If you plan to add more chickens to your flock this spring and buy from a private breeder, rather than from a hatchery, you need to consider your purchase very carefully, in order to obtain the best birds and minimize the risks of bringing illness onto your homestead.
The benefits of buying from a breeder rather than a hatchery are several, but it is not without risks. As you can fairly easily obtain eggs, chicks and adults from all over the country - USPS is able to ship all three - you are not limited to buying from a breeder that you don't feel 100% comfortable with.
Consider the below before you make a purchase, and be sure to enjoy the shopping process; it's part of the fun!
- If you are buying to create a breeding flock of heritage birds, ask the breeder where their stock came from. If they came originally from a hatchery, there is a good chance that the birds may not represent the breed according to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection. For show, they will most likely not be suitable. This is not to say that birds that place in shows never originate from hatcheries, it's just that it is unlikely. Hatcheries do not breed and cull for quality; their focus is on quantity sales.
- Try to visit the farm where the birds come from. Is it clean? Do the birds look healthy? It is perfectly acceptable for a breeder to restrict access to certain parts of their farm for biosecurity reasons, so don't necessarily assume they have something to hide. However, trust your gut here: if you think something isn't right, don't buy.
- If you are buying eggs off the internet, through eBay or another auction site, be sure to verify that the birds in the ad are the actual birds you are getting eggs from. There have been many instances recently of sellers passing off birds they do not own as their own, and using stolen photographs. Check for a watermark, and you might do well to do a quick Google image search to see whether the photos pop up as belonging to someone else; probably a larger, well-known breeder.
- Recommendation is the absolutely best way to purchase new stock. If you know someone with birds you admire, ask them where they came from. Find out who is winning at the shows and approach them for birds. If you are buying from eBay or auction site - read the feedback.
- When you bring in new birds, no matter from where, quarantine them. Keep them well away from your other birds, remembering that some diseases are airborne. Visit your original birds first and then your new birds, and keep boot washing stations outside the new birds' pen, that you use on the way in and the way out, filled with water and bleach or other disinfectant.