If you’re thinking of raising your own chicks this year, good for you! Doing so is not only enjoyable, but it’s also a great way to a) supply your own food and b) bring in a little bit of extra cash, if you are so inclined.
Incubating your own chicken eggs is a super fun way to stay involved with the entire process. In fact, if you’re interested in trying this for the first time this year, I encourage you to check out my post about how to do it and which incubators I think are the best.
However, for many people, incubating chicken eggs simply doesn’t make sense.
Option #2 is a broody hen. Let her do the work for you, and you’re golden.
But broody hens are notoriously unreliable.
So that leaves you with option #3 – buying your chicks from a hatchery. This is the easiest – and by far the most popular – method of raising your own chicks.
When you sign on to the hatchery website though, there is a whole bunch of lingo that may confuse you to wit’s end.
What is a pullet?
What’s a cockerel?
And most importantly, what the heck does it mean to buy “straight-run” chickens?
It’s simple, and there are several advantages to doing so. Here’s what you need to know.
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What Are Straight Run Chicken?
Straight run chickens are simply those that have not been sexed before they were sold. If you’ve ever hatched your own chicken eggs at home, they were automatically straight run because you, as the “breeder,” have no way of controlling or sexing your chicks at birth.
TIP 1: There are some ways you can sex a chick when it’s very young – but most of these are not only notoriously unreliable, but they’re also incredibly unsafe.
When you buy from a hatchery with the straight run option selected, you will receive a mixture of both female and male chicks.
TIP 2: There is no set percentage on what you are going to get – it’s essentially a gamble.
You could end up with all roosters! However, usually, it’s closer to a 50-50 mix.
Benefits of Buying Straight Run Chicks
Buying straight run chickens will save you a ton of money.
TIP 3: Depending on the type of chicken you are buying as well as the quantity, a straight run bird can save you $0.50 or more per bird.
If you’re raising meat birds, buying straight run is an obvious choice – it doesn’t matter whether you are raising hens or roosters, since you probably won’t even keep them long enough for the sexual differences to appear.
Buying straight run chickens is a cost-effective method of financing your startup coop. Sexing chicks costs top dollar, since it’s a highly specialized skill that very few people can do.
TIP 4: you invest in a straight run batch of chickens, you’ll have roosters around to help with breeding.
This way, you might not have to buy chicks at all next year!
Disadvantages of Buying Straight Run Chicks
TIP 5: The most obvious disadvantage to buying straight run chickens is the obvious gamble you will be taking.
There is no way for you to tell how many hens and how many roosters (or pullets and cockerels) you will receive.
This can be problematic for some people. While there are many benefits to raising a rooster – such as protection from predators and egg fertilization – there are drawbacks, too.
Roosters can sometimes be aggressive and if you live in an area that does not allow roosters at all, well…you’re going to have a problem on your hands with a straight run batch.
Tips for Buying Straight Run Chicks
First, consider how many chicks you intend to buy. If you’re buying large numbers of chicks, remember that the more birds you have, the more likely you are to hit closer to that perfect 50-50 split of roosters and hens.
If you decide to invest in straight run and receive a higher-than-expected number of males, don’t panic. First, remember that it’s not the hatchery’s fault. Calling to complain may yield you a discount, but often, it won’t be worth it. Many hatcheries send extra chicks with their shipments anyway in case of losses in transit.
Remember, too, that buying sexed chicks doesn’t always equate to a perfectly-gendered flock. In fact, there are some sexing inaccuracies that can cause you to receive more roosters than you bargained for.
And if you do end up with more roosters than you bargained for? You’ve got several options. You can:
- Send the roosters to the stockpot as soon as they’re old enough
- Allow them to remain in the flock (they’ll serve as good predator protection, at least!)
- Sell or donate them to a friend or neighbor
Worst case scenario, you may be able to contact the hatchery. They might take them back, but that’s a big night. It’s worth a shot, though.
The takeaway when it comes to ordering straight run chickens? I don’t recommend it unless you know for sure that you don’t care whether you have more roosters or more hens. If you know you need a certain number of laying hens – or don’t want roosters kicking around at all – definitely consider paying a bit extra for sexed birds. It will save you some time and hassle later on!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to check out these articles!
- 12 Reasons Why Sheep Are the Coolest Livestock You Can Raise
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lambing (But Didn’t Want to Ask!)
- 12 Common Hoof Problems in Sheep
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