs are still chilly, and our chicks outgrew their brooder before it was warm enough to put them outside in their coop. We had to move them outside at about 8 weeks, and they didn’t have all their adult feathers yet, so we had to maneuver some heat sources for a bit because it wasn’t warm enough outside for them yet! That was a pain and I would wait a few more weeks before getting chicks next time. The end of April/beginning of May would have been a better time to get them all for our climate.
To Wrap Up
When you are deciding on baby chicks, you will want to decide which breed(s) you will choose, whether you are getting all females or if you want a rooster, where you will purchase them from, and you will need to take into consideration the time of year you are bringing them home.
I will be sharing about the supplies you need when you bring your baby chicks home soon!