I have dabbled with keeping some chickens in the back yard so have some basic knowledge from observing them, but I'm by no means a chicken eggspert. I know that different chicken breeds have been bred for certain desirable traits, but apart from looks, size, egg-laying ability and meat quality, they may also incidentally become known for other traits e.g. hardiness, good foragers/survivalists in free-range circumstances, sociability, tameness/friendliness, etc.

I now want to build up a small flock again, and have decided on a breed. I am debating between getting a number of adult birds vs. getting a number of fertilized eggs and incubating them to start off the flock. Getting fertilized eggs is of course more convenient as they can be mailed from various suppliers; it seems less convenient in my circumstances to get hold of some adults (hard to get willing sellers close by).

My question is basically what differences one would expect to see in a flock of chickens hatched via an incubator, vs. chicks that were raised in a flock of adult birds? I'm specifically interested in a free-range foraging set-up with only supplemental feeding (think back yard or permaculture) and not commercial "factory farming" in tightly-controlled artificial set-ups. How much does a chick know instinctively, vs. how much is learned from its mother or other adult birds in a flock? Specifically with regards to things like foraging/scratching behavior, choosing safe roosting positions and avoiding predators, rearing the next generation of chicks, getting along with other birds in the flock, getting along with the humans that tend them, etc.


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