If you’ve decided that raising chickens is right for you, the next big step is buying chicks! But where can you buy chickens? It’s not like they sell them at the local pet store!
There are many different places to buy chickens, and pros and cons to each place. We’ll cover all of them so you can make the best decision going forward.
Option 1: Mail order from a hatchery
The first option, and usually the easiest, is to buy chickens from an online hatchery. People have been mail ordering chicks for decades, and as long as you know what you’re doing, it’s a great option.
There are several large hatcheries that will ship live chicks to your local post office for pick up. You can conveniently browse and order online. You could even say this option is a little too easy, as many chicken keepers end up having a lot of fun filling their online cart with little cuties!
Most hatcheries have great resources to help decide which breeds are right for you and have great customer service and trustworthy reputations.
The chicks will be shipped to your local post office and then you’ll need to go pick them up. It’s a good idea to call the post office and let them know ahead of time that you’re expecting a box of live chicks, and leave your number for them to call you when they arrive. Rural post offices are very used to handling these packages but urban and suburban post offices may not be as practiced.
When you get that call, you’ll need to head to the post office right away so you can get your chicks home and comfortable as soon as possible. It pays to have your brooder set up and heated before you get the chicks.
Mail Order Pros:
- Large hatcheries have a huge selection of chicks and you can get practically any breed on your wish list.
- This is also usually the cheapest option to get chickens, as they come directly from the place where they hatched.
- Chicks are usually sexed, so you are less likely to end up with roosters.
- Chicks generally come vaccinated against common diseases.
- It’s mighty convenient to order online, all you need to do is make a trip to the post office to get your birds.
Mail Order Cons:
- Hatcheries usually require a minimum order on chicks, sometimes 25 or more birds at a time. This can be way too huge for your backyard flock and you’ll have to find someone to split the order with. Every hatchery has a different minimum order, so be sure to check first!
- Ordering chicks in the mail can be risky. It stresses out the chicks and can result in at least one dead chick upon arrival. This can be a tough way to start out your chicken raising adventure, for both you and the birds.
- Some hatcheries are better than others and you must do your research before buying. Look for reputable hatcheries that are well known for being clean, disease-free, and treat their birds well. Hatcheries that have been around for decades are generally most trust-worthy. You can also ask around in chicken keeping groups for advice on the best hatcheries.
Option 2: Rural Farm Stores
If you decide mail order isn’t right for you, or don’t want to order their minimum number of chicks, most farm or feed stores carry chicks in the spring. They usually order a few different breeds per week. Chick availability usually starts in late February and goes until April or May.
In our experience, small family-run stores are more trustworthy and will go the extra mile for you. Large corporate chains have more of a tendency to make mistakes and oversell you on things you don’t need.
Some farm stores will also order specific breeds for you from the big hatcheries. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Most of these farm stores like Tractor Supply and Runnings will post information about their “Chick Days” both in stores and online around February. They’ll list breeds that will be available and dates. If you’re looking for a special breed be sure to get there early so you don’t miss out!
Farm Store Pros:
- You don’t need to worry about chicks going through the mail.
- Staff will help you find appropriate items for your chicks, and should be able to answer any questions about raising chicks. This personal touch is great for a newbie chicken keeper.
- You can buy a small number of chicks and get a variety of different breeds.
- Going to a local store can be more convenient. With hatcheries, you get the chicks whenever they arrive at your post office, which could be in the middle of the work day. With farm stores, you can choose the date and time that you bring chicks into your life.
Farm Store Cons:
- Some farm stores may not care for the chicks correctly or separate them by breed and gender. Many chicken keepers complain that chicks bought from big corporate farm stores aren’t as healthy or hearty as they should be.
- There’s a limited selection of breeds.
- Timeframe for chick availability may not fall within your specific needs.
Option 3: Local Farms
If you’re lucky, there may be a local farm within driving distance that will sell chicks or adult birds. We’re very lucky to live close to such a farm, that acts as a “middle man” between hatchery and customer.
They order the large batches of chicks from the hatchery then sell them in smaller, more manageable quantities. They provide personal customer service and are there for you through thick and thin. Some farms even hatch their own chicks and sell them to the public.
These farms are not very common, but if there’s one nearby, you can track them down. Conducting internet searches for chicks for sale or posting in local online chicken communities can help you find the best local chicken supplier.
Local Farm Pros:
- Personalized service and advice from experienced chicken farmers.
- Local farms allow you to hand select your chicks, which is great fun!
- You can drive your chicks home instead of mailing them, resulting in less risk for the birds and lower stress for all involved.
- Peace of mind: You can see the chicks before you buy them, you know they are coming from a reputable source.
Local Farm Cons:
- Usually more expensive than the hatchery.
- There may be fewer breeds to choose from.
- The chicks may not be sexed.
Option 4: Order and incubate eggs
Many farms sell fertile hatching eggs locally and online. You can find practically any breed you can think up and can order them in small or large quantities.
Hatching chicks is really fun and starting from scratch like this is a great way to get the whole chicken experience. We’ve been hatching chicks for years and it truly never gets old.
Watching our new hens coming into the world and bonding with them right from day one is really special.
We recommend everyone experience hatching chicks at some point in their time as chicken keepers, but it may not be a viable option for first timers.
Hatching chicks requires a considerable amount of research and preparation. If you choose this option, you’ll need to purchase an incubator as well as a high quality thermometer and hygrometer for measuring the temperature and humidity in the incubator.
If you’re confident and adventurous, go for it, it’s a bundle of fun!
- You’re in control and in-the-know about your chicks from the very start.
- It’s highly rewarding and lots of fun.
- It’s easier to buy rare and interesting breeds this way.
- Hatching eggs are generally cheaper than chicks
- It’s a great learning experience, especially for children.
- Small incubators can be purchased for around $75.
- Resulting chicks will not be sexed, you will end up with roosters.
- It requires a lot of research to learn how to hatch chicks.
- There’s extra equipment to purchase.
- There’s no guarantee that the eggs will all hatch.
- Hatching can go wrong, resulting in deformed, diseased, or dead chicks, which can be hard to handle for new chicken keepers.
So as you can see, every option of buying chicks has definite pros and cons. Different options appeal to different people. It pays to do some research and look into which farms and stores around you might be selling chicks this spring!