How to Start Your Flock

In this article, we’ll discuss several different ways to start your flock.

Buy Day Old Baby Chicks

new chicks from McMurray Hatchery

New day old baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery

Most of our customers buy day old baby chicks. They’re called “day old” because they’re shipped to you the day that they’re hatched. Amazingly, newly hatched chicks can survive for up to 72 hours on the nutrition gained from absorbing their yolk sacs.

Day old baby chicks can be shipped throughout most of the United States. Since the chicks depend on each other’s body heat for warmth during shipping, there is a minimum order size of 15 or 25 birds, depending on the time of year.

When the chicks arrive, they’ll need to go into a brooder, which is a place that will keep the chicks warm while they’re young, much like a mother hen would have done had she hatched them, only it’s done with heat lamps or heating elements. The chicks will need water right away and food. (If you’ve never raised day old baby chicks before, see our instructions on brooding day old baby chicks.) The chicks will need to stay in the brooder for several weeks as they grow and feather out. Once they no longer need supplemental heat, they’ll be ready to go into an outdoor coop.

Hatch Fertile Chicken Eggs

Incubator

Incubator

A second option is to start with fertile eggs and hatch them yourself in an incubator. Depending on the type of chickens you want to raise, you can buy hatching eggs or get them from a friend or neighbor and hatch them yourself. It takes about 21 days to hatch chicks from eggs, then once you hatch them, you’ll be starting with day old baby chicks just like above.

If you have access to an incubator and a good source for the kind of eggs that you want to hatch, hatching is a rewarding learning experience that requires a little more equipment (namely, the incubator) and a little more attention and care than starting with day old chicks, since the eggs will require fairly close attention during the 21 days that they’re in the incubator. If you’ve never raised chickens before, we recommend starting with day old baby chicks or one of other options below.

Buy Started Chicks

Barred Rock

Four week old Barred Rock

A third option is to buy started chicks — chicks that have been raised in  a brooder until they reach 4-9 weeks of age. When you buy started chicks, you’ll receive them at about the age when they’re ready to come out of the brooder and be placed into a chicken coop. If the weather is moderate, they’ll be ready to go directly into your chicken coop without the need for supplemental heat. Beginning with started chicks can save you the extra effort, attention and equipment needed to care for young chicks in a brooder, but the cost per bird will be higher because of the extra care, feed and equipment needed to raise them to this age, and shipping costs are higher for these larger chicks.

Buy Started Pullets

Started Delaware pullet

Started Delaware pullet

A fourth option is to buy started pullets. These are female chickens that are approaching laying age (18 weeks and up, typically). In most cases, they won’t have started laying yet, but they’ll be ready to lay soon. Started pullets are essentially young adult birds that are fully ready to be placed into an outdoor coop. If you’re looking to start getting eggs from your new flock quickly, this is a good way to start. Because of the additional care, feed and housing that it takes to raise the birds to this age, started pullets cost more per bird than started chicks, and because of their larger weight and size, shipping costs are higher.

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5 Responses to How to Start Your Flock

  1. ann says:

    i have seven two yr old hens in a large coop12 x 12, and they do not lay, at all!! anything i can do?

  2. Colleen says:

    I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about becoming a 1st time chicken mom. I have always wanted to have chickens and I’m so excited! Liviing in northwest Montana, we can get 4-6 feet of snow on the ground. I have carefully planned everthing. Snow removal is not a problem, but I’m more nervous about baby chicks than I was with my first born!! Is buying pullets a good idea? That sounds more appealing than the day olds.

  3. Jeffrey Scott Williams says:

    If you’re a tech geek and like to monitor progress. Then I recommend Incubation. If you’re more the mothering type and like to feed and nourish. I would have to say that baby chicks are going to be your passion. If you enjoy the outdoors and enjoy chatting and a little fuss. I’m betting on the four week old teenagers to tell you everything you’ll want to know. Now if your a bit busy but have time for cores. I highly recommend you start with the older started bird. I am no expert but these are what my hens recommend.

  4. Melody says:

    I started with day old chicks they are now 3 weeks old and acclimated to 75 degrees. This is my first time and I am trying to be a good mama, but have a few questions.
    At what age can I let them out of their coop?
    When can I introduce veggie scraps to them?
    Ate what age do I change from Chick feed and chick grit to regular Chicken feed?
    I have a little runt, she is half the size of the others, doesn’t appear to be picked on-I have watched her and she is not afraid of the others and stands her ground, she looks like she is in good health…should I be doing anything extra for her?
    Thanks for helping me along,
    Melly

  5. Filly Wilkins says:

    Since my henhouse is an older building and I haven’t room for chicks in it until they are big enough.
    We raise show dogs and our puppies are all born in the house since we use a whelping box it is a perfect thing to use to get the chicks up to the size that they can go to the henhouse.

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