I've never reared chicks before, & am weighing up the pros & cons.
We get to experience rearing (well, watching Hope rearing) a family of chicks.
If I get good hatching eggs, we hopefully end up with some good quality pullets & can keep a male that's used to being handled from an early age.
Hope gets to raise a family.
The flock get a "husband". (Not sure whether they'll see this as a pro... !) & we get the sound of a cock crowing in the garden (no neighbours at the moment...)
The chicks will be really cute!
We have to source a broody box, chick feeder, chick drinker etc. all of which we'll probably only need for a few weeks.
We'll have to divide the run, which makes looking after the flock less convenient & gives them all less room.
We'll have to despatch all but one of the male youngsters at some point.
We only have room for 3 or 4 more birds max., & won't have room to take in any ex-batts for a few years.
I'll have twice as much poo to clean up every morning for years to come!
If I keep a male, they'll take up coop space, eat layers' pellets, poo but not lay eggs.
The other debate is: how many hatching eggs would I get? If I only have space for an extra 3 females & a male, would I get 6 eggs, assuming a 50/50 split, or 12 eggs assuming a 50% hatch rate of which only 50% would be likely to be female?
So many questions! I'd value your thoughts.
Just 6 eggs (if they come in sixes). That way a low hatch rate will be fate and not tempting it!
Cockerels are lovely and you would be giving one a home (how to pick one (breed) that is suitable in size and temperament? - Pass!)
I think you've had lots of ex-batts and will have more in the future. And...
"The chicks will be really cute!"
To answer your points: You can buy the paraphernalia secondhand, and offload it again on ebay or whatever, or of course you might become a breeder and do it all again! Personally I haven't found homebred birds to be any more pleasant or easy to handle than a bought in bird. There is something amazing about watching a hen raise chicks, although some hens aren't cut out for it, so you might need a PlanB - like a brooder/heatlamp etc. Having a cockeral is fantastic, if you don't have neighbours, suddenly the flock makes so much more sense. The extra cleaning isn't an issue, and neither is the fact that the cockeral doesn't produce eggs because the delight from watching the cockeral look after his flock is huge and in my view outweighs any extra chores/costs. I would get a dozen eggs because I would be likely to acquire more housing if I had to, rather than risk 3 or 4 eggs hatching from 6, and getting just 1 hen - as the gender ratio is anyone's guess, but there is somebody's law which says you will always end up with more boys than girls!
You say in the pros section 'Hope gets to raise a family.' Does she go broody as often, and as deeply, as my sussex used to? If so, then yes, she will probably make a good mother, but will be likely to keep on going broody even more in future years, and you say you may not want to keep on raising chicks. Anyway, I expect by now, like me, you have your 'broody treatment kit' all ready for action and know what to do as soon as you see the first signs, so she can be recovering within a week.
If you just want the pleasure of raising chicks, you might consider buying the exact number you want, and choosing an autosexing breed, such as Cream Legbars, which are small hens who lay blue or green eggs and are incredibly pretty as chicks when they are growing their little tufted crests. That way, you cut out the need for backup brooder etc that you won't want, and would only need to get a small temporary run with a little ground-level box coop for them, whilst they grow up. I had Nutmeg, who was a CLB, and Marigold, my Buff Sussex, from 4 weeks old in Springtime and they lived out of doors in a moveable rabbit run on grass and enjoyed the sunshine. You might even get them at day-old, in which case a large cardboard box indoors, with a heat lamp, would be fine for a week or so until they feathered up and the weather got warmer. That way, you see them develop, you can get just as many as you want, no problems dealing with unwanted males, and chicks are much cheeper (sorry!) than POL pullets.
And if you wanted to add a cockerel, it would be better to give a home to a surplus one in need, rather than try to breed on from a chick. You might want fresh genes if you decided to breed from him the next season, and a young, home-reared chick/grower would not be very likely to impress the ladies who are his 'aunties.'
Our preference is to hatch and rear ourselves, but then we do have all the equipment- incubators, hatcher, back-up power supply, power supply failure alarm, chick drinkers and feeders, secure rearing units (they soon outgrow their space), electric hens, heat lamps, spare bulbs (day bulbs, night bulbs) and most importantly, space for all this. As you can imaging this is a large outlay and needs a lot of use to pay back. It can get rather stressful, especially if they get bored and start fighting.
Without doubt the easy route is to buy pullets from a reputable source- cockerels are usually free.
My first were raised in a high sided cardboard box on newspaper and anti skid matting with a light bulb for warmth, tiny bowls of any sort were their feeders and drinkers, - cost nil. The only downsides of this are the feather dust which goes everywhere, and the culling of the unwanted cockerels.
I still have to steel myself for this deed.
I met a friend yesterday and he used to keep chicken and raise his own birds, but the incy has been put away for years. It was his birthday a month ago and somebody gave him a cockeral, so he went out and bought 4 pullets for him, and is slowly easing himself back into the swing of it. I suspect chicks might be on the agenda at a later date, as he has got himself a P/T job looking after a herd of 'breeding cattle' (not entirely sure what this means, but they don't appear to be either dairy or beef, perhaps its a pedigree herd, is this what you'd do with it, literally rear and sell on?) belonging to a neighbour, so he is being tied more firmly to the land.
Brinsea incubators are some of the best according to our breeder.
They have models for just about all pocketbooks and needs up to commercial breeding.
There are a few others out there but every breeder I know uses the Brinsea brand products.