Spring is finally here. This means that soon all of your local feed stores will be having chicks arrive and the temptation can be overbearing (chicken math anyone?). With this said, there can be some issues that can come with baby chicks purchased from local stores. In my personal experience, chicks and ducklings bought from local breeders are hardier, healthier, and overall happier.
Many local poultry breeders are conservationists and work towards improving a line of poultry. They all work toward a “Standard of Perfection” as defined by the American Poultry Association. Others breed for barnyard mixes but they are just as amazing.
With local breeders, you can find poultry and waterfowl that no other person may have as they are not available in such large quantities. Another plus is that purchasing straight from a farm means that your new chicks, ducklings, or goslings do not suffer from shipment distress and this helps with mortality rate in the long run. There are many things that can go wrong with shipping also from long distances:
The package is lost.
The chicks are shipped when it is too cold or too hot.
They are stored in an area with very little ventilation.
They get stressed.
Benefits of Choosing a Local Poultry Breeder
Support your local economy. Purchasing from a local poultry keeper helps your farming community also in the long run. The funds that normally are spent at a big feed store go to help your local farmer with feed or other materials.
Local knowledge. If you are new to chickens and waterfowl, your local breeder may be more than willing to share years of experience and what works best for which breeds.
Make smarter choices. Your local farmers may also have different breeds that lay different shades of eggs or are a dual-purpose breed. This means that they can be used for meat or eggs.
Find new breeds. There are some very amazing breeds out there that many hatcheries will not have that local breeders may. Before I started learning about conservation, I never knew just how many breeds were available. I also liked how I could choose exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t a surprise nor was I pulling from a brooder only labeled “rainbow” or “bantams”. I could see the parents onsite and see how they feathered in or grew out.
Prioritize health. When purchasing from a feed store, chicks can be exposed to many respiratory germs that may not be present in a local farmers stock. A lot of the local breeders that I have seen in my state practice very strict bio-security to protect their parent flocks. Some hatcheries do vaccinate while others don’t and when you purchase from a store, you may not be able to find out if they had vaccinations or not. This is not always made clear when they are dropped off.
Local Breeders Can Support Livestock Conservation
Not only does local purchasing help your local poultry breeder, but it also helps with conservation of specific breeds. Some breeds such as the Golden Campine are in danger of becoming extinct, according to the Livestock Conservancy. There are only a few breeders left in the United States and this hinders genetic diversity of a breed.
If you can find a local breeder that participates in the National Poultry Improvement Program, this is a plus! You can also actually see what condition the breeder keeps their birds in.
A minor flaw is that many poultry breeders cannot sex day-old chicks so they must sell them as “straight run”. I consider this a plus, because unless you are zoned against roosters, extra roosters can be an awesome source of meat. Many Hatcheries kill off day-olds if they are roosters. I am a firm believer in sustainable agriculture and think that culling day olds is a waste of future meat.
Another great point is that sometimes breeders rotate their stock, so you might be able to get the breed that you want and she is already laying or he is already crowing. You can also get a feel for what their personalities are when you buy local.
Many breeders are amazing people. Occasionally, you will get someone who is only in it for the money. Always do your homework and ask around your area.
Photo by Kayla Kincaid Photography
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