There are 5 major mistakes people make when purchasing chicks, of course, we all make more mistakes than that.
We have narrowed it down to these major 5 – buying straight run when you only want eggs, buying meat bird chicks, buying an ornamental or game breed, buying from a shady source, or just flat out too many!
Chicks are absolutely adorable, and it can be really tough not to impulse buy a whole box full, but if you buy the wrong ones you can end up regretting it.
Chickens can live a long time and can bring a lot of joy (and eggs). Purchasing and raising chicks is a wonderful journey, but one that should be taken very seriously.
Purchasing Chicks Mistake #1: You Bought Straight Run
Most chicks are sold “straight run” which means they’re a mix of male and female.
This is because most chicks cannot be easily sexed at one day of age! Some larger hatcheries can sex chicks, but it’s not 100% accurate and is a very unpleasant experience for the birds.
When you buy a small number of chicks you can easily end up with most or all roosters.
Unless you are prepared to process them once they get large enough or know a friend that has agreed to take the roosters, you may run into trouble once the crowing starts.
The best choice for someone that just wants a few hens is to buy started pullets. They won’t require the investment of setting up a brooder and co go straight out into your coop!
If you absolutely want the joy of raising chicks (and it is definitely a joy), there are a few breeds that can be sexed at hatch!
Bielefelder Kennhuhn, Niederrheiner, Norske Jaerhon, Cream Legbars, and a bunch of others that end in -bar.
There are also many crossbreeds available that can be sexed at hatch, like Red Sex Links, Black Sex Link, ISA Browns, Golden Comets, Red Stars, Cinnamon Queens, and Black Stars.
If you only want hens that lay eggs in your urban backyard coop, then those are the birds for you!
There is no struggling with an unexpected rooster when you buy started pullets or autosexing chicks.
Purchasing Chicks Mistake #2: You Bought Meat Birds (Or a Breed that Lays Poorly)
Not all feed stores have warnings and will assume the customers know what they’re buying.
This results in an unfortunately not infrequent issue of people buying meat bird chicks for their backyard coop.
You may seem some with names like Red Ranger or Kosher King, but the most common meat bird is the Cornish Cross. They can be sweet birds, but they are bred for meat production and usually live relatively short, uncomfortable lives.
There are also more “ornamental” breeds that look pretty, but don’t lay many eggs or get as large as meat birds. They can be a fun hobby bird but are pretty useless for anything else.
If you want a decent number of large eggs you should avoid the following breeds: Araucana, Cubalaya, Sicilian Buttercup, Indian Game, Egyptian Fayoumi, Easter Eggers, Silkie, Polish, Ameraucana, and Wyandotte.
Purchasing Chicks Mistake #3: You Bought an Unfriendly Breed
Sometimes there’s a breed of chicken that looks really neat or is “rare” and that can result in another type of terrible impulse buy.
Some breeds of chicken need a lot of room and can’t handle the confinement that most backyard coops require.
Now, lots of a chicken’s behavior and aggression depends on how you handle them at a young age, and raise them. But in general, some breeds are very nervous and flighty, which can be unpleasant to have as a pet.
Breeds that are less friendly include Ancona, Andalusian, Appenzeller, Sicilian Buttercup, Chantacler, Crevecoeur, Cubalaya, Egyptian Fayoumi, Hamburg, Jaerhon, La Fleche, Lakenvelder, Leghorn, Minorca, Russian Orloff, Penedesenca, Rhode Island Red, and White-Faced Black Spanish.
Breeds that can be hit-or-miss include Campine, Chantecler, Dominique, Langshan, Marans, New Hampshire Red, and Polish.
Also, anything that names include “game” or “gamebird” is a terrible choice for your backyard chicken coop! They were bred for fighting other birds and will definitely win!
Purchasing Chicks Mistake #4: You Bought from a Dubious Source
Most large commercial hatcheries supply healthy chicks and have great policies in place to protect their customers.
For the casual keeper, they can be a great option. If you want to show birds, most commercial hatcheries won’t have super great examples of the breed.
They breed for sheer number, and not to meet the breed Standard of Perfection.
You can also source chickens from small-scale breeders or local small farms, but you’ll want to do your homework.
Some of the best birds out there come from people that carefully breed certain varieties to show standards.
At the same time, some of the worst chicks come from people breeding chickens to try and turn a quick profit.
You should make sure you buy chicks from breeders that are NPIP certified and have kept up with testing.
This certification is generally required to ship eggs or chicks across state lines. When someone chooses to participate in the NPIP program they have their birds tested and ensure that they are free from certain diseases.
Smaller breeders and hatcheries also may not be able to provide as much reimbursement or replacement as the larger hatcheries, especially if it’s your mistake.
Chicks can die pretty easily if not cared for correctly and, while large companies can eat that cost to keep you “happy,” smaller breeders can’t afford to coddle you in the same way.
If you buy chicks from a local individual, make sure to give them a good exam before completing the transaction. They should look like the breed they are advertised to be, and they should be willing to show their parents.
Individuals have been burned by buying chicks from a “local” breeder only to find out they were just reselling mega-hatchery chicks at an inflated cost.
When in doubt, walk away!
Purchasing Chicks Mistake #5: You Bought Too Many
Chicks are super tiny and it’s hard to imagine how much bigger they’ll get when fully grown!
However, they do grow, and they grow QUICK. Don’t pack them in the coop like sardines, because that’s when the picking and pecking starts and it’ll be very difficult to keep their home clean.
The outdoor run space needs to be about 10 square feet per bird, which means you’ll need a 40 square foot run for 4 hens! The coop for the same number of hens should be 16 square feet (that’s 4 square feet per hen) in addition to the run.
If you bought too many chickens you may not be in compliance with the local ordinances, which can get you in trouble. In addition, you’ll end up with fighting hens, dirty eggs, broken eggs that trigger egg eating, dirty and disheveled looking birds, mud, and odor.
Hens need a little space to do their normal hen activities. If they don’t have their personal bubble to dust bathe, stretch their wings, peck, and scratch, and preen they can start to become stressed.
The more chickens you have packed into space means the more often it needs to be cleaned. Combine that with spilled feed and water and you can quickly become tired of dealing with the mess (and your neighbors will become tired of your chickens.)
#6 Bonus: You Don’t Know Where To Buy Chicks, So You Buy On Some Random Site
Don’t just hop online and purchase baby chicks from a website. Where to buy chicks online takes a little more research than just adding them to a shopping cart.
Believe it or not, there are some chicken site scams out there where they will have you fill out you CC info and weeks go buy and NO CHICKS!
Ooof! If only you had done your research. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
FAQ on Mistakes When Buying Chicks
How Much Does It Cost For A Baby Chick?
A baby chick can cost between 3$ and 5$. As the chick gets older they can be up to $30 depending on the breed.
This is because they are closer in age to their egg-laying potential if they are a hen.
Can You Buy Female Baby Chicks?
Yes, and if you want to pay a little extra, you can make sure the chickens are sexed. This guarantees that your chicks are most likely going to be females if that is what you are looking for.
Final Thoughts on Top 5 Mistakes When Purchasing Chicks
If you consider these 5 things, you should have no problem picking the best birds for your backyard or farm!
Just be sure to take a deep breath and avoid any impulse purchases and you’ll have a great flock for years to come.