BackYard Chickens › Learning Center Articles › Taking the plunge--getting my own chickens. Where do I begin?

Taking the plunge--getting my own chickens. Where do I begin?

When I was a little girl, one of the greatest adventures was accompanying my grandparents on their annual spring trip to our local feed store, where they would buy 50 or 60 little yellow peepers to take back to their Texas ranch.   There they were settled in the ‘broody house’—an extension of my grandmother’s big henhouse—to lounge under a warm light and drink out of their Mason jar waterers till they were feathered out and big enough to join the rest of her flock of white Leghorns.  I’d sit in there as long as my grandmother would let me, watching them tumble around, mindful of her warnings not to step on anyone.

 

About 3 years ago I heeded the call to urban chicken-wrangling.  Our local feed store is still here selling chicks in the springtime.  However, I knew I wasn’t prepared for the babysitting that day-old chicks require, and the feed store didn’t deal in older pullets or grown hens.  I didn’t own an incubator, so hatching my own wasn’t a consideration, either.   I began to research my options on the Internet.  I wasn’t prepared for how many options were available!

 

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Craigs  List.  After accessing the website at www.craigslist.com and locating your area, type in any word associated with “chicken”—pullets, hens, eggs, free range, rooster, etc—in the SEARCH box, and you will be rewarded with a wealth of possibilities.  This is a great starting place for someone who hasn’t yet decided whether they would prefer hand-raising chicks or starting with older pullets or hens.  Many local breeders use this venue to sell their eggs, chicks and pullets and will provide photos of the hens and roosters that comprise their breeding stock.  Reputable breeders will mention that they vaccinate and/or are subject to inspection by the state and local authorities, and what they vaccinate for—most specifically, avian influenza and pulloram-typhoid. 

Hatcheries.  Have a look through our Breeder and Hatchery Index and or browse through the Chicken Breeders & Hatcheries forum section. McMurray Hatchery, Ideal, Mt. Healthy and Meyer are some of the most well-known; however, you’ll also find smaller hatcheries around the country as well.  Some only deal in chicks, which are mailed via US Postal Service, while some sell hatching eggs as well.   Again, check to see that the hatchery you choose posts their health information prominently.  If you’re looking for a certain breed of chicken—particularly the more exotic breeds—you’re most likely to find them from a hatchery. 

Local establishments, such as feed and ranch supply stores.  Once upon a time, feed stores that sold chicks only carried one breed—such as the Leghorns that my grandmother bought in the ‘60’s.  Today, these establishments offer several of the best-loved breeds in the spring—Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds seem to be the most popular at my feed store these days.  Feed store employees are a great resource for chicken information, too. 

Local organizations such as organic co-ops, meetup groups and chicken fanciers clubs.   Finding groups like these can be a valuable resource—both before and after you get your chickens.  Many groups host informational gatherings, such as Chickens 101 or Processing Meat Birds—and invariably, there’s always someone selling or giving chickens away.  This is a great way to learn more about your new pets, meet some interesting new people, and both add to and pare down your own flock when necessary.

BYC's Buy ~ Sell ~ Trade forum section. Have a browse through the BST section for hatching eggs, chicks and older chickens for sale.

 

Chicken hatching eggs: http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/36/chicken-hatching-eggs

Chick up to 8 weeks old: http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/53/chicks-1-day-to-8-weeks-old

Chickens older than 8 weeks old: http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/35/chickens-8-weeks-older

 

You can also place a free classified advert, asking for the specific age and breed(s) of chickens.

 

Whatever the age of the chickens you decide to acquire, make sure you’re prepared.  Each stage of chicken acquisition has its own specific requirements:

 

Hatching eggs:  You’ll need a dependable incubator, and to understand how it works—humidity requirements and temperature, particularly.  You may need to rotate the eggs as well, if your machine doesn’t do it for you.  Once the chicks hatch, you’ll need a warm (around 95 degrees F) and secure nursery box for the little darlings, with chick starter feed and water that they can’t fall into and drown.  There is a great deal of information on these boards regarding incubation, hatching and caring for new chicks.  Make sure you understand what you’re getting into.

Days-old chicks in the mail:  These babies are usually mailed within 12 hours of hatching.  They’ll need a drink of water on arrival, and very little handling the first few days.  They’ll need the same care as mentioned above till they’re feathered out at about 8 weeks.  This also applies to very young chicks you buy locally.

Older pullets and hens:  Your new girls will need a secure hen house or chicken tractor with a sturdy latch on the door, nesting boxes, a roost, and a roof to keep out the elements.  Where you go from there—no limit.  You’ll find lots of ideas on Backyardchickens.com for beautiful, functional coops and tractors.

Chickens are a great addition to any landscape, and regardless where you end up getting your chickens, you’ll be glad you did!  Good luck—and enjoy!!

Comments (15)

Great article! so... what you decide is your option? I opted getting full grown, young ones a Roo & 3 hens ( one of the girl die on the trip) but the other are doing great in their third week with us, they provide us 11 eggs by week & the beautiful roo a crowing song around the clock!!! Check out the pics on my profile!
Thanks for the nice compliment. When I got my first hens, I got 4 pullets--2 Ameracaunas and 2 Barred Rocks--and 2 full grown Marans hens that were already laying. I still have the Ameracaunas; sadly, the Barred Rocks and Marans have passed away (one from eating paint chips, one from a hawk attack, one from avian flu and one from something odd and unexplained). I got 3 more BR pullets that are big, healthy hens now and 2 Blue Copper Marans. One of those was killed by a hawk right before she started laying, the other one has taken over as queen of the coop, and lays eggs as dark as milk chocolate. I'm looking now to expand my flock over Spring Break--hoping to get some more Marans! Both of my Marans hens were broody last year and we put Rhode Island Red eggs under one, that was a fun hatch. Precious chicks!
I'm just researching before taking the plunge into my backyard chicken project (summer). I plan to have a few layers of some kind, and I love the "Little Brown Hens"...hence my profile name. (hee-hee) I like the positive comments on the Buff Orpington. This is a beautiful bird. However, I live in the state of Georgia, where temps in Summer can get into the high 90's. If the BO is cold hardy, it might not be my best choice. What breed would do well in my area, other than the BO? Would a NH do okay in these hot temps? She's lovely, too, and actually was my first choice.
Would it be okay to introduce a rooster later, to start a brood with a hen or two? As you can tell, I am somewhat a novice. All help is greatly appreciated.
So happy to find all of you out there on BYC you all are so helpful and generous with your information and love of your flock. We have a contract on an ole farmhouse with plenty of room for chickens to free range. So many great articles on the way to go about training the hens to come back to their roost was great and i am so looking forward to having my flock and now will also get a beautiful roo.... to fend for the hens.
Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
I sure wish i had done more research, Thanx BYC , i've only just joinded but have already gleaned info. I lost one of my very first biddies this week to an illness. I really didn't even know she was ill until it was too late i think. AND i really thought I was watching them closely. Blessings from the SOUTH
I've just begun my chick adventures as my daughter refers to it. We always had chickens when I was growing up but don't remember why Dad stopped having them. We drove 2 hrs. to pick up our BO pullets, we were able to get 4 week olds so we missed that delicate early stage. They've been in their new coop/run for a couple of weeks now. I was worried about the heat in particular, but even in the 90's my girls seem to be doing fine. I just make sure they have plenty of water and can get in the shade as much as they need to.
Hello Again; I have built my chicken truck and am in the process of building the nesting boxes to go on the outside of it.HOW much space does the nesting box need to have inside? Please help! My girls should start laying in September. Thanks in advance.
Everywhere i searched when i started was 12x12 on the inside for nest boxes, so that is what i went with and painted it dark. But I am a NEW EGG also! GOOD LUCK!!!
LilbrownHen. I live in TN and it gets HOT here too. :-). A good all temperature bird for consideration is the Deleware. Gorgeous Bird.
thanks. Tritonman
I live in SC and it is WAY hot here today, and may get hotter this summer. I have one BO, 2 white leghorns, 2 americaunas, a silkie, and a black australorp. They are all still young but they seem to be tolerating the heat so far. They find a shady spot and dig down in. Was bitten by the "chicken bug" two months ago and I am definitely "infected!" Have a lot to learn, though. Thanks for this site.
We just started our chicken adventure, too. The little chicks are now 7 days old and already enjoying their short ventures in the backyard.
We prepared the chicks' arrival by getting some essentials ahead of time: a heat lamp (we opted for an infrared bulb to go with it), we turned an old rabbit cage that had lost its purpose into a brooder, the rabbit's old drinking bottles, starter feed, hay and dried grass clippings from the yard, and info/tips/plans on building a coop. Now we are experiencing that little chicks are A LOT more active than we had imagined and the mystery of finding out if males or females is even greater! What a great journey so far!
A local organic free-range egg farm cheaply sells hens that are past their prime laying age every few years
Seems like there must be a lot of dust settled on this thread, but just in case I'll will write a bit. I have just joined this site and have enjoyed reading up on so many things about raising chickens. My situation is that my brother and his wife are planning on setting up place to raise chickens on their new place in the country. I live in a large city 23 miles from where they will live .It is against code for me to have chickens here in town, but my heart and mind are really looking to be a part of this and have few of my own there. WE live in NE Indiana. I vaguely recall as youngster my aunt and uncle having some chickens and we spent about every other weekend on their farm for years and years. My sister grew up a farm but has been far away from it all for decades. So this is a long time dream for her and a newer on for me. Except for the adventure of it all, I sure hope that driving all those miles two or three days a week to help out for a day or a half of one will prove worth it all cost wise as well. I am newly retired.
Oh,my name is meant to mean " One who tends to chickens" , not the eating style.
BackYard Chickens › Learning Center Articles › Taking the plunge--getting my own chickens. Where do I begin?