What is a Pullet? Pullets vs. Chickens Guide

Authored by Colleen Creamer

As small farmers and a growing number of suburbanites raise hens for eggs, they face an important decision: What age chicken should they get for their backyard coops? Should they get chicks or pullets?

Carol Rawle, who keeps a mixed flock of 20 chickens on her 36 acres of land south of Trinidad, Colorado, says she prefers getting chicks for a couple of reasons: the advantage of imprinting, which all birds do when they are very young, and flock management.

“Because young chicks imprint on the first human or animal they come in contact with, it makes sense that getting them very young could make for a more manageable flock later on,” Carol says. “When you get them as chicks, you get tame and friendly chickens that are easy to handle when older.”

In addition, the charm of chicks can be hard to deny—for humans and other birds alike. “They are way more fun to play with and integrating baby chicks with adult chickens is easier than older pullets,” says Carol, who uses a gradual integration technique that involves brooding chicks near the adult flock in a pen with chick-size openings into the main run. “Their small size is less threatening to an adult flock.”

However, David Adkins, secretary for The American Poultry Association, the oldest livestock organization in North America, knows of many hobby chicken farmers who started with pullets—the teenagers of the chicken world. He says that with proper handling, they will attach well enough to their caretakers. 

“Even those pullets are going to be able to bond with humans given the right kind of handling,” David says. “I personally don’t think it makes much difference. I think both chicks and pullets can become familiarized with people.”

The first days: Finding, transporting, and caring for chicks and pullets

Pullets often require less care than chicks, David says. However, there is the transportation issue; getting nearly full-grown chickens through the mail is often more costly than receiving babies. Another option might be to find pullets locally, though a limited geographic range will likely mean fewer choices.

“You may not find the breeds or the variety of what you are looking for locally,” David says. “With chicks, you can order how many you want and what kind more easily.” 

Another plus for getting chicks, says David, is they can be transported without fear of them losing weight or becoming dehydrated.

“The last thing that baby chick does before it hatches is it absorbs what is left of the yolk into its body, and that is what it uses for both food and water for about the first 48 hours,” he says.

However, acquiring the animals is just step one. When it comes to caring for new flock members, more work is needed for newborn chickens than pullets.

“Baby chicks have to be kept under heat. There is just generally more care once you get them,” David says. However, with the right research and preparation, this is absolutely doable, even for beginners. 

Pullets or chicks - It may depend on how soon you want eggs

While baby chicks will need about six months to grow before they begin laying, pullets are on the verge of being old enough to produce eggs.

“With pullets there is much less of a wait because pullets typically don’t start to lay until they are six or eight months old. You are, in fact, going to have birds that are ready to go,” David says.

Whether you choose to bring home chicks, pullets, or a mix of both, visit your local Tractor Supply, where a friendly team member would be happy to help you choose all the tools and feed you’ll need.

Colleen Creamer writes about travel, farming, and health and wellness from her home in Nashville, Tennessee.