Are you buying chickens because you have set your sights set on farm-fresh eggs? Are you eager to get some, but don't know how to proceed or where to go? Here’s a quick breakdown of all your options.
In terms of gender, buying chickens at this age is a bit of a wild card: you don’t know what you’re getting. And trying to figure out whether it’s a hen or a rooster is like trying to read chicken scratch. Very young chicks also need a heat lamp so that has to be factored in to your choice. The nice thing about tiny chicks though is that you can play Mother Hen and watch them grow up, and also tame them to be people-friendly.
Buying young chickens
Do you want to get young laying hens? If so, spring is the ideal time for this. And if they are about five to six months old by that time, they will quickly begin to lay eggs. The upside is you’ll already know the sex of the bird, and many birds at this age have already been vaccinated against pseudo avian influenza.
Buying or adopting older chickens
Do you want to give a former laying hen a good life? More and more organizations are committed to giving retired battery chickens a new home. One such organization is The Ark of Pollare in Belgium.
Why buy from a hobby breeder?
A passionate hobby breeder can give you tips on care, feeding and housing. But how do you know whether you’ve found the right breeder? If it’s a good hobby farmer, their chickens’ health will be of primary importance. So take a good look at the conditions in which the chickens are raised. Are they questionable (do they have small cages, are there too many birds in a cage, are birds missing feathers and do they live in unclean surroundings...)? Do the chickens look like they want to fly the coop? Then you may be dealing with a bread breeder who mainly wants to earn money at the expense of animal welfare. Best to stay clear of them: they’re a bad egg.
Why buy from a poultry farmer?
Poultry farmers are professionals with large barns. They sometimes have extra chickens. They are an ideal choice if you want a large flock (up to 10 chickens or more).
From a pet store?
Around Easter you can sometimes find chicks in pet shops. It seems cute and convenient, but keep in mind that roosters and chickens are often not separated here. You’re also not always sure which gender you’re getting.
From a friend or neighbour?
It doesn't hurt to check with friends, relatives or colleagues to see if someone has a nest of chicks. That way you can handpeck them, know for sure where they come from and how they’ve been treated.