The Chicken or the Chick, Starting a Homestead Business

My Facebook friends already know that we lost all fifteen healthy pullets to varmints. It was a cruel blow to an already trying quarter.

But every problem is also an opportunity. Yes, we lost every chick, but now that we’re starting from almost nothing, we can try different breeds.

I’ve decided to start a homestead business selling chicks. We have a few things in our favor.

• We have ready-made pens (hopefully secured by now).

• We have a high-end incubator and hatcher kept back from our days raising rhea and emu.

• We have experience.

What I don’t have yet (aside from birds) is a firm decision on which breeds to choose.

Over the years we’ve raised Orpingtons, Australorp, Americauna, Red Leghorn, Marans, and Barred Rock chickens.

Orpingtons, while gorgeous, ate too much. The leghorn hens are phenomenal layers but the roosters can sometimes be violent, so I’m crossing both those breeds off the list.

For myself, I don’t want to deal with people on a daily basis. This is why I think selling chicks is a better option for us rather than selling eggs.

What I’m considering…

The Australorp are docile, well mannered birds that lay a lot of eggs. I’d still place them at the top of my list. I also love the Americauna for their pretty blue eggs.

But I’d like to try something new. The Barnevelder and the Welsummer are noted for their rich dark brown eggs. And they’re pretty birds too. The Maran also lay dark brown eggs, but as a breed they’re too excitable for me.

Except for two dogs and a kitten that don’t do much but look adorable, I expect my other animals to earn their keep. I have three pens where I could conceivably house three different breeds of chickens.

I have pretty good luck incubating and hatching eggs, so I thought if I dedicated myself to three different breeds, I could make a little money on the side–at least enough to pay for feed and upkeep while still providing eggs and meat for us.

This idea is a long term plan. Young hens won’t lay until they’re at least 9-12 months old and their first year is sporadic. If that’s the case, theoretically, I won’t have chicks to sell until this time next year–that is, if I buy chicks right this minute.

I could buy adult birds, but they’re $$$. I anticipate good laying hens to cost somewhere between $15-$30 a piece. (I’ve seen great laying hens for $45 a piece, but that’s way out of my price range.) While adults could give me an income sooner, it’s a deeper investment.

Chicks cost $3-5 depending on the breed.  I could conceivably buy ten chicks for the price of one laying hen. Of course, I won’t know how many of the ten will be layers and how many will be roosters, so there’s that to consider too.

So here’s my quandary: What kind of chickens do I buy? Adults or chicks? Would future chick buyers be more interested in egg production or the uniqueness of the breed? In the past, I’ve only sold extra chicks when I was replenishing my own stock so I’ve never taken into account what sells well.

I truly like the Australorp because they’re calm birds and good layers, but I’m on the fence for my second and third choices. I guess a lot will depend on what I can find locally. you were in the market for chickens, would you buy for production or uniqueness?

I wish I had room to house a few of these guys. The one of the left is a Polish. I just love their floofy crowns. The one on the right is a Silkie.









As a homestead animal, you cannot go wrong with chickens. They are relatively easy to care for and don’t cost much for a small flock. The only thing you have to worry about are predators…and those can strike in an instant.

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Regular readers know I don’t subscribe to many things, but Amazon Prime has been my best money saver. I even buy farm supplies there like hardware cloth, insect-proof garden fabric, tools, obscure parts, and seeds. Heck, I even bought lye for soap making from Amazon.

Every time I think it might be something too specialized to find online, Amazon has it. 9 times out of 10 they are cheaper than local.

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  1. Hi Maria! Best wishes with your chick venture!

    Here are my suggestions:

    – Any time you want to start a breeding program, it is a good idea to buy from at least 2 separate bloodlines. So you could buy one started pullet or adult layer from one source, and a cockerel or rooster from another source. (Check to make sure they didn’t order from the same hatchery!) Or you could order chicks from 2 different hatcheries with bloodlines specific to your goals…for example, are you looking for egg production or show quality? Also, you could order from one source this year, and then order from another source next year for a fresh bloodline for future breeding.

    – Some hatcheries allow you to order just pullets, and you can request one cockerel along with them. (I order straight run so the cockerels aren’t destroyed, but that is probably not on most peoples’ minds.) This would save some $ and give you more layers.

    – Is there a local chicken enthusiast club or group? Maybe you could see if there is a breed that is preferred, or if people are more interested in production, showing, pets, petting zoo, etc. This may help you choose breeds.

    Although the started pullets or adult layers will cost more, they will allow you to start selling chicks sooner!

    Happy chicken raising!

    • Lisa: Good call on different bloodlines. I made sure to get different bloodlines for the goats, but I hadn’t thought about the chickens.

      I’m tempted to buy half and half (chick and pullet). The only problem is getting them to get along. Sometimes the bigger ones bully the smaller ones.

      I might do one breed with older hens, and another breed with chicks to see how that goes.


  2. I did this on our farm so let me share how I did as simply as possible.

    I went with an online hatchery and purchased 100 at a time went with straight run because we always meat out the roosters. Once the hens were about 4 months I started selling them off beginning at 15 a bird. Then each month I added another $5 until they were laying.

    Good young laying hens can be sold on craigslist for 25 – 35 and they will drive from Dallas to get them… I did this for quite awhile and even sold to some large ranchers.

    This is very due able and smart so if you have any specific questions let me know.

    It’s been a few years so prices may vary and I supplemented their diet via free range.

    Breeds everybody loves is the beautiful Americauna, buffs were always great sellers (just saying) Marans are so pretty. Those would be my picks.

    However those Barnevelder are gorgeous.

    Hope that helps a little….

    However my favorite statement in this post was….For myself, I don’t want to deal with people on a daily basis.

    We are so much alike – have a great week and keep us posted on what you decide.

    • Carole: I need to make myself a sign: I can’t People today. LOL!

      You’ve given me something to think about. It would change my plans a little, but I’ll talk to Greg and see what he thinks.

      I want to come visit you, maybe once it cools down a little. I’d love to see your ‘tiny home’ and pick your brain about stencils. I’ve been thinking of adding that to my future marketplace.

      I saw someone selling signs at our farmer’s market and the prices seemed awfully high. Depending on the cost of stencils I think I could beat those prices.

      Hope you’re doing well and staying cool. It’s a bit too hot to be working outside for too long.

  3. Okay, you know I know NOTHING about raising farm animals but I was caught by one thing you said…is there no way to tell the gender of a chick? How old do they have to be before you know if it’s a layer or a rooster?

    • Good question, Linda. At one time there were supposed to be only five people in the world who could ACCURATELY sex a day-old chick. The process was invented in Japan.

      Nowadays, a lot of people claim they can fairly accurately predict a chick’s gender by the shape of their wing tips. You have to identify them within 2-3 days old. I’ve tried but I never could be sure.

      The reason you can’t just vent-sex a chick is because they’re so fragile. You could easily kill or injure them with clumsy handling.

      I read that German scientists have found a way to predict the gender before the chick is born which would be wonderful for the chicken industry since male chicks are often gruesomely killed.

      In the end, most hatches are 50-50. The only way to be sure of getting hens is if you wait until they’re a little older to vent sex accurately. Needless to say, hens are far more prized unless you’re looking to add to your freezer.

  4. Michael Keyton

    Can’t help you there, Maria, though fascinating reading. As a consumer though, my favourite eggs are Mabel Pearman’s Burford Browns. 🙂

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