Where To Buy Chicks, Hatching Eggs, and Chickens
I started out raising chickens three years ago and have purchased them from a variety of places -- including hatcheries, locally, and from a breeder. This article will provide you with information about where you can go to pick up anything from chicks to adult birds.
One place to order from are hatcheries. Check out the Chicken Breeders & Hatcheries section for reviews and more information. Chicken hatcheries hatch thousands of chicks each week and are located in various states. They send them in little boxes to the post office nearest you as day old chicks. Hatcheries are good if you wish to buy large numbers of birds or just a variety of chicks. They have many breeds such as hens that lay very well, meat birds, exotic birds, bantams, and birds that lay green eggs. There are large hatcheries like Murray McMurray who have a minimum order of fifteen birds. If you want fewer chicks than that, places like Meyer Hatchery and My Pet Chicken have a minimum order of just three. There are other smaller hatcheries out there that offer just a couple select breeds but are often better quality than those you find in the larger hatcheries. Chicks from hatcheries may not be the best if you are planning to show them. They are bred more for egg production than overall quality of appearance. Some hatcheries offer juvenile birds too. If you want eggs quickly you can order these "teen" birds and they'll begin laying faster than a chick does. These birds are typically 15-22 weeks old.
When you order from a hatchery you can usually pick the gender of the chick you want so you won't end up with extra roosters. McMurray does send extra chicks along though (sometimes) to keep the chicks warm on their journey to your house. Usually the chicks are males but you might get lucky and have a girl! Another option McMurray has is the option of getting a free mystery chick. That is really exciting. I ended up with a female partridge Cochin. Although ordering from a hatchery gets to be stressful while you wait for your little ones to arrive, it's very exciting to get your box of chicks in the mail!
If you're having a hard time deciding what type of breeds you want, hatcheries have options like the "Rainbow Layer" pack. You'll end up with different breeds that lay a variety of eggs in different colors. Or you could get a pack that offers all exotic birds. Sometimes it's fun to get a surprise. You can also order eggs from a hatchery to hatch at home.
If you would rather not go through the whole hatchery process, you can ask your local feed store if they are ordering chicks in the spring. Places like Tractor Supply Company order chicks in the spring and you can go there and pick them out yourself. Some feed stores have you list a breed you want and then you'll come in and pick up your order, while others will just order a bunch of breeds. One thing to note though: sometimes the breeds and genders get mixed up and you might end up with something else. It's hard to resist baby chicks in the feed store around spring time. You fall in love on the spot! Every once in a while my feed store has a swap day where people will bring their birds early in the morning and you can trade/buy new birds.
Another option is to just search locally. One place I use is Craigslist. If you type in "chicks" or "chickens" in the search engine, results will pop up in your area and you can usually e-mail or call the person to go pick your birds out. You never know what breeds you may find on Craigslist and you might get an awesome bird that hatcheries don't even offer! Some people sell their birds very cheap too. Personally, I love to meet other chicken enthusiasts. It's really neat to go to an old barn and pick out one of the chicks you see running around. You need to take normal precautions when meeting people on Craigslist, like not traveling alone and making sure their location is in a safe place. One thing many people locally don't offer though are vaccinations. If you order from a hatchery you can get your chick vaccinated for as little as 16 cents. Also, check your classified ads in the newspaper too, I often see ads in the farm section for chicks around spring time. Although most farmers don't sex their chicks, some do and you can ask them if they do. There is always a 50% chance you'll end up with a boy instead of a girl.
Breeders are also an option for finding chicks. Some breeders will ship eggs to you from across the country for you to hatch. If you're looking to show your chickens at the fair, breeders are a good option. Breeders strive for perfection in their breeds and you'll get a show quality bird from them. Breeders are sometimes more expensive than other places. You can find breeders around the internet, locally, or even here -- on BackYard Chickens!
Raising chickens is a fun and exciting hobby to have. There are so many places to buy birds of all different kinds, and you never know just what you might get!