A lot goes into raising a flock, from knowing the best breeds to buy to have enough resources to sustain your chickens. But first, when should you buy chickens? How do different seasons affect chickens? You should know the right time to buy your chickens, as any mistake might lead to a setback.
When To Buy Chickens: Season And Age
At what time of the year do you buy chickens?
The season in which you buy your chickens determines the amount of care and attention you’ll give them. For instance, if you buy chickens during winter, you’d have to provide extra warmth, especially if they aren’t mature enough to self-heat.
Also, you might have to deal with cases of frostbite, among others. If the chickens are to be mailed to you, most of them might likely not survive the trip because of the cold. As such, winter isn’t the best time to buy your chickens.
The best time of the year to buy chickens is Spring or early Summer. There is enough heat during this period to keep your chickens warm. You don’t have to provide extra warmth; therefore, they are less susceptible to diseases.
Besides, your chickens would start laying eggs before the year runs out as they experience faster maturity during this period. There’ll be no risks of receiving dead chickens from the mail too.
At what age do you buy chickens?
The age of the chickens you buy depends on how much time and resources you’re willing to commit to their growth. There are 4 categories of chickens: chicks, pullets, point of lay, and laying hens.
Chicks are very fragile and the most sensitive of the 4 categories of chickens. They require a lot of time and attention, and to some extent, not all chicks in the flock will survive.
Also, it’ll take some months before they start laying eggs or meaty enough to be eaten. However, they’re the cheapest of the different types, adorable, and easy to bond with since you’ll be handling them all through the growth phase.
Pullets are young chickens, usually about 9 – 10 weeks. They’re more mature and stronger than chicks but more expensive. It also takes them some weeks before laying eggs, but not as long as day-old chicks. Besides, you can bond with them as well.
Point of lay
These are chickens in the first phase of laying eggs, usually around 4 or 5 months. If you don’t have much time to commit to raising chicks, but you need eggs urgently, you can buy chickens at the point of lay.
They’re stronger than pullets and chicks and require no special care. The eggs keep getting bigger as the chickens mature. However, their diet needs to be comprehensive to maximize their egg production.
Laying hens are chickens already in the egg-laying stage. You can easily estimate how many eggs you’ll get from each chicken per year. They’re always hardy and can withstand extreme weather conditions. However, it might be challenging to bond with them, and they’re usually costly, depending on the breed. Some dual-purpose breeds also have the best meaty carcasses at this stage.
|Day-old chicks||Pullets||Point of lay||Laying hens|
|Age||Newly hatched eggs||8 – 10 weeks||16 – 20 weeks||18 – 20 weeks|
|Health status||Fragile||Strong||Stronger and more mature||Very hardy|
|Cost||Cheap||Relatively cheap||Expensive||Most expensive|
|Relationship with chicken breeders.||Easier to bond with.||Easier to bond with too.||Not easy to bond with.||The most difficult to bond with.|
|Care||Require special care.||Require special care.||Require no special care.||Require no special care.|
When To Buy Chickens: 4 Signs Of Healthy Chickens
Besides looking out for the time of the year and the age of the chickens, you also need to check for the signs of life. You don’t want to buy chicks or chickens that’d be dead on arrival once you bring them to your backyard.
If you want the best, go to the hatchery and check out the chickens yourself. If you’re buying through the mail, ensure there’s a refund or replacement policy you can fall back on in case the chickens turn out to be sick. Below are 4 signs of healthy chickens.
Healthy chicks and chickens are always on the alert. Depending on the breed, some are flighty while some are calm. However, they shouldn’t be too relaxed to sense danger or evade it. Chicks and chickens that are mentally alert scurry away at first when you approach them.
You won’t find healthy chickens dropping their heads except when they’re eating or sleeping. The eyes are bright and clear, the nostrils aren’t runny, the feathers are glossy, and the toes are clear and non-webbed.
Their alertness affects their posture; their heads are always upright, and their feathers aren’t droopy. They walk or run straight to where they’re going; only a sick chicken will walk clumsily. However, the breed affects the appearance. Some chicken breeds appear calm, while others are aggressive at a first impression.
Healthy chickens are energetic – this doesn’t necessarily mean your chickens will be running all over your backyard or roosting in trees or cackling loud enough to disturb the neighborhood. Not all chicken breeds do that; some are very quiet and docile.
However, whether quiet or loud by nature, healthy chickens are full of life. They’ll eat, drink, free-range, socialize with their mates, and do what they want to do. Healthy chickens don’t stay still for a long time in a place; only sick ones do.
If you’re buying laying chickens, you need to ask the seller if they’ve been consistent with egg production and the color and weight of the eggs. Even though egg production decreases as the chickens mature, it should be consistent throughout their fertile years.
The eggshells should be thick and the yolks a dark golden color. Watch this video for more information on how to check for healthy chickens:
4 Cost-effective Tips For Raising Chickens
If you want to be sure of where your food comes from, raising chickens isn’t an activity you should overlook. While raising a flock requires time and attention, you can cheapen the cost as much as possible. Below are some tips for raising chickens cost-effectively and successfully.
Make your chicken feed and treats
If you buy chicken feed every time from the store, you might find yourself financially strained, especially if food prices are high. Instead, you can make your chicken feed using grains such as alfalfa, wheat, oats, barley, etc.
You can also use kitchen scraps, fruits, mealworms, etc., as treats. Having a garden where you plant vegetables such as broccoli, kale, celery, etc., will help. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be sure of the quality of foods your chickens are eating.
Get free/cheap food
Asides making your chicken feed and growing a chicken garden; you can look for free food for your chickens. You could go to the farmers’ markets for leftovers your chickens can eat or check out restaurants that offer free chicken food or allow people to take away leftovers for their animals.
However, ensure you’re not getting spoiled or diseased food for your chickens. In short, don’t give them what you can’t eat.
Build your coop
Another cost-effective tip for raising chickens is to build your chicken coop yourself. Buying chicken coops can be expensive, but you can build one by following the free models on the internet.
However, ensure you use durable and comfortable materials; always remember to make your chickens feel at home in their coop. For instance, if you’re using wood, paint it to prevent termites from eating the wood.
Vaccinate your chickens
Vaccination costs some amount of money but is very important for the well-being of your chickens. Chickens are very fragile animals; just a minor complication can snuff out their life out of them.
Besides, the survival rates differ depending on the breed and age of the chickens. For example, laying chickens are stronger and tolerant than day-old chicks. Breeds like Ameraucana, Delaware, Rhode Island Red, etc., tend to be the healthiest among chicken breeds.
4 Things You Should Prepare For When Raising Chickens
While you can predict the success of your flock to a large extent, you should also be prepared for any eventuality. Below are some of the things that are likely to happen.
It’s possible that you don’t lose any of your flock, but it’s also likely you do. However, the risks vary. For instance, if you’re raising day-old chicks, the chances are high that you’d lose some of them compared to if your chickens are at their point of lay.
Also, complications like sudden death syndrome can kill your chickens even though it might appear nothing is wrong with them. As such, don’t take it to heart too much when you lose some of your chickens; but try to mitigate the risks.
Chicken breeders wish they could control the weather, but they can’t. Different climate conditions have different effects on your chickens, and this could spoil your plans or mock the efforts you’ve invested in raising your flock.
For example, heat-tolerant chickens might find it hard to survive icy conditions or require more effort if they do. There might also be a slight decrease in egg production. If the climate is unkind to you in your location, find ways to protect your chickens. If you still lose any, you know you’ve done your best.
For more information about weather conditions, you can read:
Preventing predators from attacking your chickens is primarily a function of the quality of plans you make in advance. Predators like foxes, wild dogs, raccoons, snakes, hawks, owls, etc., aren’t slow to detect where chickens are kept.
The chances are high that you’ll keep them out and not lose any of your flock. However, there’s the flip side too – predators might attack suddenly, and in the process, you lose some chickens.
Just like you age day by day, chickens age too. The higher their age, the lower their egg production. As such, you should know when your chickens are still serving you or not.
Start by knowing the breed’s lifespan and their productive years to help you make better plans. You should go for dual-purpose chickens too. When they’re done with egg-laying, their carcasses will be meaty enough for a family dinner or to be sold in the markets.
When buying chickens, you have to look out for the time of the year, the age of the chickens, and signs of good health. These three factors influence the growth of your flock. Beyond knowing when to buy chickens, you should also know what to put in place, and things you should prepare for that might likely happen.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken & Scratch.