Straight run chickens are baby chicks that are sold without knowing if they are females or males. This is typically because the chicks are too young to be reliably sexed.
In theory, you have a good chance of ending up with half males and have females. But, if you know how odds work, this is more likely the larger number of straight run chicks you buy.
If you’re buying just a few, say between 5-10, there is a chance you could end up with all males, or all females.
It’s a very remote chance, but it’s a possibility so do keep that in mind. You’re kind of playing a chicken lottery.
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What Does Straight Run Chickens Mean?
I asked around and wasn’t able to find out exactly why the words “straight” and “run” were used. It’s basically the same as saying “as hatched”, meaning you’re getting chicks that are just days old.
Is It Cheaper to Buy Straight Run Chickens?
Straight run chickens are generally around 25%-40% cheaper than pullets, point-of-lay, and adult hens and roosters. This is because the breeder knows they are getting both males and females off their hands shortly after they’re born.
The problem, however, is that unless you really don’t mind the gender of your chickens, you might not end up with enough of what you want.
Most people want mostly hens because they want eggs, for example. You could buy a handful of straight run chicks and end up with only roosters.
If you look at it like this, it could become more expensive in the long-run buying straight run chickens.
Why Buy Straight Run Chickens?
The main reasons people buy straight run chickens are:
- It’s one of the least expensive ways to buy some chicks
- You skip the incubating and hatching part and get yourself ready-made chicks
- There are a lot more chicks this age available and it’s generally easy to find them in large batches
If you’re looking for some run chicks you should be able to find some from a local hatchery or poultry breeder.
Related content - Find a hatchery near you with these state listings.
Straight Run Chickens vs Pullets
Straight run chickens have not been sexed and can be either females or males. Pullets are young female chickens that have been sexed and will start laying eggs in the near future.
It’s a very important determination. If you want backyard hens for their eggs, you should wait for a chicken to get a bit older so it can be identified as a pullet.
Unless you’re willing to buy a large batch of run chickens or consider yourself to be extremely lucky, it’s not worth taking the gamble in my opinion.
Related content - how long do pullets lay small eggs?
How Long Before You Know If a Chick Is Male or Female?
There are some methods breeders use to try and tell the sex of a newly hatched chick, but they’re not 100% reliable. A couple of these methods are:
Vent sexing - Also known as venting, a lot of hatcheries use this method but it’s difficult and potentially dangerous. It basically involves squeezing some feces out of the chick while looking in the cloaca (anal vent) for a small bump.
Males have a small bump, which is their genital organ. Some females also have a small bump, however, so it’s never 100% accurate.
Feather sexing - Feather sexing involves determining the gender of a newly hatched chick by looking at how quickly its wing feathers are growing.
It’s complicated, however, and is sex linked - which means you can only use it reliably when the chick’s father is a breed that rapidly grows feathers and the mother a breed that slowly grows feathers.
The “traditional” and more reliable way to sex chick is to wait until they are about 6-8 weeks’ of age.
A males’ wattle and comb will start to be much redder and larger than a female. The legs are usually visibly thicker at this age too.
There are some breed-specific things to look out for too around this age. You’ll need to do some research into the breed you have as there are so many I couldn’t possibly start to list all the subtle differences.
In Summary - What Are Straight Run Chickens?
I’ll be the first to admit that chicks are super-cute and it’s hard to resist buying a load of them.
As long as you know what you’re buying and the chances of having either males or females, you can’t go wrong.
My advice; if you have your heart set on hens to lay eggs, wait until they mature and can be identified as pullets. It’s better to be safe than sorry, even if you’re passing up on having a cute little fluffy chick!