At What Age Should I Buy My First Chickens?

So you’ve got everything ready. You planned your perfect chicken coop and run. You even started landscaping for the best foraging. You also remembered to get in good with all your neighbors, and nothing is holding you back from getting farm-fresh eggs. If you are wondering, At what age should I buy my first chickens? You are in the right place. Let’s take a look at all the pros and cons of each stage of chicken life. After reading this, you should have a better idea of what works best for you.

Eggs

We will start from the beginning with starter eggs. You can order fertilized eggs online or buy them from a local farmer. Hatching your flock from day one is a fun and exciting ride. If you have children, it will wow them and give them an experience for life. Not to mention you might find that you turn into a kid again yourself watching the miracle.

If you are new to owning chickens, you might think that starting from the beginning is the best option. But be warned that even experienced chicken owners still have problems hatching eggs themselves. One small detail like temperature or humidity could set the whole operation out of whack, and your eggs won’t hatch. Though this process is wonderful to watch, it takes a lot of patience and constant attention.

Pros

  • You can watch your flock from day one
  • It is a fantastic experience
  • You might find a closer bond to them

Cons

  • You will need an expensive incubator and brooder to raise the chicks
  • Shipping poses a risk of damaging the eggs
  • Newborn chicks aren’t very sturdy
  • Can’t guarantee the sex of the eggs

Chicks

Moving along, you can buy chicks as young as a day old to four weeks. You can purchase chicks at local farms or feed stores during the spring. No doubt you have seen the baby chick bin at Tractor Supply. Chicks under four weeks old have their adorable fluffiness in your pockets before you can blink. Most people want to start with day-old chicks because of this reason.

But it isn’t all sunshine and daisies here. In many cases, not all of your chicks will survive. You will have to buy a special brooder and heat source for them, and they need constant attention throughout the day. And you won’t see any fruits from your labor for months to come. But we wouldn’t rule chicks out entirely as your first chickens. Though they may be high maintenance, people seem to prefer this method.

Pros

  • You can raise your flock from young ages
  • You can buy them in specific genders, but it’s not 100% accurate
  • Baby chicks are very cheap

Cons

  • Chicks under four weeks are not very strong
  • You will need a brooder and warmer to keep your chicks thriving
  • Sexing is not always accurate, and you will likely end up with a few males

Pullets

Thinking back on the original question, “At what age should I buy my first chickens?” We believe pullets are the best answer for the beginner. A pullet is a hen between 5-15 weeks old. While these chickens aren’t in their prettiest phase, they are at their easiest. Pullets are young enough that they haven’t started laying yet but old enough that they don’t need anything special to thrive.

Even if you have no experience raising backyard chickens, pullets are almost fail-proof. They are heartier now, and you won’t have that “newborn worry” that all first-time owners get. You don’t even have to worry about unique setups or spending a crazy amount of money on brooders that only get used for a few weeks. Pullets are the cheapest and most reliable option for those who aren’t quite sure what they are doing.

Pros

  • Pullets are not as fragile as chicks
  • You can buy them sexed with more accuracy
  • They can go straight to the chicken coop
  • Still young enough that you can bond effortlessly with them
  • Less fighting for a pecking order

Cons

  • You still have a few weeks before eggs
  • They cost a little more than chicks

Point Of Lay

If you want eggs as soon as possible, buying hens expecting to lay any day is your best option. But at what age do chickens start laying eggs? For every breed, this varies slightly, though most start laying anywhere from 16-24 weeks. Breeders are experts at predicting when a hen is ready to lay her eggs and will give you fantastic pointers on what to expect.

Getting your flock when they are ready to lay comes with challenges also. For one, if your flock is stressed and having a hard time adjusting, they might delay laying. And don’t think that since your hens are ready to lay, they do so with ease. The first few eggs will be small or even inedible. But after a few weeks, your hens will get used to it and become more reliable.

Pros

  • Grown and don’t need specific housing needs
  • This age is when they are at their heartiest
  • You will have eggs in a matter of days
  • No chances of misgendering

Cons

  • Can be a little pricey
  • You will need special feed for hens that are about to lay that is high in calcium and protein
  • Sometimes harder to tame
  • Pecking orders will be an issue for the first couple weeks

Adults

How old is a full-grown chicken? A chicken is an adult when they are over a year old. These chickens are a little more pricey, but breeders will tell you more about their laying habits. And since they have dutifully laid eggs without an issue for a few months, you don’t have to wait for eggs yourself. These hens are also ideal if you already have a flock and want to add more.

The only thing you should worry about is with a new flock means a new pecking order. It might take a few weeks for your hens to figure out their hierarchy system and fall into place. In the meantime, keep an eye on them to make sure all are eating and drinking well.

Pros

  • Your eggs are ready as soon as your chicken is comfortable in her new home
  • No special care is needed
  • Easier to keep up with

Cons

  • Adults cost the most of any age
  • Some don’t quickly acclimate into your flock

What Is A Chicken Age Span?

Knowing all of these pros and cons for each life stage is helpful. But it might also have you wondering how long do chickens live? Each breed has a unique lifespan, but most chickens live anywhere between 5-10 years. So if the breed you want has a shorter lifespan, you might want to buy your hens younger. If your hens are for eggs and meat only, this might not matter as much, though. You could buy your hens at laying age and still have the maximum amount of time with your hens.

When Do Hens Stop Laying Eggs?

If you are keeping hens specifically for food purposes, knowing egg-producing stages is also essential. You can expect most chicken breeds to lay eggs for 5-7 years. So if eggs are most important to you, getting an adult hen at the end of her laying stage is not a great idea. But if you are raising meat-producing hens, this might not be as much of a drawback for you.

How To Tell The Age Of A Chicken

So memorizing a chicken age chart is excellent, but is there a trick to telling a hens age? Telling the age difference in younger chicks is easier than older ones. Chicks grow at a very predictable rate, so all you have to do is match their feather growth to other chicks. Pullets are also easily identifiable by their awkward status. They start to lose their chick fluff and develop real feathers during this time. Though each breed matures at different rates, you can look at the number of adult feathers coming in. The more mature feathers, the older the pullet.

But what about adult chickens? If you are new to chicken flocks, you might not know the difference between a year old and six-year-old hens. You don’t want to be conned into buying an older hen than you expected for a considerable price. Especially if they won’t lay eggs for much longer. The best way to tell an older hen from younger ones is by looking at her legs.

Young hens have relatively smooth legs that are bright with color. Older hens will have rough shanks that are dull. In some cases, hens over three can also develop spurs. But this is most common in roosters for fighting and protection.

At What Age Should I Buy My First Chickens?

Well, that is for you to decide. We have listed all the pros and cons of every chicken stage. With it, you should compare your lifestyle and what you wish to accomplish from your backyard hens. Knowing where you want to go helps you choose the right starting point. And since everyone is different, everyone will have a different answer. But hopefully, with our guide, you are closer to knowing at what age should I buy my first chickens.

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