Yes, it’s fun to hatch your own chicks. And yes, it’s neat to watch that mother hen fuss over her babies. But here’s why you should just buy day-old chicks from the Farm & Garden anyway.
1. Store-bought chicks are vaccinated.
Chickens, like all animals, are prone to certain diseases. Vaccinations are proven to help. And yes, I know that if you have a small backyard flock that doesn’t have much contact with other flocks that there is a relatively slim chance of infection. However, once you get a sick flock it is hard to eradicate the offending parasite, bacteria, or virus.
You can vaccinate those babies yourself, but why? Quality breeders vaccinate their day-olds against the most common poultry diseases, including coccidiosis
, Newcastle’s disease
, and Marek’s disease
, nasty buggers all. Just let the pros do it.
2. Store-bought chicks are sexed.
We banned roosters from our yard years ago (see #4), and our all-hen flock is fat and happy. When you buy chicks, you can choose male or female, and you are almost guaranteed to get the gender you want (with occasional surprises). When you hatch them yourself, it’s 50/50. And trust me, if you end up with more roosters than hens (in fact, you need at least five hens to every rooster), you will have some miserable, and abused, girls.
Professional breeders “sex” chickens shortly after hatching
, and separate pullets from cockerels. In fact, reliable sexing can only be done in the first 24 hours. You can do it yourself, but that is beside the point. If you want eggs, you only need hens, and if you end up with a bunch of roosters, you essentially just have the feathered version of The Outsiders
roaming your yard running up your feed bill.
3. Store-bought chicks are cheap.
I buy from my local Farm and Garden, and we pay like $3 a pop. You can even order them through the mail. And the more you buy, the cheaper they get
4. Roosters are jerks.
As mentioned, we banned roosters long ago and our flock has been better for it. Roosters are only good for their ability to fertilize eggs and look cool. And if you buy chicks, you don’t need fertilized eggs.
Every time I say this, someone tells me about the super sweet, docile rooster he or she has, who cries at sunsets and writes sonnets to the hens.
Not buying it. Those same people usually tell me how they also carry a shovel to the coop with them just in case they need to defend themselves. It’s in a rooster’s DNA to be an overly protective, aggressive, cranky ars. That works in the wild, but not in my yard. I shouldn’t have to protect myself from my property. Now, have I seen roosters that are less aggressive than others? Yes. Would I turn my back on them? No.
A full-grown rooster can weigh upwards of 10 pounds, can jump six feet in the air, and, besides having clawed talons, has a set of pointy spurs the size of your pinky. AND THEY ATTACK CHILDREN. FROM BEHIND.
And to dispel a couple common rooster myths:
You do not need a rooster to “keep the hens calm.” If anything, roosters stir the hens up, jumping from one to the other like a scene from Jersey Shore. Hens can take care of themselves nicely, thank you.
You do not need a rooster to have eggs. The female of every species produces eggs, just not fertilized ones. If your girls are healthy they will lay themselves silly, rooster or no.
Raising chickens is one of the great joys of my life, and over the years we have learned what works and what doesn’t. Buying chicks from a reputable supplier is a winner.