Don’t Buy Backyard Chickens Until You Read This
Updated: 16 August 2021
Congratulations! You’ve answered the question ‘should I get backyard chickens?’. Whether it’s more for sustainable living or you’ve succumbed to pressure from the kids, you’ve decided backyard chickens are worth it.
The decision to keep chickens needs forethought, as with any other pet. However, backyard chickens are simple to care for if you master the basics — their housing, feed, and regular care.
Here is a quick list of questions before you buy backyard hens:
- Can I own a chicken in my backyard? Do I have the landlord’s permission?
- How many backyard chickens does my local council allow?
- Are there any other council regulations for how to have backyard chickens? E.g. distance of a chicken yard from a neighbouring or road facing fence?
- What will the impact on my neighbours be? Some breeds (including hens!) are boisterous.
- Will I get a rooster? —seriously noisy!
- Will my dog/s be ok sharing their yard?
- Do I experience weather extremes? Heat waves, snow, flooding or a fire-prone area?
- What predators are a risk?
- Do I want the chickens to forage in the garden or be enclosed all the time in a run?
Now we’ve covered the checklist of things to consider; you want to find backyard chickens for sale?
But of course, you want chooks that are healthy, right?
And you don't mind spending decent money on them.
But you want to make sure you get value for your hard-earned dollar.
So, where is the best place to find healthy chickens to buy in Australia?
Easy. A reputable breeder.
But how do you find these breeders? And how do you know they’re reputable? I hear you ask.
Don’t panic. We’ve got the tips and tricks to help find where to get backyard chickens. Don’t buy backyard chickens until you read this guide.
Reach out to Australian Poultry Clubs and Poultry Breeders Associations. There are dozens around Australia, and they can connect you with poultry breeders ‘near me’.
But you must be prepared to wait for birds to come up for sale, which can take months.
Generally, breeders will have excess pullets for sale from November to April, as most are hatched from August to October.
FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE: There are exceptions to this rule. If 2021 shows are cancelled, people may be willing to sell birds they would have otherwise kept.
How to find an Australian Poultry Club
Start with the Australian poultry breeders directory for your state or territory. They will be able to direct you to a breeder or another poultry club closer to your location. See my list of poultry clubs.
The other option is to Google "[insert breed] poultry club of Australia" or "[insert town] poultry club" or "exhibition poultry [your location].
Poultry clubs can be location-specific, e.g. "The Geelong & District Poultry Club Inc (my club). Or breed-specific, e.g. "The Australorp Club of Australia".
Most clubs’ purpose is to promote pure-bred poultry, in most cases for exhibition (show chickens of Australia). But local clubs are there to help all poultry owners in the community.
Poultry clubs are an excellent source of information, most with hundreds of years of combined experience. They're also a fantastic avenue for finding quality poultry for sale, particularly rare breeds.
Many Australian poultry clubs will have a Facebook page but not a website.
Wait! Buyer Beware!
Just because a person is a member of a poultry club does not guarantee that they're not going to sell you a 'dodgy' bird.
But the vast majority of passionate chicken breeders do not make money from the sale of their birds. If money were our primary driver, we wouldn't bother!
Check out my blog on FAQs to ask breeders when buying chickens.
State Associations and Poultry Clubs Around Australia
Note, this is not a complete list of clubs!
Poultry Breeders NSW
Backyard Poultry has a list of NSW poultry clubs here.
Poultry Breeders QLD
Backyard Poultry has a list of QLD poultry clubs here.
Poultry Breeders TAS
Backyard Poultry has a list of poultry clubs in Tasmania here.
Poultry Breeders WA
Backyard Poultry has a list of WA poultry clubs here.
Poultry Breeders ACT
Poultry Breeders VIC
Victorian Poultry Fanciers Association (VPFA) has a terrific list of 36 VPFA registered poultry clubs in Victoria. However, not all are VPFA registered, e.g. Oakleigh District Poultry Society Inc and Bacchus Marsh Poultry Club.
Poultry Breeders SA
South Australian Poultry Association Inc has a great list of 15 SAPA registered poultry clubs in South Australia.
Specific Clubs By Breed
|Plymouth Rock||Pekin Bantam|
Meet Cacklebook—the alternative to Facebook where you can buy chickens online in Australia. The website requires a login and contains pages and groups within it. These groups include Australian Poultry Exchange, Poultry Sales Australia and many more. Register for an account on Cacklebook’s site.
For online poultry sales, visit Gumtree. This site is another avenue for poultry, poultry housing and poultry supplies in Australia. This site is ideal if you're after ISA Brown hens for sale or Commercial Layers.
4. Poultry Auctions
Poultry auctions are usually conducted and organised by poultry clubs. In addition, some excellent breeders have chickens for sale in Australia via a local chicken auction.
And there are also dodgy chicken breeders who pass off old layers as pullets etc.
In 2010, I vowed to never buy at auction again after a terrible experience. But then, in 2015, I did! I knew the breeds of chicken I wanted to buy, who they belonged to, and it was a dispersal sale of all the breeder's bloodlines.
My suggestion? Go with a friend who knows chooks. Or go early (before the crowds arrive) and ask an official from the club to help you choose some birds to bid on.
Don't buy a bird just because it looks pretty! They should be bright and alert, eyes open and clear, clean vent and no discharge from the eyes or nostrils.
5. Local Egg Farmers
Local free-range egg farmers can be a great source of cheap ISA Brown chickens for sale or commercial layers. But, in truth, you're only going to get another 1-2 years out of these hens before they either stop laying or run into reproductive health issues.
I suggest you only buy two at a time for a backyard. This way, you can get another two next year and space them out.
Some of my clients say, "Oh, hubby's going to put them in the pot when they stop laying"... Uh-huh, sure! They quickly realise how awesome they are, get attached and can't do it. And then have a retirement home of spent hens! So if eggs are your priority, consider this upfront.
FAQs for Buying Chickens
As with everything, there are epic chicken breeders with your best interests at heart, and others don't.
So all you can do is ask the questions, take a good look at the birds before you buy, and go with your gut. If you get a bad feeling, sleep on it, or walk away. Don't feel pressured. Read my blog on the best questions to ask a breeder before you buy backyard chickens.
What are the best chickens for the backyard?
If you’re not sure exactly what breed to get, read my blog on how to choose your next chicken breed, where I discuss poultry breeds and their characteristics. Also, check out my recommendations for the best breeds in Australia for their egg-laying abilities and kid-friendly attitudes.
The breeder won't let me see their place - Is this a bad sign?
That depends. Some chicken breeders don't want you to see their place as it may not be up to scratch. But for some, biosecurity or safety is a concern.
What does a healthy chicken look like?
Chooks should be alert, have a clean vent, have bright eyes and be active. Chickens also talk to each other during the day - some talk a lot! This chatter is a good sign!
They should NOT be droopy, sleepy, have any swelling around the face or discharge from their eyes, nostrils or vent.
Do chickens need to be vaccinated?
A healthy bird from disease-resistant stock and excellent husbandry is more valuable than a vaccinated bird. But it depends on your situation.
A few people (around 1%) are vaccinating chickens in Australia using a comprehensive program. However, it’s an expensive commitment.
Many sell birds as "vaccinated" and only vaccinate for Marek's Disease in backyard chickens. Other vaccines such as Infectious Bronchitis need repeating up to 15 weeks of age for full coverage.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a "vaccinated bird" can't get sick.
Hy-Line Red offers an official vaccination program. They recommend vaccines for:
- Marek's Disease
- Newcastle Disease
- Infectious Bronchitis
- Avian Encephalomyelitis, and
- Fowl Pox.
For more information on the program, visit here.
I know chicken breeders who vaccinate for Marek's, Infectious Bronchitis, Fowl Pox, Coryza and Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT). Another breeder vaccinates for Coryza and Marek's, and other old-school breeders breed for disease resistance. It's a complex issue and a personal choice.
Be firm about why you want to buy chickens, and wait a few months for the right birds if you have to. With a lifespan of 3-4 years for a commercial layer and up to 7-10 years for heritage breeds - some hens even longer - they are a commitment. But a joyful one!
Don’t buy backyard chickens until you read this guide! We’re sure you’re now armed with facts to make the best decisions on buying healthy chickens in Australia.
Next, make sure you read my article about what to do when bringing your new chickens home!
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.
We’ve got more tips for raising backyard chickens beyond the basics. Become an egg-spert and follow my online guide to raising backyard chickens 101.
Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.