The Ultimate guide to buying chickens

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:56
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Buying birds from a breeder

The top tips for purchasing birds from a breeder - As a breeder I get to see that quite a few prospective chicken owners are unprepared and might be easily manipulated by an unscrupulous dealer just after a sale.

I would argue that purchasing birds form a good breeder is far better than getting chicks from a large commercial hatchery, although there are plenty of good reasons to choose hatchery birds, which are more motivated by profit whereas breeders tend to have more reason to produce better stock.  There are a lot of very good breeders with very high quality birds, there are some that ether are not knowledgeable about the birds they raise, or just plain deceptive about the birds they are producing, selling poorly bred stock or unfinished breeding stock.

Using a little common sense and taking a few precautions can insure you have a good experience buying birds from a breeder. Here are a few helpful tips:

Will the breeder sell you the birds you want, for example, will they let you have 3 hens instead of a trio including a cockerel. See these tips below for buying birds at an auction.

Become familiar with the breeds you want to keep

The best way to avoid getting ripped off by a less than knowledgeable or deceptive breeder is to become familiar with the breeds or species you plan on getting. If you plan on buying show birds, read the Standard of perfection first, so you will be able to judge to quality of the birds.

A common mistake many people often make is buying Easter eggers that were sold to them as Ameraucanas or Araucanas, or a hybrid that looks like a Light Sussex but isn’t. You can avoid these kind of mistakes by doing a little research in advance before purchasing.

young pullet

This is a young silver barnevelder pullet - will your breeder allow you to see all stages of their production?

Ask them about their goals as a breeder

People breed birds for many different reasons, such as exhibition, egg production, etc. A good breeder should be able to tell you what they are breeding for. You may learn a few tips it the process. Also how did you like the breeder? Were they polite, helpful, and open, or rude and short spoken? There is a problem with buying birds from a breeder that shows birds. he has been selecting them to show and that might not fit with what you have in mind.

Take a good look at the birds before purchasing

If possible take a look over the birds you plan on purchasing. Hold them and look them over. What is their size and temperament like? How do they look overall? If you are buying birds or hatching eggs over the Internet ask for pictures of the birds. If you plan on getting birds for production, find out what their egg production is like, and are the birds covered by any sort of guarantee. If you plan on showing your future flock, than ask the breeder if they have ever showed their birds and if so how they did and is there any evidence. If they refuse to let you see the birds, that avoid buying from them.

Check out the birds living conditions

Take a good look at the birds coop and run. Is the run and coop clean and tidy, and do the birds have plenty of food and fresh water, and space to roam? Or are the birds poorly housed, confined in a muddy coop, or overly crowded in a small cage? If the breeder does not care about their birds living conditions, they most likely aren't concerned about the bird’s quality either. Are they free ranged, confining birds that have been allowed to roam can cause stress.

broody on a nest conditions

Have you been allowed to see the conditions the birds are raised in? and are they happy? Yes, this broody hen is sat on 14 eggs in a cat box but it was her choice, not mine!

Check with others who have bought birds from the breeder in question

Personal recommendation is the key, genuine comments about purchases or recommendations on forums. Ask the breeder for the contact information of others who have purchased birds from them in the past. Take the time to call these people and ask about their experiences with the birds they

Purchased. How did the birds do, and how did they like them? And most importantly, would they buy from that breeder again? When buying birds off the web, check the buyers feedback. It is best to avoid sellers with less than 90% positive feedback.

Make up a list of questions to ask the breeder

Find out how long the breeder has been involved with the birds they raise and breed. Ask where they originally got their birds. How are the birds housed? The breeder should impress you as a knowledgeable person with solid experience who cares about the birds they raise. If you are buying off the farm, the breeder should also show interest in you, asking questions to determine if you are a suitable owner for the birds they plan on selling to you. If the breeder lacks knowledge or shows little interest in you as a potential owner, it is best to look elsewhere.

Check with the breeder later on

Are the birds vaccinated and guaranteed. If you were happy with the breeder, and you decided to buy birds from them, it is a good idea to contact the breeder later on and let them know how you like the birds and how they are doing for you. A good breeder will want feedback on them. Do they mind if you contact them for advice after the sale.

I hope this article will help you to have a good experience buying birds from a breeder in the future.

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Buying chickens at auction

Getting hold of chickens should be relatively easy not always thought. This article deals with buying birds from a Poultry Auction. I have been buying and selling chickens at auctions for over 10 years and I've seen quite a few pitfalls and tricks.

a poultry auction at clitheroe

Some dedicated poultry auctions can sometimes have reasonable quality stock and some houses have better reputations than others. But be warned, some of the more common livestock type auctions can be a great place for people to get rid of their sub-standard or unhealthy birds.

Once something is sold at auction there is generally no comeback at all, sales are mostly sold as seen.

There are commonly two types of auction for poultry, those in which you can sell anything, where the quality tends to be quite variable and catalogue sales where birds need to be of a certain quality and generally need to be sold in pairs or trio's.

Where ever you end up buying your birds from, if you make sure they are fit and healthy, you generally shouldn’t see any problems. If you already have chickens and are adding to your flock then you can be bringing disease in so always remember to quarantine your new birds for at least a fortnight and preferably longer before introducing them to your flock.

what you should be looking out for

What should you be buying and looking out for?

These 3 young light sussex in the picture above are a good age, you can tell they aren't old birds. They are happy and relaxed and being young they will settle into their new home easily.

You should visit the auction before you actually buy to get used to the place and to see what is on offer. Auctions tend to be fast paced and can take a little getting used to.

Set your limits and don't go over as you could end up paying way over the odds for chickens.

See here for an idea of how much to pay for Chickens.

Choose you chickens carefully and make sure you get the sex you want, I do know of people who ended up with a cage full of cockerels after an auction.

If you want a specific breed you will probably need to attend a specialist catalogue rather than a general sale. Know your breed standard before you go.

comparison birds

Take a close look at the two barnevelders in the combined image above, the bird on the left has a large floppy comb which is a fault in the barnevelder and the bird on the right is poorly laced.

Make sure you know how to identify old birds, Auctions are a common way to get rid of old hens with a young cockerel.

Fur & Feather Market - Some auction marts have weekly auctions of poultry, waterfowl, rodents, rabbits, ferrets & pigeons plus hatching eggs and poultry accessories.

Buying second hand incubators and brooders is fraught with peril, they may not work and could be dangerous.

Buy hatching eggs at auction - Most Auctions sell hatching eggs and again these are as much of a gamble. Unless you know the seller it is likely the eggs will be quite old and may have had a rough journey. You also only have the breeders word that they are the breed they are sold as.

My local auction mart, Clitheroe, featuring over 500 cages and catalogue sales attract buyers and sellers nationwide. Sales are usually well subscribed but it can vary, mostly with the time of year. You should find a variety of breeds to suit all requirements, they are well worth a visit!

In addition, there is a sale of cage & aviary birds including parrots, cockatiels, budgies, canaries, and lovebirds.

General Auction Information for general sales - All livestock entries are delivered on the day of sale, therefore no catalogue is available.

Viewing time is on the day of the sale generally from around midday until the start of the sale later in the day.

A Buyers Premium normally applies on the hammer price of each lot. You need to keep the buying and selling fees in mind at auctions

Cash, debit cards and credit cards are usually accepted but can be subject to a surcharge of the total invoice amount (as much as 3%)

Vendor ( seller) Information - Anybody wishing to sell at the fur & feather sale should deliver the livestock entries on day of the sale. Remember to leave food and water if the birds are to be confined for any length of time.

Auctions deducts commissions, even if lots are unsold!

Pure Bred Poultry & Waterfowl Catalogue Sales - These are genrally monthly or bi-monthly catalogue sales of pure bred poultry & waterfowl, hatching eggs and accessories are very popular and well subscribed and this generally reflects in the price you pay as well as higher commissions. With catalogues available well before the sale customers are able to view the variety of different breeds of quality breeding stock available.

All livestock entries are delivered on the day of sale, however. Viewing time is on the day of the sale from early in the morning until the start of the sale at midday and the sales take much longer.

Vendor Information for catalogue sales – selling at the catalogue sale is usually a more involved process that requires registration and fees. You should complete and return the relevant entry form as instructed and pre book cages for the sale if the mart requires this.

Auction houses deduct commissions, as much as 15% of the hammer price per lot/cage subject to a minimum per lot whether sold or unsold.

Always take a torch to auctions as cages can be dark and you don't want to buy birds with leg mite or other problems that you could have seen.

Watch out for old birds that are being sold after a moult – they will look young and in good condition.

Look for sellers that have a reputation to protect, they are likely to be selling better stock but you will pay more.


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Chicken suppliers and grower farms


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Rescue and Ex battery chickens



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