"Older" hens from hatcheries???
Many of the commercial hatcheries offer "started" birds - these can range from the "coop ready" age of 6+ weeks to "point of lay" birds at 16+ weeks of age. Alternatively, many folks sell these same started birds locally after ordering the day-olds from hatcheries and starting them then selling off the "extras" to pay for their entire order - the advantage of this option is that the expense of shipping the more mature birds is significantly higher when ordering from the hatchery so sourcing them locally at that age/stage is better.
Ol Grey Mare is correct... certain hatcheries offer "started pullets" at a higher price. These birds are closer to the point of lay, but buying them later is more costly (although you do save money not having to raise chicks). I have linked the Meyer Hatchery and Murray McMurray "started pullets" pages to this post. Fewer breeds are offered than chicks, but they are in the age range you are looking for.
Hope this helps! Best of luck with your flock!!
I had the same issue when looking for pullets. I couldn't find a hatchery in my area and routinely checked Craig's List but once I found a listing, I then became concerned that I would be given a male rooster instead of a female hen. Since I was new to the world of chickens, I would not then have been able to tell the difference between a rooster and a hen. Nor would I have known if I was getting the young chicken that was advertised or a sickly, older one.
I ended up ordering female chicks from a popular online site / hatchery. They were "guaranteed" to be hens. When two of my hens turned out to be roosters, I had to give them away. This was heart-breaking since I raised them from day old chicks. The hatchery refunded my money but this "guarantee" was not what I had hoped for when ordering. I later learned about the horrors of hatcheries and how the day old male chicks are culled as most buyers want only female egg layers and there is little to no use for the males. I was horrified by what goes on in the hatcheries and suggest that you befriend someone who already has chickens and ask if you could buy a pullet.
PenelopeRose, I wouldn't paint with so broad of a brush when discussing hatcheries. You must remember something - there are differences between commercial food hatcheries and hatcheries that breed specific birds for sale to consumers. Egg laying facilities do cull male chicks because they offer no revenue, however hatcheries that sell chicks to chicken keepers operate much differently. You must remember that they are businesses, and unethical practices like the ones you mention (culling of day old males) are actions that many users on here would find repulsive. For these reasons, the hatcheries mentioned on this forum practice better standards. I can't speak for them completely, but I have seen hatchery representatives interact with users on this forum on questions, concerns and problems. This forum would be overwhelmingly critical in the event that unethical practices were exposed. For these reasons, you cannot associate hatcheries with those used in food production.
Secondly, it is more difficult to find a breeder selling pullets than you would think. Raising a chick costs a lot of money, and presumably raising a chick to pullet age implies that the owner will keep the hen. There are sellers that sell pullets, but I've often spent weeks/months searching for pullets because of their scarce availability.
My true concern with hatcheries is shipping. I put very little trust in the transit - not because I believe humanity is bad - but I can't imagine that every box is read properly or tended to well. I really do abhor the idea of baby chicks being sent in the mail because I've seen some horror stories of some not making it. It is just a very rough journey for the birds. For those reasons, I search for local breeders, but it doesn't always work out well.
Lastly - most local breeders in my area buy chicks to raise and sell as pullets. In effect, you're still getting a hatchery chick. Unless you are going directly to a farm where they chicks are hatched, it is entirely possible that you've bought a mature hatchery chick when seeking pullets. My best advice is to do research, ask around, post in the buy/sell, and explore all options. Just don't hate on hatcheries in the process. I don't think many of the ones mentioned on this forum are bad institutions. Sometimes, they are the best alternative for a buyer looking to raise chickens.
As one of the local breeders, I want to explain a bit from the breeder's perspective. I have no plans to compete with the big hatcheries, I raise and sell breeds they can't be bothered with, like Cream Legbars and Rhodebars. I do cull male chicks at a few days of age, but I do it in a manner that is humane, and their bodies become food, not waste. If I were to sell 100 pullet chicks and keep all the males, you can imagine the chaos that would ensue at the farm. I do grow out and then free range some males. Many of these end up being eaten later also, though perhaps one could argue they had a life to live, even if shorter than the ideal.
Until science comes up with a way to sex eggs reliably so we only hatch females (and still eat the males, just as fertilized eggs), the need to cull male chicks will exist. That's a fact that ultimately can't be worked around. We would all prefer a better solution, but even when I offer to give away male chicks, I can't find homes for them all.
If anyone has any ideas I have not considered, please let me know. I'd love to find a place for all the males to grow up in a nice, pastoral setting.