Monday, February 16, 2015

Where to purchase chickens in Southeastern VA

The question of where to buy chicks, hens, or pullets comes up frequently on 4 Chesapeake Hens' website, especially in the spring and early summer. Here is a list to get you started, adapted from a file posted by Hampton Roads Hens (borrowed with permission). A listing here does not necessarily mean an endorsement: this list is for informational purposes only.

Mermare's Cottage Farm in Virginia Beach
Lucky Duck Landing Farm in Virginia Beach
Little Blessings Orps specializes in Orpingtons
Hampton Roads Chicken Swap on Facebook

Tudor Ace Hardware also sells chicks, 1642 Sparrow Road, Chesapeake, VS 23325. Phone 757-366-9506.

Speaking of chicken swaps, you can find these small animal buy/sell/trade events on Craigslist, through signs in farm supply stores, and through Pet Chickens of Virginia or Hampton Roads Chicken Swap.The advantage of chicken swaps is you can meet the people you're trading with directly and see the condition of the animals you are buying. One disadvantage is that biosecurity can be a huge issue at these events and you might bring unwanted diseases home.

Speaking of biosecurity, if you already have poultry, have a quarantine area set up for your new birds before introducing them to your established birds. Viruses take time to manifest themselves. Chicken Health for Dummies suggests keeping the flocks at least 30' apart for 30 days and making sure you feed and water the more established flock before tending to the new one.

Other manuals suggest keeping the flocks apart for at least two weeks. The chickens may look perfectly healthy but harbor viruses, anyway. Signs are more likely to show up and the viruses more likely to shed when the chickens suffer stress due to moving. Live poultry, even those cute chicks, can harbor salmonella, so practice safe handling practices, including for your children. Here are ideas from the CDC.

Back to listings: Craigslist also has listings for chickens if you run searches for "pullets." You can search using other terms, but you'll tend to have to wade through lots of posts selling decorative items.

Farm supply stores stock chicks in the spring. Tractor Supply (various locations), Southern States (various locations), Epps Farm Supply in Suffolk, Farmer's Feed and Seed in Suffolk and Windsor, St. Bride's Feed and Farm Supply in Chesapeake, Currituck Feed and Seed in NC, all sell chicks in the spring. Some sell older pullets or young hens, too. Realize that many farm supply stores sell chicks they've ordered from hatcheries (see below), so if you are looking to buy local, ask questions before you buy.

If you are willing to mail-order chicks, here is a list of some hatcheries:


Please keep in mind that being mailed is stressful, perhaps even dangerous, for the chicks. Some hatcheries will pack extra roosters around the pullets (sexed females), especially in the winter, to keep the girls warm, even if you specifically ordered females. Be aware of each company's policies. Also realize that there may be some humane issues with chicks that come from hatchery stock, whether you get them by mail order or not, a problem that is exacerbated by the demand for pullets over cockerels.

If you live in an area that does not allow roosters, realize that "straight run" means unsexed birds. You WILL have roosters included in the mix. "Sexed" birds in a farm supply store or from a hatchery mean that the chickens have been professionally vent-sexed, and there is a 90% chance or better that you are getting females. This still means you will be getting occasional roosters that you need to make plans for. If anyone guarantees the birds are pullets (female) but won't put the guarantee in writing that they will take roosters back, walk away. If you want to buy fertile eggs and hatch your own chicks, remember there is no way to sex eggs. You will still need a plan for unwanted roosters, which should average about 50% of your chicks.

Be responsible. The plan should NOT be to dump them somewhere. Be realistic. The plan should NOT be to eat them if you don't have the skills or the heart to do that. Some localities, like Chesapeake, prohibit slaughtering chickens in residential areas. The plan should NOT be to keep them if prohibited, either. They crow loudly and will quickly become a nuisance to the neighbors. Too many roosters will fight and will wear out the hens, too. They have a strong sexual libido. Some can turn overprotective of their females and attack people, especially children. The plan should NOT be to take them to animal control except as a last resort; excess numbers of unwanted chickens turned in can jeopardize the legality of chicken-keeping for more responsible owners. A responsible plan is to have arranged with someone out in the country IN ADVANCE to take unwanted roosters, or to have plans to eat them that are legal and you know you can follow through with, or to start with older pullets that can be sexed, young hens just starting to lay if you can find them, or sexed chicks.

Auto-sexing breeds of chickens are relatively rare. These are breeds where the males and females look different upon hatching. But hybrid sex-link chickens are relatively easy to find. These are crosses between two different breeds of chicken where the male and female chicks can easily be told apart due to differences in coloration. You can know with 100% certainty that you are getting females, and the hybrids are usually very consistent layers.

Be aware that some farmers will sell hens that are two years old or older or even spent hens (past laying age) as young hens. After the age of two, egg production slows down as the hen ages. Know who you're dealing with, and let the buyer beware.