I was recently contacted by someone who knew of someone who wanted to re-home her flock of 8 adult laying hens. It’s not an unusual request, because people know I have a large NH chicken network, I get these kinds of inquiries all the time (it’s a lot easier to re-home hens than it is to re-home roosters.)
I’ve already located someone who is interested in the entire flock (and if you have an existing flock, why wouldn’t you be? That’s a big bump in eggs for the price of feed.)
Right now I’m passing on information from one to the other, but soon I’ll connect them directly and they can hash out the details, themselves.
Some questions that have come up when considering adding adults to your flock have included:
What are the breeds? We live in New Hampshire. It’s been a rough winter. Many of us chicken owners have lost chickens simply due to the harsh conditions and stress of a sub-zero winter. Ask about the breed to decide if it would work in your geographic area.
When you find out what the breed is, take note of the bird’s size. If you raise bantams and you bring in standard size chickens, you may be asking for a bit of discord in your flock. That old saying, “Birds of a feather, flock together” didn’t become an old saying for nothing.
Where are the chickens located? Factor in the price of gas and time to gather the chickens. Those in your state may be worth it; those outside of the state may not. (although if we’re going to be honest here, I’ve been known to drive two hours each way to pick up a Copper Marans chick – you have to decide the worth.)
Why are the chickens being let go? Some people aren’t prepared for the work to take care of a flock, especially in the winter when they have to trudge through snow to get to the hen house each day. Some people get bored once they realize that chickens are, well, just chickens. In this particular case, the owners are retiring and want to travel – they haven’t been able to find someone to take care of the flock when they are gone and have decided to re-home the entire flock. Fair enough.
Although you don’t need to know personal information about the owners, finding out why they want to re-home could give you an indication about the health and previous care of the chickens.
And speaking of health, you should ask – How old are the chickens and are they healthy? It’s not going to do you much good to re-home an older layer who doesn’t lay eggs (unless you simply want to give her a good home which is something I’ve been known to do.) Ask about age (remembering what the breeds are, some lay eggs longer than others) and the general health –
- Are they sneezing?
- Trouble breathing?
- Any discharge from eyes and beak?
- Leg or foot problems?
What has been the chicken’s daily routine? Have they been kept in a coop their whole lives or were they allowed to free range? Putting a free ranger into an enclosed coop might cause stress to the chicken which could result in bad flock behavior. Likewise, a chicken who has been cooped may not transition well to free ranging.
Look, I’m not saying that you should only adopt “prefect” chickens (some of our scraggliest chickens are our favorites), all I’m saying is that if you want to incorporate adult chickens into an existing flock (and if you do, good for you) then make sure you do it with both eyes open. Ensure that you are doing not only the best thing for your flock, but also the best thing for the re-homed birds.
(And of course, I don’t need to remind you about bio-security issues when incorporating new chickens into your flock, do I? Okay fine, I’ll talk about that tomorrow.)
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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