Where To Buy Chicks: A Hatchery Vs A Farm Supply Store

Knowing where to buy chicks can feel a little… well, disheartening.

You want to get good quality animals but how do you know which place has the best animals? Which is the best place to buy your farm chicks? A farm store or order from a hatchery?

I have bought chicks from both farm stores and ordered from hatcheries multiple times and I will give you the pros and cons of both.

As soon as we get to the end of February we are dreaming of warmer weather. Farm supply stores are all pushing the “chick days” that somehow warm our souls to get through the cold winter days.

Young chicks in the backyard.

🐥Getting those little fluffy bundles of work fun is one of my favorite times of the season.🐥

It can be tempting to buy baby chicks as soon as you see those water troughs filled with those little balls of fluff. But then you stop yourself… are these really the best option?

This post is all about where to buy chicks and the pros and cons of buying from a farm store or ordering from a hatchery.

Should You Buy Chicks From A Hatchery Online?

If you order baby chicks through a hatchery online they will arrive to you at about 48hrs old. They are shipped out the day they are hatched and it takes about a day and a half to ship them from one side of the U.S. to another.

(Keep scrolling for the prose and cons.)

Below are a few reputable hatcheries that do well and you can call to place your order or go online. 📦Your chicks will be shipped to you in the mail! Yep, that’s right in the mail! They will be shipped and sent to your local post office and you pick them up there.📦

🔽See?Its a special box with heat blocks and stuffed with shredded wood type grass to help keep them warm. 🔽

a shipping box from a hatchery with live chicks

The postmasters don’t send them to your home because that would be extremely risky. More often than not the box that the chicks come in will not fit in your mailbox. If left at your front door the chicks would be subject to the weather, neighborhood cats, and other pests.

You have to be able to pick up the chicks the day they arrive before the post office closes. They come with a tracking number so you will be able to know where they are at all times and when they arrive.

Here are the hatcheries that I recommend.

Cackle Hatchery (Missouri)

  • www.cacklehatchery.com I personally love this hatchery. They have great quality birds and if you have kids showing at the county fair they keep them as close to the standard as possible. You will not be disappointed. This is where we ordered from when we showed in 4-H and had great comments from judges and often placed very well. They also have a wide selection and variety of breeds.

Mount Healthy Hatchery (Ohio)

  • www.mthealthy.com (Friends have used)

Meyer Hatchery (Ohio)

  • www.meyerhatchery.com (another great option but less selection)

Cons For Buying Chicks From a Hatchery

  • Chicks are much more unstable, even experienced raisers can lose a few chicks. But once you get the hang of it it’s not hard.
  • Getting chicks from a hatchery can also be a bit pricey. The chicks will be about a dollar more than buying from tractor supply or another farm store and you also pay for shipping if you cannot pick them up from the hatchery. Depending on the shipping policies you may have to buy as many as 15-25 birds. (Don’t dismiss due to the price. There are some pretty heavy cons to buying from a farm store) Even though that is quite a few birds I often will plan on posting any chickens for sale that I don’t want to keep. Which will help offset the cost.
  • You have to order several months out. Most hatcheries only hatcher certain breeds on certain days. So if you are wanting several breeds that will take even further out. I always order my chicks from a hatchery mid-January and they are often not hatched until April.

Pros To Buy Chicks From A Hatchery

A good commercial hatchery tends to have much nicer-looking and better-quality chicks. YOu can also be sure that they are not crossed with another breed.

Being crossed can cause the hens to not lay according to the breed standard and also affects the temperament of the bird. Sometimes causing them to be more aggressive. Personally, I like buying chicks from a hatchery because I am getting exactly what I want and no surprises.

If your kids are looking for project birds you need to have pure-bred birds if you want them to do well.

Plus they also tend to have a wide variety of chick breeds. You can even buy hatching eggs from some of them which is much cheaper.

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Pro Tip: Ok this is more of a theory so take it for what it’s worth. It’s not a secret that I love Cochins. Which only come in straight run (unsexed). You can not buy only pullets of that breed. Every time we buy chicks of a straight-run breed that does not offer the pullet-only option… we never get an overabundance of cockerels (young roosters).

Here is why I think we don’t get a lot of roosters with breeds that are not offered as sexed. If people are ordering only pullets from more common egg-laying breeds like Leghorns or Road Island Reds you are going to end up with more roosters because the hatchery has gone through that batch of chicks and pulled the hens for everyone that has ordered only pullets. Leaving the straight run buyers with a ton of males… I hope that was clear but it makes total sense to me😆

pullets and cockrols in a backyard

If you want to order chicks online here is a post that gives you all of my best tips for ordering chicks from a hatchery.

Buy Chicks Form Feed Supply Stores

Here are some farm supplies stores where you often see chicks for sale.

I have personally bought birds from both tractor supply and Rural King and I was not thrilled with the results both times.

At Tractor Supply it was clear that a few of the birds we bought were mixed. The ducks were supposed to be one breed but a few had streaks of color from a completely different breed that should never show up in that breed.

So I knew they were mixed.

There were some disappointing things about the chicks from Rural King. While they did seem purebred every time we PAID extra to buy females. Every single time there were far more roosters than females.

I couldn’t complain if we bought straight-run (unsexed) birds. But when we pay to have pullets (females) I better get pullets. When I buy from a hatchery I have never had issues with gender being wrong.

  • Tractor Supply
  • Rural King
  • Buckley Brothers Inc.
chicks in a tub from a hatchery

Pros For Buying Chicks From Feed Supply Stores

When you buy chicks from a feed supply store like Tractor Supply you get them that day and they have made it through shipping so you don’t have to worry about the first-day shipping shock. They are often $5 dollars a chick depending on the breed and if they are “sexed” (with a big fat eye roll)

  • Often cheaper because you don’t have to pay for shipping.
  • The chicks have been around for a few days so the less stable chicks have already passed on. This lessens your chances of losing chicks you paid for.

Cons For Buying Chicks From Feed Supply Stores

I have two main issues when buying from feed stores.

  • Many breeds are straight run which means the chicks are not sexed. Read the signs carefully. If it does not say pullets at the end of the breed they are most likely straight run and the percentage of roosters is far higher than the percentage of hens.
  • The breeds are often not as good of quality and tend to be mixed sometimes. It’s not obvious in most cases but if you are looking for birds for kids to show or want nice-looking animals then you will be disappointed.

Not ready for baby chicks?

Give “toddlers” a try… (birds that are 3-6 months old. Toddlers is not an official term I just made that up 😉

The most common way to find young chickens is by looking in your local Craigslist postings. If you prefer older chickens you can expect to pay 15-20 dollars a bird and as much as 50 dollars for the uncommon breeds.

The main thing I would caution you about is with buying started birds you run the risk of bringing diseases home to your other birds you already have or onto your property. Just make sure the other birds on the seller’s property look healthy and as clean as is possible with poultry. Mainly they are not sitting in filth. You should be fine.

FAQs about where to buy chicks

Where is the best place to find chicks?

If you want fast. Going to a Tractor Supply Or Rural King to buy chicks will be your best option. If you want variety and good quality birds ordering from a hatchery will be better.

Can you buy a baby chick?

You can buy baby chicks but even if you buy from a farm store the minimum is usually 4-6 birds. You can’t buy just one chick. Mainly because chickens are flock animals and they will also do better if you are raising them from chicks if you have more than one.

How much does it cost to buy a chick?

You can find chicks as low as $3 dollars to as much as $10 a chick. It all depends on the breed and how many you buy. If you are not sure which breed is right for you check out this post.▶ 10+ Small Chicken Breeds For Homesteaders With Small Pieces Of Land

Can you buy baby chicks year-round?

I would say you can order or buy chicks in about 10 out of the 12 months. Mid-winter even the farm stores tend to not buy chicks just because it’s hard to raise chicks in the winter. Plus you will be stuck with having larger chicks indoors for longer.

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Here Are Some Quick Tips To Help You Have Healthy Chicks No Matter Where You Buy Them

Your Day-Old Chicks going to need heat ASAP. So I would recommend you have your brooder set up before you leave to go get the chicks. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just a tub with a heat lamp with a 250 watt heat lamp bulb, pine shavings, and water with electrolytes will do. 

Chicks in a tub with pine bedding that was ready for them

They need temperatures around 90 degrees for the first week and keep them out of drafts. Even if you have a heat lamp on them the draft can still kill them. 

Get your new-day-old baby chick’s, chick starter feed that is a crumble. Chicks can not eat layer pellets until they are at least 3 months old simply because of the size. 

I hope this helps you make an informed decision on where to buy chicks.

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