Lesson 512 – Not so sure about this State chicken bill

It’s chick days at our local Tractor Supply Company! Hooray, I can take my kids into the store and we can get our baby chick fill without taking any home.

Of course the reason we don’t take any home is that in New Hampshire, by law, you have to buy at least 12 chicks at a time from a feed store. This law, established in 1985, was meant to protect the agricultural farmers. If you recall, New Hampshire is a bit on the rocky side – Granite State anyone – and we tend to have a fairly large contingency of live stock around to get us through those tough winters. At one time you’d find many large poultry farms throughout the state. (My parents honeymooned in New Hampshire and we have old black and white photos of my mom standing in the middle of a flock of birds at a turkey farm.)

But not anymore.

This requirement also served to protect the chicks. Baby chicks are inexpensive. Cheap enough that a kid with a few dollars could walk into a store and buy a chick to bring home in his back pocket. The problem with baby chicks, though, is that they grow. And just like the puppies and kittens that are abandoned when they are no longer cute, chickens also are “freed” when they grow out of their soft and fluffy stage. Too often they are freed into backwoods or local neighborhoods (especially those pesky roosters.)

I wrote to our local Representatives and Senators about this letting them know that the law was outdated. It was written at a time when people were not interested in smaller backyard flocks. A minimum of 3 birds at at time would be a good compromise, I suggested. It would allow backyard chicken owners to replenish a small flock (hey, birds die, especially over the winter) with fully vaccinated birds and the 3 minimum would also still protect the chicks from being bought by those who might not be serious about raising and caring for chickens.

I was told by our Representative that there is a current bill (HB 1231) that has passed the House and is now in the Senate to repeal all restrictions on the purchase of all birds and (interestingly) rabbits. (Having just bought a single rabbit last summer, I had no idea that there was any requirement on them in the first place.)

Although this is a step in the right direction, I personally would have opposed this bill as it opens the door for too many people to buy just one chick (and I’m specifically talking about chickens although this bill covers all birds and those adorable little bunnies.) A minimum purchase of 3 would allow the backyard owner easy access to a small amount of birds while at the same time, it would protect the chicks from those who may not be serious about taking care of them.

Who could resist? That's the problem.

Hopefully, it will be the conscientious chickens owners who will buy the birds and not a young child hoping to get a cute plaything for the day.

How about you guys? Are there any purchase restrictions on chicks from a feed store?


Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Roosters

11 responses to “Lesson 512 – Not so sure about this State chicken bill

  1. Hey sis–It would be interesting to contact the authors of that pending bill to find out who is behind the change. Your reasoning is sound, they might want to amend it. We are seeing small flocks of heritage turkeys around Minnesota so they might need some protection as well. Good luck. Legislative season is almost over so this might have to hold over till next year.

    • Wendy Thomas

      That’s exactly it, if I protest the bill, it won’t come up again until the next session (next year) whereas if it passes this session, it goes into effect 60 days after it passes.

      Not sure if my objections are enough to warrant holding the bill up and keeping backyard flock owners from having access to chicks.

      Ah, such a conundrum.


  2. I just heard from a chicken-keeping friend in Missouri who was asked if he would take a dozen chicks that a co-worker was buying to use at Easter for a petting table at a party. She was not going to house or care for them properly – just let the kids handle them and then give them away. He declined, in a very-well worded and stern letter! I don’t know if there’s a good answer. Missouri has a law of a min. of 6 chicks and this sort of thing still happens. Abuse happens regardless of laws. These days, you’ll have poor conditions if people purchase the min of 12 and don’t have the space to house them properly. Perhaps if at the point of sale there was clear advice about how to care for these animals?

    • Wendy Thomas

      Oh Terry,

      That Easter party story just breaks my heart. And you’re right, abuse is going to happen at all amounts. Perhaps tagging on a minimum age requirement (say 16) to anyone buying a livestock animal? Also, your suggestion of care instructions is well taken (in fact that will be a future post) TSC does a good job of sending you home with care instructions.


  3. Melanie Dunn

    In Maryland, there is a minimum of 5 at the feedstore. When I was growing up in Mass, it was 6. I only have 4 right now and would consider getting another 2 or so, but not 5! I remember when I was growing up in Mass, one time I only wanted to get another 2 so I went with a friend who bought 4.

  4. Here in Washington, as far as I know there are no requirements. The feed store where we just bought chicks has a order minimum for special orders (which our last purchase was). I think they will probably discourage people from buying one chick. My wife, who is by temperament a minimalist, bought two chicks. They are doing OK, but one has a “poopy butt.” When she took it away for a gentle wipe bath, the other chick became unglued and tried to escape the in-house creche.

    On the philosophical issue, it’s an essentially insoluble issue (as are all philosophical issues). It’s like alcohol, for example. We (Americans) tried Prohibition. Didn’t work. No restrictions also is unworkable. We fiddle and fiddle with regulations and advice. In the end, some people can handle alcohol responsibly; some can’t. Some can handle pets and chicks responsibly. Some can’t. That the kind of creature we are.

    • Wendy Thomas

      Nicely stated.

      With regard to the “poopy butt” we keep a box of those thick (non-alcohol) baby wipes (we even add a little bit of water to the box) near the chicks to take care of this very condition as soon as we notice it happening.


  5. Stephan

    Waht if we ‘register” as a backyard chcken enthusiast? i mean the town requires we register our dogs, means we have the responsibility to care for them. so if we get a ‘chicken license” then it could entitle us to purchase smaller amounts as a means to refresh our current flock.

    • Wendy Thomas


      I think that that is an elegant solution and although it is more of the b-word (bureaucracy) it would help to protect both the chicken owner and the chickens.


  6. I don’t think it should be required to have any limit on chicks anywhere. I am personally tired of all the “chicken laws”. You need to license a dog because it can get rabies and can bite you and make you sick, that is to protect the general public, the last thing we need is a license to keep chickens, it will give the town even more reason to stick their nose into chicken owner’s business, and yet another bill for chicken people. Most people who get chicks do research or at least have a chicken person they know to ask questions to (I am that person for many people in the area). I have sold just one chick to people since they can’t buy them in the stores. The reasons are as follows: 1. they have a brooder full of chicks and they want one of a different breed 2. They had a hatch that didn’t go as well as hoped and only a couple hatched and they want another friend for their chicks 3. They can only have a limited number of chicks and one died, they want one more to replace him or her and can not buy another 3-6 to replace that chick. Most people can be directed into doing the right thing. I received chicks when I was 5 (4 of them) and I took care of them better then a lot of adults do.. I even dragged the 50lb bag across the ground with my parents chasing after me, must have been funny to see. This also created the crazy chicken lady I am today! I realize not all children are going to keep interest in them but chickens are easy to care for and I always have this discussion with parents who want a small flock, and most times the children do fall in love and take great care of them for the rest of their lives, I still get pictures of a lot of them, I even received a video of some ducklings I sold to a man for his granddaughter, and a year later the whole mini flock is happy as can be (he does live right on a big lake though, lucky ducks!). I see your concerns for the chicks but in my experience most people who buy chicks are doing so with the intent of taking care of them and if you tell them raising a chicken by themselves is not the best thing they normally listen. I also have to add that I have raised a solo chick before, she was a very late surprise hatch and Mama hen didn’t take her in because she was so much younger then the others so we raised her and once she was old enough she mingled with the rest of the flock but always loved her people, it was actually kind of sweet. This is not something I suggest to do, of course,but I just wanted to give an example of a happy “single” chick growing up. Anyway, I understand your concern but of the single chicks I have sold there were always legit reason and it seems unfair to make it illegal.

    • Wendy Thomas


      Those are some well thought out arguments. Just when I think I have made up my mind on this, I hear another argument for the other side that makes me say hmmmm.

      Thank you for taking the time to post your views.


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