Possibly the most confusing thing for anyone new to buying chicks online is this term: straight run.
You’ve got your coffee warmed up and your computer warmed up and you’re ready to go find the cutest-looking chicks to put into your cart and complete your order and then – confusion. Why does this breed come as male, female, and straight run? Why does this other breed only come as a straight run? What the heck does that even mean?
The term “straight run” has a very specific connotation, but it can also be a hard thing to grasp properly at first. Here’s what a straight run is NOT: it’s not an equal amount of boys and girls, it’s not a specific percentage split, it’s not a hatchery’s ‘choice’ where they handpick the chicks that aren’t up to snuff. It’s none of that.
It’s more like reaching your hand into a bag of red and green Christmas M&Ms, and while you’d really like to have all green ones, you’re going to get a random assortment of green and red because you are just grabbing a handful. You might get more green but you’re just as likely to get more red. Mathematically speaking, the larger your total selection is, the more likely you are to get a 50/50 split, but your hand isn’t usually big enough to grab a selection that large.
Why Is This The Only Option For Some Breeds?
Not all chicken breeds can be gender-identified at a day old. It’s part science, part art for some breeds, and for others it’s practically impossible to be done reliably. Those chicks will only be sold in straight runs because it’s not feasible to accurately identify their sex at a day old.
Some breeds are referred to as auto-sexing, which means that upon hatching, the females are easily distinguishable from the males. You will also see the term “sex-link,” which refers to a mixed breed created by breeding two different purebreds to raise a cross that has the best of both breeds and is easily identifiable when hatched.
Pros and Cons of Buying Straight Runs
The major benefit of buying chicks as a straight run is that they cost less that way. Demand very much dictates the market with chicks and a LOT of people only want hens. So if you’re willing to take a chance at having a few too many roosters, buying chicks as a straight run will save you a considerable amount of money at times, depending on the breed.
Of course, the major downside of buying a straight run of chicks is that you run the risk of getting way more roosters than you are equipped to handle. Too many roosters in a flock will cause all sorts of unrest as they fight for their right to mate the hens. The ill-effects of this range from giving you a headache (with all their crowing contests) to throwing the hens off their laying schedules due to all the in-fighting and ruckus, to roosters actually harming one another with their constant battles.
If you’re set up with a “bachelor pad” – a separate coop and run just for roosters, then at least you will have somewhere to put them when they are of an age to cause trouble. Likewise, if you’re set up for meat-bird processing, an overabundance of roosters might not even be an inconvenience, but a benefit.
Buying a good-sized, straight run of chicks can make sense in situations where friends, neighbors, or family are sharing an order, or where you’re looking to start up a new, fairly large flock, or if you are looking to set up for breeding and you want to have a few roosters to compare and choose the best of breed from.
Have you had the opportunity to order a straight run batch of chicks? How did that work out for you? What has been your typical percentage split of boys versus girls? Would you buy straight runs again? Let us know in the comments!