How to pick healthy chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by TJs chicklets, Nov 17, 2015.

  1. TJs chicklets

    TJs chicklets Out Of The Brooder

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    I currently have 5 Welsummers, 7.5 months old, only 1 of which is laying. We're getting a little tired of only having freeloaders, so I found a nearby farm looking to get rid of 20 red sex links, and they've agreed to sell me just 3. They are 1.5 years old, the woman says. They are only $4 each, so as long as they give me eggs at least until the others pick up, I'm good. I understand that red sex links may not lay as long as other breeds. My coop and run are big enough for about a dozen birds, as I always plamned to add 2-3 a year, to replace the older ones.

    So, my question is mainly what should I look for when I go to get them? How do I pick out healthy birds? Both in general of the flock, and any tips for picking the right 3. I've never had chickens before my current flock, so I'm new to this! I do have a plan for integration!
     
  2. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

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    Given their age and the time of year there is a strong possibility those red sex links are in a molt, and you would have yet more non-laying birds.
     
  3. TJs chicklets

    TJs chicklets Out Of The Brooder

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    I know, that occurred to me. She says they are still laying well, and I'm hoping to find out from him when I go up there how many eggs they are getting a day. I did read that red sex links don't slow down as much as some other breeds during molt/ winter... Anyone have any input into this?
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Agrees.^^^^

    It would be hard to spot problems without experience of seeing said problems.....
    ....but good feathering, clear eyes/nostrils, clean feet/legs, plump combs/wattles.

    Also do you have a plan for quarantine?
    Birds can carry disease asymptomatically, stress of a new environment can cause disease to break and show.
    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    The stress of integrating new birds into your flock could put your existing one off laying and hamper the onset of lay in the other Wellies.

    Moving stress in the new birds could hamper their laying too, if they are not already molting the change could throw them into a molt.

    Adding more birds is often not the best solution to lack of eggs.
    Sexlinks are high production birds and may lay thru molt and winter....but I wouldn't count on it.
    The seller will probably tell you what you want to hear....it's a crap shoot.
     
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    They definitely slow down in molt and cold winter. Sex links are laying machines so you do still get a few eggs but wont have a surplus. Basically that's the reason the farm is selling 1.5 year layers. It doesn't make economical sense to them to house the poor layers from late fall to spring when they can raise new sexlinks to laying age for less money by the time the older birds go into molt.

    I had some sex links years ago. They were awesome layers and did keep them to 2.5 years. This to me was the age for no gain to house another winter. By spring they'd be laying a few less eggs a week and I'd have been feeding a full grown bird for the winter months of maybe 3 eggs a week average each in that time waiting. In waiting for start of molt to cull one died of what I assume was internal laying problem. Healthy one day, noted a pale comb prior to closing door as she went to roost and was dead (fallen off the roost) by morning. This sort of thing happens to a notable percentage in high production birds.

    Certainly not trying to deter you from sex links as they are great birds. But you should know high production birds will lay less after each molt, more so than a less productive bird. Their gains are nullified by fall of second year for the most part and are more susceptible to health issues regarding laying.
     
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I only get chicks from known safe sources, never older birds. It's about biosecurity, and not introducing diseases to my flock. All the above is true; those birds may not be the solution for your egg situation. Your birds should be in lay soon, especially if you have a morning light set up to extend their daylight to about 14 hours. Patience! Having a variety of breeds helps with the egg basket colors, point of lay, and molting times. Order some chicks in spring instead. Mary
     
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I wouldn't buy them. There's a reason they're only $4 each. They're going to molt and quit laying any day now.

    But, to answer your question, picking a healthy bird in general. you're looking for an alert, active, bright eyed bird with nice glossy feathers. Clean bum, a little poo on feathers isn't a deal breaker but no signs of diarrhea. The birds should keep themselves basically clean. Any bird that looks sluggish, hunched, excessively fluffed for the weather, lethargic, doesn't want to move, has any drainage from the head, feather loss, doesn't interact well with the flock, scaly legs, limps, gimps and doesn't come running for a handful of scratch would be a no-go. Don't ever, ever bring a bird home because you feel sorry for it, or you drove a long way to see it. Not worth exposing your flock to who knows what because you want to "rescue" a bird.
     
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I agree with everyone else...don't buy them, even if they are only $4. They are being sold because they are in laying decline, which is typical for this type of bird. Also, RSL are about the most unhealthy bird one can every get, even if they got them as chicks. Much like the broiler birds, these birds are not bred for longevity or hardiness, just for short term life of high productivity, so they are very prone to organ failure and reproductive issues and cancer, particularly as they go into their 2 nd yr.

    I'd look for someone selling some Black Australorps at POL and pay the full price...you'll get your money's worth and then some. They live and lay for years with very little~if any~health issues, they lay in the winter, they don't eat much and they forage well. They also don't go broody often, so they are the perfect small flock, no roosters allowed, pet birds, need me some eggs kind of situation,
     
  9. TJs chicklets

    TJs chicklets Out Of The Brooder

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    First off, I'd just like to say thanks to everyone for all of the input! I spend a lot of time reading on here, not so much posting, but I am always amazed by how thoughtful everyone is. You answered my questions, and also gave me valuable input into why I shouldn't proceed, while still being.. trying to find the right words... rational, kind human beings (some days I find those to be rare [​IMG])

    I think I might hold off for now. I went and picked up some lights this afternoon (I've read they aren't usually necessary the first year, but at the same price as the new chickens, including the timer, and way less to feed, I figured it can't hurt. I'll try that for now... DH is threatening to send them all to the soup pot, so we'll just have to see. The sex links are not a breed I'd ever pick from chicks, for all of your reasons given, but we have very little choice here in Canada. Our TSC sells about 6 breeds- I got my wellies from a small hatchery that doesn't ship; I had to drive about an hour and a half, so there really isn't much choice around - I'd love some Australorps or something else instead (probably will one year, different breed each spring!) but the sex links were the only thing I could find available within about a 1.5 hour drive.

    Anyway, thanks again :)
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Lighting won't be a fast solution either.....I tell ya, chickens can take some real patience, and patience can take a long time to learn hahaha.
    My favorite new mantra is...they are not vending machines...to assuage my impatience waiting for this year pullets to lay then my yearling to finish molting.

    Here's a pretty good article on supplemental lighting.
     

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