Are you planning to add chickens to your backyard flock but don’t know where to start? If so, you may be wondering what straight-run chickens are and if they are the right choice for you.
In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about straight-run chickens. We’ll cover what straight-run chickens are, what they mean for your flock, and some pros and cons of owning them.
What does straight run mean?
Straight-run chickens are unsexed chicks that can be either male or female. When you purchase these kinds of birds, there may or may not be an equal number of male and female chicks in your nest box.
Sexed and Unsexed Chicks, what’s the difference?
The main difference between straight-runs or unsexed and sexed chicks is that straight-run chicks have not been sorted by gender, while sexed chicks have.
Raising straight runs is not an easy job. Unlike other animals, the chicken gender can be challenging to determine when they are young. The sex is not apparent until they’re several weeks old as their embryos develop based on the temperature in incubators. Warmer temperatures produce more female chicks, and cooler temperatures make more male chicks.
Thus, many hatcheries will sort and sell straight-run chicks. It’s up to the buyer what to do with them once they’ve hatched.
Why Buy Straight Run Chickens (Benefits)
If you’re looking for a cost-effective and easy way to get chickens, straight runs are a good option because they are usually cheaper.
Generally, sex-defined chickens are more expensive because sexing baby chicks is very tedious and requires a lot of time and expertise. Hence, you need to pay someone to do it.
Meat and Eggs
All chickens are bred for meat or eggs. If you get the same number of males and females, then you will have consistent production of eggs.
Another benefit of straight runs is that they offer more variety. When you buy straight-run chickens, you also get a mix of young hens and young roosters. This decision can be beneficial if you are interested in breeding chickens in the future. It gives you a variety of genotypes to work with.
Skipping the hassle by going straight to day-old chicks
It can take a long time to hatch and incubate your chicks, especially if you have other things to do. In this case, you can purchase straight runs instead. It is the best way if you want someone else to incubate and hatch for you, saving you money and time.
What are the disadvantages of ordering Straight Run Chicks?
No guarantee of gender mix
A major disadvantage of ordering straight-run chicks is that it is impossible to tell what their gender will be until they are several weeks old. Hence, you may not know what you’re getting until they are older.
You may end up with more males than females, which can be problematic if you’re looking for an egg. So, in this case, you might get hens to help with the production.
Another downside of straight runs is that they can be inconsistent in production. You can’t predict a certain number of eggs from your flock since you don’t know the hen’s sex. It may take a bit longer to get a good egg production going.
So, if you are looking for consistent egg production, then this situation may frustrate you. Straight-run chickens might not lay as many eggs as sex-defined chickens.
Fights over mates
When you have a mix of male and female straight runs, there is always the potential for fights over mates, disrupting the flock and leading to injuries. In a worst-case scenario, you might end up holding a dead chick.
Things to Consider When Buying Straight Runs
Roosters and Cockerels
Keep an eye out for roosters and cockerels when buying straight runs. They can be aggressive and may start fights with other chickens.
If you don’t want to deal with roosters and see dead chicks on your hands, you may want to consider getting sex-defined chickens instead.
Research and Reviews
Research and reviews are two key steps to help you find a reputable source to order straight-run chicks of a particular breed. Many hatcheries sell unsexed baby chicks, so you’ll need to find one that is reputable and has good reviews.
Also, you can ask around at your local feed store or farm supply store to see if they have any recommendations. Or, visit online forums where you can read about other people’s experiences with unsexed chicks.
When keeping unsexed chicks, make sure to separate them by the time you figure out their gender to prevent fighting. Keep track of them if you don’t want to deal with aggression and fights.
Use a chicken wire fence to separate them or purchase a chick separator from a local farm store.
Breeders and Hatcheries
The key to getting healthy straight-run chicks is to find a reputable breeder or hatchery. In this way, you can avoid getting sick chicks. You can check online forums, too, to see if there are any recommended breeders or hatchers in your area.
Raising Straight-Run Chickens: Know-Hows
As straight-run chickens have not been sexed, you will need to watch them as they grow. As soon as you can distinguish males from females, move the males (cockerels) into a separate pen.
Typically, the cockerels are more aggressive than pullets, so separating the two will reduce competition for food, which helps hens grow bigger faster!
What is a Cockerel?
A cockerel is a male chicken, while older males become “roosters.”
What is a Pullet?
The word “pullet” comes from the Latin for “female.” Pullets are chickens that have not yet started to lay eggs, usually at less than one year old. They are easy to identify by their absence of feathers and the orange tan coloration of their bodies resulting from deposits of carotene fat in muscle tissues.
Hatching and Incubating Your Straight Runs
Hatching straight runs can be a fantastic experience. You get the satisfaction of knowing that all their meat and eggs came from yours, and it is also more cost-effective than buying them at a store or farm market. Hence, you need to equip yourself with some equipment like:
- incubators (which keep heat inside),
- lighting systems (to provide light)
- water supplies
- brood chambers—a place for newly hatched chicks until they’re big enough to leave.
You have a few different incubation options. You can either use an incubator, a broody hen, or fertilized eggs.
When using an incubator, you will need to set the temperature to 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit/35-36.7 degrees Celsius. You should keep the humidity at around 50-60%.
If you’re using a broody hen to hatch your straight-run chicks, make sure that she is healthy and has a good appetite. You will also need to ensure that her nest is clean and dry.
With the help of fertile ova, you can now successfully hatch your straight-run chicks. However, you need to note that not all mature ova will be fertile. You can tell if an egg is fertile by candling it. To do this, you will need bright light and a dark room. Shine the light on it and look for a shady spot. If you see one, it is fertile.
No matter what incubation method you choose, keep an eye on the chicks as they hatch. It is because some chicks may not make it through the process.
So, there you have it! The pros, cons, and general information of buying straight run chicks. Remember to do your research before purchasing straight-run chicks, and be sure to raise them in a safe and secure environment. With proper care, straight-run chickens can make great additions to any flock!