Did you know that raising a backyard flock has become a major status symbol among many homesteader families? It’s true. Getting started in the world of chicken keeping can be quite intimidating, especially when you first start out.
Truth be told, it all starts by getting chickens from the right seller. But, where do you find healthy chickens? And should you get them while they’re young? We’ll give you the full guide to this important part of setting up your flock.
Before you begin, you need to research the breed of chickens you want to buy.
You simply cannot put a bunch of chickens in coops and pray for the best. What each seller will offer will vary greatly. You should pick out a handful of chicken breeds that you want to get for your flock before you start buying.
Seriously. Research each type, find out what they offer, and figure out whether they serve the purposes that you want them to serve. Once you’ve made a decision, put together a coop and chicken run that is suitable for those particular species.
What should you look for in a chicken seller?
Not all chicken hatcheries are equal. Regardless of the breed that you choose, you are going to need to seek out a seller with good traits. These include:
- Health guarantees. Does the seller guarantee the health of any baby chicks that you buy from them? Is there any guarantee on any egg groups you want to get in terms of the hatch rate? A live delivery guarantee is a must.
- Reputation. If they don’t have a decent reputation or have poor reviews, skip them.
- Farm size. In many cases, the best facilities for having chicks will be small, family-run farms where birds get individual attention. Large-scale farms can end up with serious problems.
- Refund and Return Policies. You want a farm that is willing to offer refunds if the hatched chicks aren’t properly sexed or are sick. At least get one that offers a replacement for day-old chicks that are ill.
- Poultry Variety. Many people don’t just want to raise chickens. They may want to raise geese, guineas, or other game birds. Finding a farm that actually raises a wide variety of poultry is generally a good sign.
- Breed Variety. There is going to be a difference between White Leghorns and a Black Australorp. We suggest going to a hatchery that has multiple breeds and will help pair you with the right chicken for your needs.
Where can you buy chickens?
So, there are several different venues you can go to in order to get some chickens for your backyard flock. Here are some of the quickest options to consider:
Local + State Fairs
Did you know that your local 4H Club will sell chickens and hatchlings to you? You can usually network with 4H representatives at a state or local fair. This can be hard to do in urban areas, though.
It’s important to ask about the details of buying a 4H animal at the fair. Some allow you to buy chickens to keep as pets. Others will assume that you want to eat them and slaughter them.
Local Farms And Hatcheries
Another popular way to find chickens (or at least get some day-old chicks) is to peruse your local farms. Many poultry farms and backyard chicken keepers breed their own chickens and will be happy to sell you chicks as they hatch.
This is a good way to support your local farmers and also get a good idea of where the chicks come from. With that said, this option can leave you with a minimal number of chicken breeds to choose from.
If you want a classic and common breed like a Rhode Island Red or a Buff Orpington, you might be able to get one through a local farm. These farms also tend to have a low minimum order, since they often cater to people who want a pet chicken.
Do you want to buy a unique breed that’s difficult to find? If so, then you may not be able to get the breed you want from an online retailer. (Or rather, it will have to be a special order and it may not always be a doable occurrence.)
Specialty breeders do exist, and they tend to focus on one to five specific breeds of chicken. These breeders often will work with chicken breeds that are rare, high-maintenance, or made to go into shows specifically.
The hard part of this option is finding a breeder that specializes in your chicken breed of choice. Once you find one, you may have to wait for them to hatch some new eggs.
Poultry Supply Stores
Do you have a large poultry or livestock supply store in your area? If you live in a rural part of the country, chances are that supplies are not the only things they sell. Many larger stores (including certain Tractor Supply stores) sell live hens and hatching eggs.
This can be a hit-or-miss type of deal. If you have seen your local store offer up poultry, then this could be an option that you should pursue.
Yes, it’s true! You can order chickens online and even get real, live poultry delivered right to your door. It’s all about choosing the right hatchery for your needs and making sure that the place you buy from is high quality.
If you shop online, you get the perk of choosing from many different breeds of chicken, including rare ones. However, you may have a minimum quantity of chickens you need to order. Some also require a straight run of specific breeds.
With that said, there are several hatcheries that have great reputations for poultry purchases. Our picks include…
- Murray McMurray Hatchery. Redundant name, but excellent for buying chicks at a reasonable price.
- Meyer Hatchery. A low minimum order policy and over 160 different chicken breeds to choose from make this a heavy hitter on the online hatchery scene. You can get birds at any age here. They won several awards, too.
- Cackle Hatchery. It’s a family-run farm that sells adult chickens and baby chicks. They also offer up poultry supplies and excellent advice. If you want a rare breed, check this place out. They have over 200 breeds to choose from!
- Ideal Poultry. They hold their work to the highest standard, including things like low-cost vaccination and a 90 percent sexing accuracy guarantee. This is a collective of over 50,000 breeders with 100 different breeds.
- Jenk’s Hatchery. Want to work with a historic brand? No problem. Jenk’s has 100 years of success to back its excellence.
PRO TIP – Many online retailers will only ship live poultry and eggs during the warmer months of the year. This helps prevent chickens from getting sick as a result of cold weather. Plan your purchase accordingly.
Once you find a chicken seller…
Raising chickens is not just about the chicken itself. It’s also about having a well-equipped coop. These tips will ensure that you can keep your birds happy and healthy from the moment you purchase them as day-old baby chicks…
- Have a poultry supply store on speed dial. You should try to find a poultry supply store within 45 minutes of your home. You never know when you’ll need some quick supplies or a fast tip from a poultry expert. A good local feed store is worth its weight in gold.
- Ask for a referral to a vet that specializes in fowl and poultry. Not all vets have experience with birds. They tend to be considered exotic pets or livestock. Having someone who can treat your chickens in a pinch is a great way to ensure healthy birds.
- Read up on how to introduce your backyard chickens to new members of a flock. This is a great way to ensure the overall mood of your birds stays upbeat. It also helps reduce the chances of bullying and pecking order problems.
- Do ask your seller if your birds need any particular special care. Some breeds are more demanding than others. If you aren’t sure about any “surprise” needs, now would be the best time to ask. Breeders know their breeds better than regular people do.
Chickens are a lot like many other pets in the sense that getting one from a good breeder. Thankfully, there are a lot of different venues you can go to in order to find the right chickens for your flock.
The key thing to remember here is that you should always check out the reputation of your poultry sellers. A good seller will have live guarantees, transparency about their chicken raising, and a lot of knowledge on the care and keeping of birds.