As someone who is several years ahead of you on the "standard bred vs hatchery bred" path, I'd say that either option is fine, and that your use of the chickens will eventually point you in the direction that is right for you. Regardless of where you start, you can always change your course later. You're not signing a lifetime contract with these birds, and any birds you get will be a learning experience that you can use towards future flocks.
My household is a good example. Many years ago my husband ordered some Speckled Sussex from a hatchery. The hens were very pretty and sweet, but they were about 2 pounds undersized and laid many more eggs than is appropriate for the breed. They were more like sweet, calm, spotted Leghorns, and their excessive egg laying caused serious health problems, so many of the hens died (they were necropsied by a poultry pathologist, so that conclusion is definite, not an assumption). The roosters were mean and not well fleshed. They could not be free ranged because they attacked anything that moved, and they could not be kept in a bachelor pasture because they tried to kill each other (I'm not talking about the usual cockerel pecking order issues -- it was a fight to the death unless I intervened). Just to get them to slaughter size they had to be kept in individual grow out runs. My husband is stubborn, and insisted on keeping the "best" rooster for breeding, as he had fallen in love with the breed. The rooster couldn't be kept with the hens, as he was horribly abusive, so he spent his days in a large run in the center of the free range pasture, and spent his nights in a small run in the center of the overnight coop. Every time my husband tried to move him from one run to the other, the rooster attacked him, but my husband still wouldn't give up. By the time they were about 16 months old, I was just plain done with this arrangement, so I made a deal with my husband. He would let me slaughter Simon, the rooster from hell, if I could find him some good quality Speckled Sussex that represented the breed well in every aspect -- well fleshed, appropriate number of eggs, good health, vigorous, and wonderful pets. He finally agreed, and I started my search.
Within a few months I was able to find a wonderful breeder who shipped me 24 day-olds. These chicks were large and vigorous and just stunning. There were 8 pullets and 16 cockerels in the group, which was perfect for me, as I wanted about 6-8 hens and 2-3 cocks. This gave me plenty of cockerels to select from, and we got a good sampling of their meat potential, since they all fleshed out wonderfully. Now, even from a good breeder these chicks didn't all grow up to be perfect birds. A few of the cockerels were excessively aggressive for the breed, although no where near the vicious temperament of the hatchery boys. One of the cockerel chicks had some skeletal problems and had to be put down when he was just 2 months old. But at 13 months old, I now have 3 exhibition quality hens, 5 layer quality hens, 2 exhibition quality cocks, and 1 reserve cock. When I say exhibition quality bird, I don't mean that I plan on showing them, or that they would end up as champions if I did. What I mean is that they truly represent the breed up to that level. Their frame is perfect, their size is perfect, and they have all the finishing details right. The finishing details aren't as important to me (although I do truly appreciate their beauty), but the frame and size are important for production of both meat and eggs. And that level of breeding has also produced a bird that is healthy, vigorous, and has a perfect temperament. The Standard isn't just about being a pretty show bird, as the finishing details of color and comb and all the easily seen traits should never be the dominant factor in winning.. It's about producing a bird that has the right frame and size and health to be able to serve the farming purpose that they were developed to serve, as most of the SOP descriptions were written in the day when these birds were depended upon to feed the family, and the country, from family farms -- long before the development of the commercial broiler and layer hybrids.used in factory farming today.
So what's the difference in cost to get a hatchery bird vs a standard bred bird? In my case the hatchery chick cost $4.79 each, plus $30 shipping for 25 chicks. Several of the chicks died during shipping, and several of the hens died at their peak of production, so averaging out those losses and adding shipping would bring the cost of each chick up to about $9-10, not including the feed cost that was lost to raise those hens that died prematurely, losing both a lifetime of egg production and a good soup hen carcass, which is supposed to offset the cost of feed. Plus the poor feed efficiency of the cockerels that never fleshed out properly, producing a disappointing carcass. It also cost time and materials to build special housing for the cockerels as they grew out, and for the rooster that was kept. Plus the time of moving the jerk from indoor run to outdoor run and back again every day. And the loss of years in developing a good breeding program. And the frustration/disappointment of having poor quality birds.
The standard bred chicks cost me $7 each (actually $5.83 each, as I ordered 20 and was sent 24, all of which lived despite a shipping delay), plus $15 shipping. When you average out for the one chick that had to be euthanized before producing a usable carcass and add in shipping, the cost of each chick was $6.74, which is significantly less than the $9-10 of easily-calculated costs for each hatchery chick. It also "cost" a few months of searching APA show records, and posting questions online, and making a few phone calls, all of which ended up being a very positive experience that was done in my spare time, and resulted in no out-of-pocket costs. It costs just as much to feed a good quality bird as a poor quality bird, so we'll say that the feed costs are the same just to make it easier. All 12 of the standard bred cockerels that were slaughtered produced excellent carcasses, making the feed costs worthwhile for these birds, but not for the hatchery cockerels. There was no cost for special housing, and no time wasted for unique management needs. The breeding program will be able to progress on schedule. The temperament of the boys is wonderful, with each of the three cocks being totally safe lap roosters, and no serious fights in the bachelor pasture. When a layer hen occasionally flies into the bachelor pasture, they are obviously young males with normal virility, but they are also gentlemen with appropriate breeding behavior, not aggressive rapist roosters that frighten and attack the hen en masse. Overall, there is no disappointment in these birds, as I wanted Speckled Sussex, the total package of dual purpose production, farm vigor, health, temperament, and beauty, and that's exactly what I received. So for me, the standard bred chicks were significantly cheaper in the long run, just costing a little extra effort to find them.
Obviously, this is an example of two extremes. Not all hatchery birds will be this disappointing, and not all standard bred birds will be this desirable. But it's a good example of looking at the total cost of your starter flock, not just purchase price and convenience of ordering. When you look back in 10 years, it will not matter to you whether you paid $4 a chick, or $7 a chick, or even $25 a chick for your foundation stock. What will matter is how much you enjoyed your birds, and how well your breeding program progressed. Even against the odds, some hatchery chicks will grow into beautiful birds that represent the breed well, and many people start with hatchery chicks. With rigorous selection, some breeders have developed great lines from a hatchery foundation. Usually it doesn't turn out that way. Where ever you start, the important thing is to enjoy the process, and to realize that you can always stop one day and decide to go in a different direction, starting from another source, if you're not happy with the path your breeding program is taking.