Getting new chicks: should you hatch or buy?

If you're anything like me you get chick fever every year! It seems like every time I turn around, there are cute baby chicks right in front of me. I see them hopping around in tubs in feed stores, pictures on Facebook, chick sale emails coming directly to my's constant! 

Chick days, chick sales, chick events and chicken swaps. No matter how much I tell myself I'm not getting any more eventually I wear down and get a few. Is buying chicks really the way to go though? Or should I be hatching them?

new chicks

Should you buy or hatch chicks?

There are several really good reasons why you should hatch your own chicks. There are also several really good reasons why you should buy chicks already hatched. If they're going to be your first chicks then I would buy them already hatched just to skip the incubation learning curve the first time around (wish somebody would have told me that years ago!) 

If you're adding to your flock it may be easier to get fertile eggs and let a broody hatch them for you. That way you can skip the brooder hassle. Let's look at the different reasons you might want to buy vs hatch your own chicks.

Buying chicks from a feed store or mail order hatchery:

  • Vaccinations. You can request chicks be vaccinated for various disease when ordering from a hatchery. Many feed stores get their chicks vaccinated, you can ask them for this info. 
  • Breed options: Limited by what a feed store, hatchery or breeder who ships chicks live offers. (many breeders do not ship chicks) Exotic breeds not easily available. High production egg layers are common.
  • Minimums: Shipped chick orders tend to have a minimum of 20-25 chicks per order. Buying from a feed store allows you to skip the shipping minimum but still might have a 6 chick minimum.
  • Sex options: You can choose from the pullet bin if you want all girls or go for straight run if you want a mix.
  • Shipping stress: The stress of shipping sometimes causes chicks to just keel over within the first few days. 
  • You don't have to worry about a broody hen giving up too early or using an incubator
  • Cost: Generally feed store chicks are only a few dollars each and many stores discount them after they've been there a week or two. Hatchery's often give volume discounts.

Chicks in feed tub at store

Hatching chicks from eggs:

  • Vaccinations: None unless you do them yourself.
  • Breed options: As long as you can find a breeder to ship eggs, you can hatch almost any breed. Many breeders ship eggs. Exotic breeds available. High production egg layers are not as common.
  • Minimums: I've seen breeders ship as few as 3 eggs.
  • Sex options: None. Whatever hatches is what you get. 
  • Shipping stress: This can impact the hatch rate resulting in a hatch as varied as none or all eggs hatching.
  • Incubator or broody hen is a necessity.
  • Cost: Breeders can get expensive depending on the quality of the bloodlines. You can get excellent stock if you're looking to get into breeding or showing.

Just hatched chicks in incubator

There are quite a few reasons I have chosen either of the different options in the past. It all depends what I'm looking for at the time and what's available to how impatient I'm feeling. Sometimes I just don't want to wait those 21 days for eggs to hatch!

Of course there are more options for buying chicks than just a feed store or hatchery. Those 2 are an option for everyone and require very little effort to find though, that's why I covered them in depth.

Whichever you decide on it's important to choose health chicks or a breeder with a good reputation of producing healthy chicks to give your chick raising adventure the highest chance of success! If it's your first time raising chick, be sure to check out How to raise chicks for beginners.


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hatch or buy chicks?


  1. We got our first chickens last April. I actually grew up with them and thought I would never get any! However I am enjoying it and adding more. Our first incubator of eggs is supposed to hatch next week!

    1. Good luck with your first hatch! That's so exciting!


  2. Great post... We have tried it all! My favorite method is using my broody hens to raise chicks. Timing is everything however and knowing your girls is key. I have a hen that will mother any chick she sees, yet another will only raise the ones she hatches. The best advantage of broodies is that chicks are part of the flock and learn their place from day one.