Congratulations! You’re getting chickens!
We can tell you from personal experience that this is a step towards happiness and health for you and your family.
But buying poultry can be confusing. There are a lot of different places with backyard chickens for sale. How do you choose one? Where can you buy chickens for eggs?
Some places are better than others for buying chickens. Here are our top 4 places to buy chickens in the USA:
Hatcheries and Breeders
There are many hatcheries and breeders that offer chickens online, or you may find some in your local area.
There are many benefits to buying chicks from a hatchery:
- There are hundreds of chicken breeds available
- Chicks are available sexed so you don't have to later dispose of unwanted roosters
- Many hatcheries are certified and renowned for producing high quality chicks
- If you don't have a hatchery nearby, most offer mail order chicks
Reputable hatcheries are one of the most reliable places to buy chicks, and many local feed stores actually get the chicks they sell from these very same hatcheries!
Some private poultry breeders also sell chickens. Breeders may sell online or direct to the public at bird shows. They are often the best place to get rare breeds, and sell birds at a variety of ages as well as fertilised eggs. Passionate breeders produce healthy birds and are usually eager to share their knowledge with new chicken keepers, making them a great resource.
However, there are as many amateurs as professional breeders, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Birds brought from amateur breeders may not be pure-bred or may have genetic problems and disease.
Always buy from a reputable breeder or hatchery - ask for recommendations and do your research.
Feed stores and agricultural co-ops
Feed stores and agricultural co-ops are another great place to buy chickens. These are local businesses with a reputation to uphold, so their birds will be sourced from a reliable hatchery or breeder. This means that the birds will be healthy and free of disease.
Some stores will only stock chicks in spring, while others may take orders year-round and also be able to source point-of-lay hens or adult birds. Talk to your local store to see what they can do!
There are only a couple downsides to buying your birds from a feed store or co-op. One is that they usually only offer more common chicken breeds. The other is that they may not have chickens on hand when you want them.
The local classifieds
Everything from fertilised eggs and day-old chicks, to pullets and point-of-lay hens, are available online and through the local classifieds.
The classifieds are a particularly good place to get mature hens, which are otherwise expensive. People buy chickens and then have to sell them due to a change of circumstances. These chickens may be slightly older, but you can often get an excellent deal on a chicken coop or tractor along with the birds.
Be mindful that chickens for sale through the classifieds are unlikely to be pure-bred, although some quality breeders do sell through online forums.
It is best to collect your chickens from whoever is selling them in order to ensure that the birds are healthy and kept in good conditions. Choose your chickens carefully, as not all online vendors give you exactly what you ask for.
Hen rescue organisations
If you are getting chickens primarily for pets, rather than eggs, you may wish to support a hen rescue program. These organisations re-home ex-battery hens.
Battery hens are egg layers that are kept in tiny cages or at high density in larger spaces. Usually, they have never been outdoors and are killed at 1 1/2 to 3 years old, after their peak egg-laying years are over.
Although ex-battery hens will not produce as well as younger chickens from another source, they can continue laying (less intensively) for several years after adoption.
If you are adopting battery hens, you will be giving an animal that has been abused a natural and happy end to their life. However, be aware that ex-battery hens may not be as robust as other chickens, will not lay as reliably, and may have health issues due to their long confinement.
Happy chicken keeping!
Rachael at Dine a Chook