When starting out in chicken keeping you're faced with a LOT of decisions- what breed am I going to buy? Will my chickens free range? How many will I get? As well as this, future backyard chicken keepers also have to decide what age chickens they want to buy- as chickens can be bought at all ages, from baby chicks to fully grown adult hens.
The age at which you should buy a chicken is dependant on a number of factors- your experience with chickens, how much you want to spend, the effort you want to put into raising them and what you want your chickens for.
Each age has its own advantages and disadvantages which we have listed below to give you a helping hand when choosing what age chickens to get for your flock.
Day Old Chicks
Day old baby chickens definitely have the adorable factor, but unless you are willing to spend a little money for adequate supplies, and put in the time to hand rear them, they are probably best left to more experienced poultry keepers. However if you do wish to start with baby chickens, it is a very rewarding experience, as you watch them develop through all of their growth phases, and they will often develop a special motherly bond with you.
You will need to set up a brooding area for your baby chicks that will need to be carefully maintained. For more on supplying an adequate brooding area and raising baby chickens, these articles are a great guide!
You should keep in mind, that baby chickens are very delicate little creatures and are susceptible to a number of different health conditions and ailments, and often a large percentage of the flock do not survive. More mature chickens are much more independent and hardy, and have a much higher survival rate.
If fresh eggs are the sole purpose of your chicken keeping, do remember that it will be around four to five months before your little girls start laying.
These birds will be around 10 weeks of age, have developed their adult feathers and no longer require heat in the form of lamps to stay warm. Purchasing pullets is a great option for both experienced and novice chicken keepers, as they are bigger, stronger and more independent than baby chicks- but still young enough to be tamed easily, and develop a bond with.
If you are wanting eggs, you will need to be a little patient, as it will still be several weeks before they start laying!
Point of Lay
The usual age to purchase chickens, especially those that are wanting fresh eggs pronto, is point of lay. Point of lay is the age when a chicken should be on the point of laying her first lots of eggs. This age can be quite difficult to predict, but most hybrid breeds will begin to lay around 18-20 weeks. However, if you have pure breeds, you may need to wait a few weeks for them to mature before they start providing you with farm fresh eggs. At this age they are considered adult birds and so are hardy and strong, not requiring special care. Because of this, they will be a little more expensive than purchasing baby chicks, although the soon to be eggs gracing your breakfast table should make up for this!
When purchasing birds at point of lay, it is important that they are fed a well balanced, protein packed diet, to assist with their bodies’ preparation to produce fresh eggs!
Birds that fall into this category are those that are in their first year or later of lay. The advantages of purchasing a laying adult hen is that the bird is well into it’s lay so there will be no waiting around for fresh eggs, and the seller should be able to tell you the number of eggs you can expect- if you’re after chickens for the sole purpose of laying eggs, this is the best age to buy! Once again these birds will be more expensive, but they are now very independant and hardy, so require no extra care, and are very easy to maintain. It is important to note, that a birds’ price will also depend on their breed, so bear this in mind when making your purchase.
Chickens of every age are fascinating creatures and are greats pets and companions, it just comes down to your own personal preference and experience as to what age you should purchase them.
If you choose to hatch your own or buy day-old chicks, you're in for a treat! It's amazing just how quickly these little ones grow up so you are going to want to make sure that you've got the knowledge you need to raise a happy, healthy flock. You wouldn't want to risk making tragic mistakes that could impact their development, growth or worse!
67% of chicken keepers surveyed experienced a chicken health or behaviour issue in the first 12 months that they didn’t know how to handle. This is why I highly recommend that you check out our friends at Chickenpedia. Their Raising Baby Chicks course provides lots of valuable information to help you avoid any life-threatening accident. You'll have all the confidence to give your feathered friends the best start in life.
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No matter their age, every chicken needs a quality coop, to call home. (Remember, babies also require a brooder!) We have a great range of brooders and chicken coops to suit every flock of every age, which can be found here.