My TIPS for your first chick-buying trip:
1) Bring your camera. The look of sheer delight on the kiddos faces when they see the baby birds is priceless. Good luck getting them to stand still and look at the camera though!!
2) Do your research. Do you want a meat bird? A Dual purpose bird? A docile pet? An egg empire? Do you want green eggs? Are you willing and able to take the risk of buying "Straight run" birds?
3) Have the new home for your chicks ready! At the very least, you'll need a brooder box for the chicks in the first weeks of their new life at your home. Food. Water. The means to give both to the birds. A heat source (usually a lamp) and bedding.
4) Let the experts help. They can tell you things that are invaluable to a beginner! I think that our small percentage of mortality (between one month old and three months old) was due to the fact that I did not "medicate" them. They made it past the "pastey vent" phase and just randomly fell over dead for a spell, before medicating the water. The experts can tell you what you should buy for caring for these little critters if you are a newbie like me!
5) Buy a diverse flock. We had a large selection of different breeds and we're now able to better decide what works for our family and situation. Some places and spaces will need smaller bantams or quieter breeds. Maybe you want dual purpose birds? Maybe you want them to be pretty and fun for a more pet-like experience? Well, if you try out several breeds, you'll know what works for you!
The folks at Hoover's Hatchery can really point you in the right direction. When you're a new-to-chickens family or farm, you can use their helpful website to decipher all sorts of information about breeds and what to expect--making the whole experience more pleasant and enjoyable! You can also get your quality poultry right from them! That's where we got our flock and they are healthy, happy birds!