If you are considering getting chickens, you will probably have a lot of questions.
Among the decisions you will have to make is this big question…”Should I start with adult chickens or baby chicks?”
Cuteness factor – there is nothing quite like holding a little fuzz-ball in your hands.
Cost – per bird, chicks are definitely less expensive. At my local feed store, female chicks cost about $4 each compared to $12-15 each for a hen at point-of-lay. If you mail-order chicks the price is even lower. But when you add in all of the specialized equipment you need to raise baby chicks, they may not be cheaper after all.
Usually a larger selection available – if you are looking for a specific breed or one that is rare, your only choice may be to start with chicks.
You know where it’s been – when you start with a chick, you will know exactly how it has been treated and what it has been fed for it’s entire life.
Extra waiting time – most hens will not be ready to start laying for 20-24 weeks. This means 5-6 months of feeding, protecting from predators, and cleaning up after them before you get a single egg. If kids are involved, this is a really long time!
Increased interest from predators – whenever we have had baby chicks at our house, there has also been an increase of predators. Many predators will not bother a full-grown chicken but they will happily prey on a baby chick.
Specialized equipment needed – baby chicks need to be kept warm for the first 10 weeks or so. Normally their mama would do this but when you start with chicks you will need a special lamp that they can warm up under. You will have to adjust the temperature as they grow bigger. You will also need chick accessible waterers and feeders at the very least.
Constant care – although not as bad as a puppy or baby, chicks do need extra care and attention that adult chickens don’t necessarily need.
Less hassle – as cute as chicks are, adult chickens are just plain easier to take care of. I love that we can go out of town for the weekend without having to ask a neighbor to take care of the chickens. Just fill their water and food containers and they’re good to go for a few days (Note: depending on how fast your chickens go through food and water, this may or may not be possible for you).
No need for special chick feed – because adult chickens’ digestive systems are mature, they can eat regular, adult food thus reducing the initial costs because you won’t need to buy a bag of chick feed and then later need to buy a bag for adult birds. Just buy the adult food of course. And if you’re interested, you can read my article about making your own chicken feed, or this post about a chicken feed conspiracy.
Can already tell if it’s a rooster – This one is a huge plus! When you get an adult bird, there is no question whether it is a rooster or not. Ha, ha. With a chick, there is no guarantee you will get a female – even if that is what you think you bought. There will be no surprises when you start with an adult bird.
Higher price per bird – the initial cost per bird is higher for adult chickens. But as I mentioned above, it may not be cheaper once you factor in the specialized equipment and time you need.
Need a coop immediately – it’s always a good idea to have the coop ready BEFORE you get your birds. With chicks you have some time before they will need the coop but with adults, they will need somewhere to live in short order.
When we were considering getting chickens, the question of whether to start with adult birds or chicks was a big one in my mind. What we ended up doing is building the coop first and then finding a local farmer that we could buy a couple of adult hens from.
I know myself enough to know that I would be fed up with the work involved with raising chicks before very long and that I would be annoyed that we didn’t have eggs yet.
So in October of 2012, we bought one Rhode Island Red and one Silver-Laced Wyandote from a local farmer. They were both supposed to be at the point-of-lay (i.e. the age that a hen normally starts laying eggs) but since we got them in the fall and cold weather set in soon after we got them, they didn’t start laying until the following spring.
The next fall, the Rhode Island Red went broody and would not stop. I did some reading on the internet to figure out how to break a hen’s brood and came across the idea that you can give her a day-old chick and let her raise it.
Somehow, I was just crazy enough to try it.
I bought a chick from our local farm store (luckily they got a batch of chicks in the fall) and slipped it under her in the middle of the night. And it worked! You can read more about how to give a chick to a broody hen here.
Now I had the best of both worlds. I was able to enjoy having a chick and watching it grow up without having all of the extra work involved. The mama chicken did a great job keeping that baby warm and safe. So much easier than me trying to do all the work.
Easy…just the way I like it!!