Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Chicken Swap

I went to my first chicken swap today. Actually, to my first two chicken swaps. The first was in Franklin, Virginia, at the Tractor Supply Company (TSC) there. The other was at Epps Farm Supply in nearby Suffolk, VA. I had a hankering for two new hens. I wound up with two new Rhode Island Red pullets and a young Beagle.

Lucky for me, my husband, Don, has a soft spot for Beagles!

If you found this post because you are looking for regional chicken swaps, try Pet Chickens of Virginia. I posted a link to its website but it's also on Facebook, which seems more user-friendly. Also check at local feed stores.

For the uninitiated, a chicken swap is an informal event, usually at a farm-supply or feed store, where folks gather to buy and sell poultry, small animals, and other related items. I was eager to augment my micro-flock of three backyard hens, one Delaware and two Buff Orpingtons, with two egg-layers of a different breed. I wasn't sure what I wanted, but I wanted young hens that were laying or pullets that were close to laying. I wanted clean, healthy-looking birds. And I didn't want to go to the time and trouble of hatching and raising chicks.

The monthly chicken swap at the TSC in Franklin has the reputation of being one of the biggest and best-attended around our region, so I set my alarm early and headed over with anticipation. It was fun to see the variety of animals for sale there: goats, turkeys, ducks and ducklings, chicks and chickens, and rabbits. There were also some interesting-looking perches for chickens and even a model chicken-tractor.

It was still early in the morning at TSC, but the vendors were out and so was the crowd of shoppers

This Tom turkey looks as curious about me as I am about him!

Polish roosters looking like rock stars behind bars.

Another view of the Polish roosters. Phyllis Diller would be proud!

A kid (baby pygmy goat) crying for its mother

This is either a model chicken tractor or a design for some really small bantams!

The same builder makes perches for various sizes of chickens.

While the shopping there was interesting, I left empty handed other than for some garden seeds I'd bought from TSC. A few of the birds were dirty and unkempt-looking. Most of the hens there were old, past their prime, and probably destined for someone's soup pot. There were three juvenile pullets that caught my eye, but they were Buff Orpingtons, the breed I already have. Most of the chickens were roosters or straight-run chicks.

Straight-run means they are not sexed. Besides not wanting to raise chicks, I especially needed to avoid straight run babies, because I live in a residential area where only hens (female chickens) are allowed. This is because hens are generally more docile than roosters. They are also much quieter.

I drove about 25 minutes from the TSC to Epps Farm Supply in Suffolk. My GPS took me on a pleasant, windy, back-country route that was fun driving on such a pleasant morning.

There were fewer vendors set up at the second chicken swap, but fewer customers, too. And I met a nice young woman who had two young, female, Rhode Island Red chickens for sale plus a cute bantam rooster. They were in a large wooden box on the ground behind the tailgate of her truck. On the back of the truck in a crate she also had a small beagle that was looking around and shaking uncontrollably.

I found my pullets and something more!

She told me the pullets, female chickens that have not yet laid, were old enough to be on layer feed. They should start to lay in about a month, and they were $15.00 each.


"And do you happen to need a dog? He's FREE!" she added when I accepted the terms.

I eyed the dog, still shaking in his crate. "My husband has a soft spot for Beagles. What's his story?" I asked.

She told me something about finding the dog at a local dump, where the dog seemed to have also been dumped. He'd been scavenging for food. She'd been feeding him some kibble regularly, but subsequently found him near her house. Her family's lab bitch had come into season, and that will draw males from miles around, including this guy.

"If I take this dog home," she said, "my mama will kill me! And if he hangs around our property, sniffing around and trying to get to our Labrador, my daddy will shoot him." Her look was earnest.

Don and I had recently lost a dog. I called him and asked if he were willing to rescue a Beagle I'd found. OK, I fudged a little on that part, but not by much.

"Let's try him out," was my loving man's reply. I smiled.

You, Loyal Readers, will know the truth. So does Don, now that I have this dog safely home. If anyone else asks, though, I'm going to say that the farmer's daughter got such a good deal from me on her two pullets, she threw in a free Beagle!

In case you're wondering whether he found a good home, he'll be getting Blue Buffalo premium brand dog food, a choice of Kuranda beds to sleep on, a doggy door and fenced in yard to relieve himself and get fresh air at will, a doggy seat belt in the car, walks, romps in the woods with Don, you name it...

Yeah, we spoil our chickens, too!

He'll be going to Dr. Virginia Vaughan at Veterinary Clinic of Chesapeake sometime this week for a checkup, shots, and an appointment to get neutered.

So here they are, our current menagerie, except for our house cat. So far the Beagle is getting along with everyone. We haven't named him yet, so suggestions are welcome.

Our two Rhode Island Reds in quarantine

Here's our rescued beagle. He stopped shaking around the time we put him in my car

Our new Beagle with our elderly Labrador mix

Our new Beagle with our Treeing Walker Coonhound

Athena, our Delaware hen, is the queen of the flock and rather put out by the pullets' presence

Our two Buff Orpingtons, Minerva and Nike, seem curious about the new chickens
Our beagle boy has one last thing to say to the folks who dumped him to fend for himself!


  1. Loved it! :-) I love all animals and adore my chickens!

  2. You and your new addition(s) to your family have made my heart smile!!

    1. Thanks. Feel free to share. The beagle has put on weight and is healthy and happy.