The excitement of ordering your first clutch of chicks may end up causing some confusion upon their arrival. Especially if, a few months down the line, some of your layers start crowing. If this happens, you may have inadvertently ordered straight run chickens instead of all females. If you’re in a position to continue raising the surprise roosters in your flock, you could keep the boys around to protect your ladies. You could also plan a nice chicken dinner down the road. But, to clarify a few things before you place your next order, I’m uncovering what straight run chicken actually is. After reading this article, you’ll never end up with more than you bargained for.
What is a Straight Run Chicken?
A straight run chicken can be any breed of chicken because the term only refers to the labeling of the group your clutch of chicks is coming from…in reference to the sex of the chick. In other words, a straight run chicken is a chick that comes from a hatch that has not been sexed and the chicks in this particular grouping could be males or females. You probably won’t come across the term straight run when referencing adult chickens, because, at that point, the sex of the full-grown chicken is much more obvious.
What are the Pros of Ordering Straight Run Chicks
Arguably, the biggest perk of ordering straight run chicks is the fact that they will cost you less. This is because the process of sexing a chick is tedious, a tad time consuming, and in general, someone must get paid to do it. In other words, it’s not easy to do. After 15 years of owning chickens, and raising my own chicks, I still cannot determine the sex of my baby chicks…frankly, I’ll leave that to the pros. If you look at a hatchery as though it were a factory (I know bad example, but bear with me), in essence, skipping the sexing process cuts down on the workload and skips a step in the process, therefore, you won’t have to pay for that step. Additionally, straight run chickens cost less because you’re taking a risk in not knowing what you’re getting.
As a side note: Roosters usually cost less than all hens and less than straight run chicks. This is because there is a higher demand for laying hens than roosters. This is mostly true for heritage breeds and is the opposite for broilers because, for meat birds, the end goal is a larger bird with more meat on its carcass.
If you’re hoping for both males and females in your straight run order, you’ll be happy to find a healthy mix of both males and females as your chickens mature. Roosters are fantastic for protecting free-range hens, fertilizing eggs, and for entertainment (roosters are fun to watch and they’re often very colorful birds).
Meat and Eggs
When it comes to dual-purpose breeds, ordering straight run may make more sense, especially if you’re hoping to butcher your own chickens, and collect eggs from the hens. Roosters are larger than hens, and many purchase straight run every year with plans to process roosters at maturity. The hens will be kept around much longer for eggs. With that being said, ordering straight run broilers may not be as advantageous if you want eggs because both sexes should be processed. Moreover, broiler hens are extremely poor layers. On that note, you should only order straight run broilers if all are intended for butcher. Keep in mind, however, that hens grow slower and not as large as roosters…if that’s a concern. Conversely, male broilers are priced higher than females and straight run broilers simply due to the demand for the rooster with more meat.
If you want to order a clutch of chicks and raise your own flock each year from your initial order, you’ll get a variety of males and females that will reproduce each year. As you know, you need a hen and a rooster to make more baby chicks. Once you have fertilized eggs, you can allow your hen to hatch her own chicks, or you can incubate them yourself.
What are the Cons of Ordering Straight Run Chicks?
When you order straight run chicks, there is no guarantee that you’ll get x number of females and x number of males. Technically speaking, you could get all of one sex…but I’ve never heard of that happening.
If you plan to butcher the roosters or keep your favorite for fertilizing your hens’ eggs, straight run might be the best option for you. But if you know you want a certain number of each sex, it will cost you more to order the amount you’d like from each category.
Ending up with roosters you didn’t want can be a huge pain when they begin to mature. Especially if you live in a town that doesn’t allow roosters (due to crowing). Roosters can be noisy, some are aggressive, and they may fight with each other if there aren’t enough hens for each rooster to claim. So, unless you have a plan for the roosters in your order, stick with ordering all females.
How Do I Make Sure I Order the Right Chicken Sex?
If you’re ordering from your favorite online hatchery, it’s usually pretty clear which sex you’ll be ordering. Most breed pages have quantity fields located next to each option (straight run, females, males). Sometimes these labels look different. Instead, you might see pullets or cockerels. To be clear, pullets are young hens and cockerels are young roosters. Be cautious when ordering rare or small breeds because these are often only available as straight run. Additionally, some hatcheries may only sell straight run in large quantities. With that being said, there are a lot of hatchery options online and, in most cases, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at some point during the year.
Feed or Supply Store
If you’re ordering from a brochure through a store or by calling the hatchery, make sure the preferences are clearly outlined and indicated before you place your order. If you’re on the phone with the hatchery, request that they repeat the order back to you so you can ensure you’re getting the correct sexes.
If you End Up With The Wrong Sexes
Unfortunately, when it comes to sexing chicks, it’s difficult to be 100% accurate (especially if the chicks are not sex link—meaning you can sex them based on feather color). So, in some cases, even when you order all males or females, you might find one or two incorrectly sexed chicks in the bunch. If this happens consider donating the chick to someone in need, a neighbor, or raising it up to butcher weight. No chicken is useless, and there’s always someone who would be happy to take it off your hands.