Buying backyard chickens: 8 questions to ask the breeder
Updated: 21 March 2021
So, you’ve made the environmentally-friendly and sustainable lifestyle choice to buy some backyard chooks.
If you’ve never owned backyard chickens before, knowing what to buy, where to buy them and what you should know before you buy them can seem daunting.
However, we’ve all had to start somewhere! I’ve certainly made some huge mistakes in the past - and costly ones at that.
So before you buy chickens, read through my 8 questions to ask the breeder before you buy backyard chickens. Don't be afraid to ask - no matter how silly it may sound! Most reputable poultry sellers will be happy to answer your questions.
Want to know where to buy healthy backyard chickens? Make sure you buy from reputable chicken breeders and read my guide before you buy.
Now, let’s crack on with questions to ask the breeder.
Are the birds female?
This may seem like one of those silly questions, but when you’re buying young chicks or pullets, you may come home with a rooster too many. Unless the chickens are sex-linked, it’s more challenging to ensure that they are pullets and not, in fact, roosters!
The older they are, the more certain you can be that they're pullets.
How old are they?
Day-old chicks are just that, newly hatched chicks. Up to 5 weeks, these chicks require a heat source and an entirely different setup.
Pullets or young birds
A pullet is a female chicken up to 12 months of age.
Buying chickens that are around 6 to 16 weeks means they no longer require a heat source but are still young enough to tame them.
They are an excellent option for beginners.
Point of lay
Pullets sold as “point of lay” or "POL" are typically over 15 weeks of age and will shortly begin laying.
Expect hybrid layers to start laying around 18 to 20 weeks, and around 24 weeks for heritage breeds - depending on the time of year they were hatched.
When purchasing these birds, feed them a well-balanced, protein-packed diet.
This is vital in assisting their bodies’ prepare for producing fresh eggs!
Are they vaccinated?
Do backyard chickens need to be vaccinated? I'm all for vaccinating backyard chickens, but very few breeders follow a poultry vaccination program.
However, just because a breeder tells you a bird is "vaccinated" does not guarantee it is healthy.
If the breeder tells you their birds are vaccinated, ask them, “what are they vaccinated for?”
Often, breeders only vaccinate against Marek's Disease. Many breeders don’t vaccinate their birds but still keep their flock in excellent condition and only breed from healthy birds.
Have they been wormed recently?
While it isn’t a deal breaker for me, it’s good to know. For more information on worming chickens, see my blog.
Have they been treated for coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease in poultry. Again, this isn't a deal breaker for me, but good to know.
If you are buying chickens that are 3-12 weeks of age, ask the breeder if they have been treated for coccidiosis or are on a medicated feed. If they are 3-12 weeks of age at the time of purchase and not on a medicated feed, some breeders recommend treating them with Amprolium as a precaution, or at least have it on hand.
Why? The stress of moving properties can leave birds at this age very vulnerable to coccidiosis during wet or warm weather.
Are they laying?
If not, when does the breeder think they’ll start laying?
Are they currently free-ranging?
Or are they living in poultry sheds? This is good to know in case you encounter health or behavioural issues in the future.
What are you feeding them?
Try to get a bag of feed that is the same as, or similar to, what they were eating before. Changing diets can be very stressful for a chicken! Check out my guide on what to feed backyard chickens in Australia.
You should always take a look at the chickens for sale before you buy them. Look for healthy backyard chickens that are alert, active, have a clean vent, bright eyes and no discharge from the eyes or nostrils.
Chickens also talk to one another during the day (some talk a lot!). Chatter is a good sign of a healthy chook!
Now you are armed with the 8 questions to ask the breeder before you buy backyard chickens, so you can be sure you know what you’re in for.
Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.
Grab my free guide, The First 8 Steps To Naturally Healthy & Happy Backyard Chickens now!
Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.