Sunshine is here again! The threat of Virulent Newcastle Disease has been banished for now, so some of you may be thinking about welcoming chicks into your homes again. But where should you go to get chickens? Are all hatcheries the same? We’ll give you the inside s-coop here.
Not all hatcheries are created equal
While all fluffy chicks look adorable, they may not all be healthy and safe to bring home. For this reason, only purchase chicks from reputable sources. But not to worry! If a hatchery or other seller is a member of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), you can rest easy knowing that your new addition is in egg-cellent health. The NPIP is a cooperative testing and certification program that makes sure that poultry meet certain vaccination and health standards before sale. Participating flocks must regularly have their birds tested for important poultry diseases and keep their flocks free of these diseases. You certainly don’t want to bring home any disease that would make your existing flock more susceptible to illness. In addition, NPIP flocks are free of certain diseases which could cause serious illness in humans, such as salmonella. Curious to see which hatcheries and farms have a “clean” health status in your state? Use this map resource to find out.
Stock Talk: Quick Tips for Buying a New Bird
Read the fine print: Check the NPIP database to make sure that your potential seller is a verified source. Reviews from previous buyers can also inform your decision.
Vaccinations: Trusted hatcheries are more likely to be selling chicks that have received the appropriate vaccinations. We recommend that all chicks be vaccinated on the day they are hatched for at least these two diseases which are present in most poultry flocks: Marek’s Disease and coccidiosis. Beyond that a trusted hatchery will know the vaccination schedule required for your area based on disease prevalence and local conditions. While hatcheries may charge more for vaccinated chicks, the additional cost is often well worth the peace of mind to ensure that your chicks are protected. If you are adding new chicks to an existing flock the chicks could be exposed to poultry disease-causing germs that are in the environment and to which your home flock is immune or resistant. Because of these hidden dangers it is important that your new chicks be well vaccinated even before you get them..
Practice biosecurity: New birds need to be isolated from the rest of the flock for 30 days following purchase. This is done to prevent the possible spread of diseases. Want to learn more about fowl biosecurity? Read more here.
Buy local: When you buy from a local, accredited source, you ensure that your chicks are well-adapted to the climate where they will be living. When you buy from regions that are farther away, your chickens might struggle to adapt to the new climate at home. Just remember this: chickens are like Goldilocks from the popular children’s story… It can’t be too hot or too cold for them. The local climate has to fit just right!
Know which breeds are best for you: Different breeds of chickens have different temperaments, so do your research into what type of feathered friend you want at your home, especially if you have children. For example, Orpingtons are known for being docile and friendly while Redcaps tend to be more active.
Consider buying an older hen: Determining the sex of a chick can be hard, and you may not always get what you asked for. For this reason, birds often end up at shelters. Thus, why not look into adopting a “retired” hen from a rescue organization or bird sanctuary?
Don’t wing it and buy from an unverified source! Follow the steps above to start a happy and healthy flock.