Buying your first chickens is an exciting moment, that at the same time, can bring up a lot of questions! That is why we decided to create this helpful resource to help answer some of the biggest questions you may have when purchasing your very first flock. We’ll help answer questions such as which birds to choose, where, and how to order your birds, as well as important housing considerations once you receive your first chicks.
1) “What Birds Should I Get?”
It’s easy to immediately get overwhelmed with the various breeds available, each with unique characteristics that set them apart, from the color of their eggs and feathers to the nature of their temperament and hardiness. To help make your decision easier, we’ve listed below 10 of our favorite breeds loved by beginner backyard flock owners everywhere for their excellent egg production, their calm and docile temperament, as well as the color of their eggs.
- Rhode Island Red – Brown Egg Layer
- Barred Rock – Brown Egg Layer
- Easter Eggers – Green/Blue/Multi-Color Eggs
- Orpingtons – Brown Egg Layer
- Australorp – Brown Egg Layer
- Wyandottes – Light to Rich Brown Eggs
- Gold Comet – Light to Rich Brown Eggs
- Buckeye – Light to Rich Brown Eggs
- Speckled Sussex – Light Brown Eggs
- Maran – Chocolate Brown Eggs
*Listed in no specific order.
Not listed, are Bantam chickens, although not recognized for their egg production, are still favorable among beginners for their excellent temperament, some of which include Polish, Frizzle, Sizzle, and Silkie Chickens. Note that although these chickens are known for their kind temperament, roosters may show some slight aggression by nature.
2) Where to Order/Find Birds
We recommend ordering your birds either in person at a local feed store, over the phone using a catalog, an online hatchery (Murray McMurray Hatchery & Ideal Poultry), Craigslist, or a sustainable and reputable local farm. If picking up a bird online from Craigslist, make sure to note any unhealthy signs such as any breathing abnormalities (rasping, sneezing), swelling or lesions, physical impairment (limping, hunching, excessive feather loss), or odor. These may be signs of illness and should often be avoided.
3) How to Order Your Birds
If you plan to order through your local feed store, be certain to reach out and ask when they begin accepting orders for chicks. Often there are two seasons for ordering chicks, the Spring season and the Fall season. For the Spring season, chicks will arrive late January up until May, Fall season chicks will arrive around September to October. To ensure your birds are ready to handle lower temperatures, we recommend ordering your chicks 6 weeks before your first freeze.
Minimum orders vary based on the hatchery you select and the time of year. Spring chicks tend to sell out faster therefore we recommend placing an order as soon as you learn when the shipping dates are established by the hatchery of your choice.
- Sexed vs. Straight Run Birds: When ordering, you may be required to select between sexed or straight run birds. Sexed birds mean a hatchery will do their best to give you the gender you prefer. Straight Runs are an assorted gender and may result in having roosters.
* Note that you do not need a rooster for hens to produce eggs, a rooster will fertilize eggs thus leading to the possibility of baby chicks if you have a broody hen in your flock.
The majority of post offices accept mail-order chicks, however, it is best to call your post office first to ensure that they do, as well to learn how they require you to go about pick-ups, often at-home deliveries are available as well. Ordering via a local feed store will allow you to pick-up your orders in person or pick and select from the available chicks they often bring in during the season.
* Most hatcheries offer a live arrival guarantee with a time-frame window in which you will need to report a loss so that a hatchery can credit you.
4) Housing Chicks
One important factor when ordering your first flock is the consideration of the nightly temperatures of where you are located. 6 Week Old Chicks should not be let outdoors if nightly temperatures are below that of which are shown in the image below. As you raise your flock, we recommend keeping your chicks indoors until they reach their recommended coop age. For more information on how to house your baby chicks until they reach their recommended age, reference our blog post-Simple Ways to House Chicks While Your Chicken Coop Is Being Built.
We hope you find this guide helpful as you begin your backyard farming journey! Have a question regarding what was mentioned in our blog post? Reach out to us at any time, we’re real people and enjoy helping new and existing chicken and coop owners everywhere! firstname.lastname@example.org , phone: 877-741-2667.