So you have been thinking about raising backyard chickens but want to know more about it and where to buy them from. It’s a very satisfying hobby and of course rewarding as they’ll give you your very own freshly laid eggs.
You can raise chickens in the country where you may have lots of space for them to roam free range or you can raise them in a town garden if you have just one or two pairs of chickens with enough greenery and loose earth for them to forage and be safe.
The best place to buy your chickens is from someone you know well who is breeding them. If not, ask your local vet or someone who supplies chicken feed. Also take a look at the classified ads in your local paper or specialist magazines.
If you can it is advisable to go and take a look at the chickens and see where they have been raised. If they have been raised together this is better for you as they are more likely to get on with each other and unlikely to fight. They are very sociable animals and love human contact so you should not have any problems with them.
You should already have an idea of how many chickens you want – you will need about 50 sq. meters for two birds. You will also have decided what type of chickens you want – pure breeds, hybrids or bantams and of course whether you want chickens that lay a few eggs or many eggs. You may prefer chickens that look more exotic for ornamental purposes but these need more looking after.
You need to look out for healthy backyard chickens no matter what breed they are. So what do you look for in a healthy chicken?
To start with, they should be perky and active, not tired looking or immobile! They need to have bright eyes and glossy feathers. Check for any signs of discharge from the chicken’s beak or watery eyes as it will not be a fit bird.
The legs should be smooth, no scaly bits and the breast should be firm.
If an advert says the chicken’s age is POL this means ‘point of lay’ which means that the chicken is about to start laying. However this may not be the first laying period so you need to ask the seller this.
Always ask the chicken’s age as some try to get rid of chickens over 2 years of age to make room for new stock. An ideal age to buy your chickens is about 16 weeks old.
Pullets are chickens that have not yet laid and are a little smaller. They have smaller combs too than a mature chicken.
Take a good look at the chickens and don’t just go for good looks. They may have the most beautiful plumage but not lay many eggs. Check their legs too – are they very feathery? If so they are likely to get very muddy.
You could also ask to see the parents if you are thinking of buying pure breeds – this way you will see what they are likely to look and behave like when they are grown.
Another idea of course is to buy from a battery rescue supplier. These poor little chickens may not look as pretty as the pure breeds but they still have a lot to give you and you will be giving them a few more years of luxury!
You can transport your new chicken’s home in a cardboard box lined with straw and some holes cut in it for air. Or you can put them in a pet carrier. Another way is to carry them in the new type chicken coop made from plastic which you will use as their house in your garden.
Make sure they can’t get out of the box and if it is hot weather do make sure they don’t get too hot. If you have a long journey stop and make sure they have some water.
Once you get them home, put the box inside the chicken run and let them out where they are safe. This also prevents you having to run around the garden trying to chase them back into their space!
They should settle in well and if you have any other animals, just give your chickens a couple of days before introducing them. Do this when they are safe inside their run to begin with as a boisterous dog may be just too much for them at first.
So you have finally bought your chickens and transported them home safely. You are now about to embark on an interesting and rewarding hobby raising chickens.