Where to buy healthy chickens in Australia
So, you want to find healthy chooks for your backyard, and you don't mind spending decent money on them. But you want to get what you pay for...
The best place to find healthy chickens is from a reputable breeder. But how do you find these breeders, and how do you know that they are reputable?
Summary of this article:
- Poultry Clubs
- Introducing Cacklebook
- Poultry Auctions
- Local Egg Farmers
- Questions to ask a breeder before buying chickens
- What does a healthy chicken look like?
- Do chickens need to be vaccinated?
Start with Australian Poultry Clubs and Associations.
They can connect you with a breeder in your area. There are dozens of clubs around Australia.
But you must be prepared to wait for birds to come up for sale. This may take months.
Generally breeders will have excess pullets for sale from November to April, as most are hatched August to October.
APRIL 2020 UPDATE: There are exceptions to this rule, and if 2020 shows are cancelled, people may be willing to sell birds they would have otherwise kept.
How to find an Australian Poultry Club
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". The purpose of most clubs is to promote purebred poultry, mostly for exhibition (show chickens). 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 great avenue for finding quality poultry, particularly rare breeds.
How do you find a Poultry Club?
Start with the state association body in 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 below.
The other option is to Google "[insert breed] poultry club of Australia" or "[insert town] poultry club" or "exhibition poultry [your location].
Many Australian poultry clubs will have a Facebook page, but not a website.
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 breeders do not make money from the sale of their birds. If money were our primary driver, we wouldn't bother!
Check out my list of questions to ask a breeder before buying chickens.
State Associations and Poultry Clubs Around Australia (while a great start, this is not a complete list of clubs!)
ACT POULTRY CLUBS
VICTORIA POULTRY CLUBS
The VPFA has a terrific list of 36 VPFA registered poultry clubs in Victoria. Please note that not all poultry clubs are VPFA registered, e.g. Oakleigh District Poultry Society Inc and Bacchus Marsh Poultry Club.
NEW SOUTH WALES POULTRY CLUBS
Backyard Poultry has a list of NSW poultry clubs here.
QUEENSLAND POULTRY CLUBS
Backyard Poultry has a list of QLD poultry clubs here.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA POULTRY CLUBS
South Australian Poultry Association Inc has a great list of 15 SAPA registered poultry clubs in South Australia.
TASMANIA POULTRY CLUBS
Backyard Poultry has a list of poultry clubs in Tasmania here.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA POULTRY CLUBS
Backyard Poultry has a list of NSW poultry clubs here.
OTHER BREED SPECIFIC CLUBS
Facebook have banned the sale of animals. But there is an alternative...Cacklebook! It's a website that requires a login, with "pages" and "groups" within it. Australian Poultry Exchange, Poultry Sales Australia and many other groups and pages can be found there. Register for an account at https://cacklebook.com/
Gumtree is another avenue for poultry, poultry housing and supplies. Particularly if you're after Isa Browns/Commercial Layers. https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-isa+browns/k0
Poultry auctions are usually conducted and organised by poultry clubs. There are some excellent breeders whom choose to sell via their local auctions.
And there are also dodgy people 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 birds I wanted to buy, who they belonged to, and it was a dispersal sale of all of 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.
Local Egg Farmers
Local free range egg farmers can be a great source of cheap Isa Browns or commercial layers. But realistically you're only going to get another 1-2 years out of these hens before they either cease laying or run into reproductive health issues.
I suggest you only buy 2 at a time for a backyard. This way you can get another 2 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 up front.
Questions to ask a breeder before buying chickens
As with everything, there are epic breeders that have your best interests at heart, and there are others that 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. Here is a list of questions to help guide you - questions to ask a breeder before buying chickens.
The breeder won't let me see their place - is this a bad sign?
Depends. Some breeders don't want you to see their place as it may not be up to scratch. But there are others I know that are concerned about biosecurity or safety.
What does a healthy chicken look like?
Chooks should be alert, have a clean vent, bright eyes and be active. Chickens also talk to one another during the day (some talk a lot!) so this is good sign of a healthy chook. They should NOT be droopy, sleepy, have any swelling around the face or any discharge from their eyes, nostils or vent.
Do chickens need to be vaccinated?
My feeling on this is that a healthy bird from disease resistant stock and excellent husbandry is more valuable than a vaccinated bird. But it depends on your situation.
Very few people (like 1%) actually vaccinate using a comprehensive program. It's an expensive commitment.
Many sell birds as "vaccinated", and only actually vaccinate for Marek's Disease. Other vaccines such as Infectious Bronchitis need repeating up to 15 weeks of age to be covered.
But please don't think a "vaccinated bird" can't get sick. It can!
The Hy-Line Red official vaccination program recommends vaccines for Marek's, Newcastle Disease, Infectious Bronchitis, Avian Encephalomyelitis and Fowl Pox as outlined here: https://www.hyline.com/userdocs/pages/BRN_ALT_COM_AUS.pdf.
Other breeders I know vaccinate for Marek's, Infectious Bronchitis, Fowl Pox, Coryza and Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT). Another just 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 chickens, and wait a few months for the right birds if you have to. With a life-span 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!