Do you want to start raising chickens for eggs? Great! Then the first thing you’ll need to do is decided who you’re going to buy them from.
You can get chicks from your local feed store...
You can order them in the mail...
Or you can get them from a local breeder who is breeding for top-of-the-line birds.
Which is best for you? Is it overkill to buy from the expensive breeder? Are you going to be able to accomplish your plans with hatchery chickens?
By the end of this article, I hope you'll be able to make the best decision on the right place for you to get your chickens from.
5 Things To Know Before Buying Your Chickens
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1. Hatchery Chickens
This is by far the most common and popular way to get started with chickens. We started with these. They’re cheap and easy to get. Go online and pick out what you need. They’ll ship them right to your door (or postoffice).
You get what you need and your done. Move on. After all there’s a lot of other things you need to get on like getting their brooder ready, or building a chicken coop.
Let’s take a quick look at what you’re getting. Hatcheries are breeding for quantity. They’re not too worried about the quality of the stock you’re getting.
How does this affect you?
It may not. The biggest problem will arise if you want to breed your (hatchery) chickens. Because of the low quality genetics you’re starting with, you may have problems with their offspring.
It's Like Buying A Lab Puppy From A Known Lab Breeder Vs. A Puppy Mill.
A puppy-mill lab would be great if you want a puppy. Maybe not the best genetics, but it’s a cute puppy. But if you’re serious about dogs you don’t go to the puppy mill. You find a reputable lab breeder. One who knows what they’re doing and has a genuine care about labs. Same thing with chickens. Find a breeder who knows what they’re doing and you’ll end up with a better flock of chickens.
On a long-term, sustainable, homestead, it’s worth the investment to buy stock you can breed.
2. Hatchery Pros & Cons
- Not the best option if you want qualily breeding stock
If cost is an issue, and you can only afford hatchery chickens it’s WAY better to get them than skip it.
Heritage Chicks -- Buy From Your Local Breeder
Buying from someone you know and trust is AMAZING! It’s not always possible, but it’s ideal.
There are so many benefits to buying from a local breeder. Like how you prefer to buy from a local vegetable gardener, rather than Walmart.
You get to know the grower. There’s more accountability. You get to see first hand what they’re doing and how they are doing it. There is a higher level of trust. You can talk about and discuss their plans and goals in their breeding, and KNOW what you’re getting.
Here are some questions you can ask.
- Are they breeding for dual-purpose (meat and eggs)?
- Do you want a dual-purpose breed? Or just eggs...or just meat?
- Are they breeding for broodiness in their hens, or not?
- Do you want broodiness in your hens?
The relationship and a trust you have with a local breeder is something you can’t have with a hatchery. You have support if something goes wrong, and most breeders will try and help you out.
Heritage Pros & Cons
- They’re more expensive. (But if you’re going to breed, they will cost less in the long run as you won’t need to buy more chicks.)
- They cost less in the long-run if you’re breeding
- They’re great healthy birds with good genetics, which is great for breeding
They should be healthier and stronger because of the better care they get and living conditions.
5. It Comes Down To...
Finding the balance. Are we only going to raise heritage chickens? No.
Here’s my plan. Breed our heritage egg layering Australorps and not have to buy more egg laying chickens. And for meat birds buy them from a hatchery. It’s cheaper and way better than buying store-bought meat.
Throughout this whole article I've been assuming egg laying chickens. For meat birds, you raise them and then eat them. In my opinion it’s cheaper and easier to buy them every time. Also when you’re raising heritage chickens they don’t have as much meat on them...but that’s another article. ;-)
Finding Your Local Breeder
At some point in time you may decide to go with a heritage breeder. Here're a few places to help you find a good breeder near you.
The SPN (Sustainable Poultry Network) This is where I found the breeder we bought our first heritage chicks from. They have a great website. It’s easy to use. Five stars! I highly recommend them.
We ordered our first heritage chicks from a breeder in California. I found them through the SPN. There weren’t any breeders in Arizona. But I got to know the person over email and had them shipped here.
The Livestock Conservancy Devoted to helping keep old heritage breeds alive. They have all kinds of animals over there.
You can also check out Craig's list.
Have fun buying your flock!