When you are planning to start your flock of chickens, there are a couple of ways that you can go about it. Some folks will buy a batch of fertilized eggs and then hatch their chicks in an incubator.
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Others will buy already hatched chickens that are around 3 months old. The second option ensures that your birds will start laying eggs faster.
Chicks are sold by hatcheries when they are one day old. There are two lots that you can buy – sexed and straight-run. So let’s look at the difference between the two.
A Quick Look at Pullets (Young Hens/Female Chicks)
Hatcheries have workers who will separate chickens by sex before selling them. Pullets are female chicks that are sold separately from their male counterparts. They are more expensive since their main purpose is the production of eggs. The overall cost of starting your egg-laying farm will be lower because you are guaranteed to get mostly female.
What Are Straight-Run Chicks?
Straight-run chicks do not get sexed before they are sold. You buy them in batches as a random mix of male and female. In an ideal world, at least half of them would be female but this is not always the case. You can buy straight-run chicks in a variety of different sized batches. Since they are not sexed, these lots are cheaper than purchasing all pullet lots.
Buying Pullets Has Some Advantages
You do not need a rooster in your flock if your goal is to produce eggs so purchasing pullets would probably be your best choice. That way, you can ensure you get the right amount of birds for your needs without having to deal with a lot of unwanted roosters. Some areas also have laws against owning male chickens so buying pullets lowers your chances of breaking these laws.
Buying pullets is more expensive than buying straight run chicks. Another issue is that the sexing process is not 100% accurate. Sometimes a chick will be identified as female but it turns out to me male. Unless the chick is bred to have specific traits to define its sex, it’s really difficult to tell at just one-day old. Still, this method is going to give you significantly more pullets than roosters.
Straight Run Chicks Are a Risk
When you buy straight-run chicks, you are taking a bit of a risk since you never know what percentage of pullets and roosters you will get. But this is the cheaper choice of the two.
Individuals who decide to invest in straight-run chicks usually want to build a flock that can lay fertile eggs. The assumption is that straight-run lots will be half male and half female but there is no guarantee. Only buy straight-run when the sex of your chicks is not an important factor.
Always keep these two important facts in mind:
1. Pullet Lots
While they are supposed to be all female, this is not always accurate. Count on getting approximately 95% females.
2. Straight Run
This will give you a mix of hens and roosters. Count on getting a 50/50 mix with the understanding that this will not always be the case.
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The type of lots you buy will be determined by your overall goals. If you want hens for the sole purpose of laying eggs to eat, then pullets are the better option. But if you are looking to breed more chickens, then buying straight-run will provide you with a nice mix of both.
"People talk about fools counting chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them."
-- Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman