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Buying FAQs

Where can I buy chickens?

  • For standard, popular breeds you can check your local area for suppliers.
  • Speciality breeds will need to be sourced from specialist breeders.
  • For pure-breed chickens the best starting point is one of the many chicken clubs – search online to find the nearest club or group dedicated to the breed you’re looking for.
  • You will find many advertisements online offering chickens/poultry/hens for sale.
  • If there are battery farms in your State, there may be also be an organization that seeks to re-home them.
  • Beware unlicensed breeders or any auction or market where the birds might not have been passed as healthy by a vet.

Old English Game rooster
You'll have to shop around for a fine Old English Game rooster like this

Can I keep chickens in my garden?

Yes, but it’s a question of damage limitation. Chickens search for food by scratching, an instinct which will reduce a lawn or flowerbed to a muddy desert, if they’re allowed to scratch there all year.

Limit the time your birds are allowed to free-range. In an ‘untidy’ garden of rough grasses and semi-wild borders, the hens will scratch without doing permanent damage. You won’t be able to stop them digging up delicate plants in a more formal garden, so it might be best to keep them out.

How many hens can I keep?

The answer to this depends on several factors:

  • Local ordinances and bylaws.
  • The space you have available.
  • The practical use you have for the eggs or chicken meat – a surfeit is hard to handle, unless you are able to sell it or give it away.
  • In general, think in terms of at least 6 sq feet per bird. Overcrowding will result in stress and its related problems and illnesses. Never pack lots of birds into a small space; and make sure each bird has space to perch, and an egg-laying box to call its own.

Rhode Island Red hens drinking water
How many of these Rhode Island hens you can keep will depend on a number of factors

Can I keep just one chicken?

Chickens are social animals and need each other’s company. They will pine, and probably stop laying, if left alone. Two should be looked on as the absolute minimum, and a hen left as a singleton after the deaths of other birds should be given companions as quickly as possible.

What variety of chicken should I get?

There are dozens of chicken breeds, and the most popular ones in the US are listed in the Chicken Breeds section of this guide. Before choosing, you need to decide why you are planning to keep chickens. It could be for eggs, meat, a child’s pet, a show bird, some mobile, feathered garden decorations, or a combination of these things. Many chicken keepers go for an all-rounder breed such as the Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock.

How do I recognize a healthy bird when buying chickens?

The premises of the breeder or supplier should be clean, and the chickens should have lots of space in fully-equipped sheds and coops. A healthy bird has an alert and erect look. Any drooping head, wing or tail, hunched shoulders or appearance of dull-eyed lethargy, should be taken as an indication that the bird is not well. A healthy bird will be alert and bright-eyed. In addition to supplying healthy birds, a good supplier will also be able to answer your chicken-related questions. They should also offer a health guarantee, by which they will replace or refund any birds that fall ill in the first few days.

Ameraucana hen head
A healthy looking Ameraucana hen

How much space do I need to keep chickens?

As much as possible! Although you can keep hens in a fairly small chicken run, you will need to clean it out as regularly as a bird cage to prevent the ground turning to a desert/mud bath (depending on the prevailing weather). A larger space enables your hens to scratch the ground without destroying it – they will wander from one end of a plot to the other several times over the course of a day. You can also rotate the run, giving the ground chance to recover between chicken sessions.

How much money will I save by keeping my own hens?

The answer “None” might not be what you want to hear! However, unless you are selling eggs or meat at a premium, you will not be saving much money by keeping hens. Chicken feed and general maintenance wipes out your "profits". Anyone thinking of keeping backyard poultry to make money should think again. It is more about the pleasure than the profit!

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