Getting your Chickens

Getting chickens should be a straightforward process shouldn’t it? You find an advert for the breed or type of chickens you want at a price you can afford and you just go and buy them right?

Well, yes, in theory it’s like that but there Buff Orpingtonare quite a few pit falls where you can be caught out so it’s a good idea to be aware of these before you go to buy chickens. It takes time to set up the right environment for your new arrivals – make sure you have a secure run and housing and have all of the ‘gear’ you need (my list of what to keep in stock might come in useful here).

The birds you pick and take home can very quickly become ill with the stress of the move and pick up any number of diseases. Try to pick the healthiest looking chickens you can. Do not pick birds that are sleepy, wheeze or hold their mouths open (unless it is a hot day), stand fluffed up as if they are cold or birds that have any bubbles or foam in the corner of their eyes. A fit and healthy bird should be active and alert.

Go to Look

If you have arranged to go and ‘buy’ some birds from a breeder, the pressure will be on and it is harder to walk away once you are there if you think the birds aren’t up to scratch. So why not say you would like to have a look at his or her birds with a view to purchasing them but possibly not today? The pressure is off and you can take enough time checking the chickens over and making sure you are buying the right thing.

Where to buy Chickens

I have listed these in order of preference – you are more likely to get better quality birds at the top of this list, not necessarily the cheapest price though!

1. Pure Breeds from a known breeder who has won shows with their birds: These people have spent years on their line of birds, improving them and they are very passionate about the breed and will be able to tell you all about them. They are usually good quality, healthy birds. Breed clubs can often put you in touch with well known breeders

poultry show sale pens

Poultry Show sale pens are usually a safe way to buy reasonable quality chickens

2. From a poultry show. There are often sale pens at shows where you can spend time looking at the birds and choosing the best quality birds. You can even ask advice of others around you or from the experienced show staff. If the show organisers are doing their job properly then they will not allow any birds that look sick to be put into the sale pens. Many of the sale pens at shows will have stock from breeders that are showing their birds and will be of reasonable quality.

3. From a private ad or breeder. These people have usually hatched a few birds themselves or hatch a good number of birds to sell. The quality can be variable so you will need to examine the set-up and of course the birds carefully. Private ads can be found on poultry forums in the for sale areas. If the forum is a good one, they will make sure a location is specified in the title of the post. “The Poultry Forum” – has a Chickens for Sale section and is a good forum for finding birds for sale in the UK.

poultry auction4. From a Poultry Auction. Some dedicated poultry auctions can sometimes have reasonable quality stock but be warned, some of the more common livestock type auctions can be a great place for people to get rid of their sub-standard or unhealthy birds.

Where ever you end up buying your birds from, if you make sure they are fit and healthy, you generally shouldn’t see any problems. If you already have chickens and are adding to your flock then you can be bringing disease in so always remember to quarantine your new birds for at least a week before introducing them to your flock.

5. Hatching your own. Many beginners are starting to hatch their own chickens, especially now that incubator prices have come down and are easier to operate. With sites like eBay advertising hatching eggs, it is often relatively simple finding the breed you want online although hatching eggs that have been through the postal system can be a little hit and miss at times. My page on How to Hatch Eggs gives you a step by step guide to hatching your own.

Finally – Don’t forget to take a box! Most breeders ask you to bring your own carriers or suitably sized cardboard boxes to transport your chickens in.

If you’re using a cardboard box, it’s important to cut some good size slots in the top and the sides to allow sufficient ventilation. Do not put too many chickens into a box. There should be at least a 4 inches of space around each bird so they don’t overheat. Make sure they travel on the back seat or in an estate / open boot and keep the temperature in the car cool during the journey. I have heard of people arriving home to find chickens suffering from heat exhaustion in their box and sadly on one occasion I heard of someone who had dead chickens when they opened the box!

transporting chickens

Chickens should be transported in boxes or crates with good ventilation.


  1. Hi there, thank you for creating this wonderful site.
    I’m hoping to collect 3 or 4 chickens next month, and was wondering – how big a box do I need to transport them in? It will be about an hour’s journey for them.

    • Depending on their size, it will vary. About twice the space one hen occupies per hen is good. Make sure there are enough holes to keep enough air going through.

      The reason chickens die in transport is due to a lack of ventillation causing them to overheat. Chickens can’t sweat, they can only pant or drink cooler water to cool down so it’s easy for them to get hot in a box next to others in a warm car.

      A cat carrier is better than a box as it is very well ventillated.

  2. Hi, we are hen-keeping novices and were given 5 chicks to keep from 2 days. The problem we are facing is that we don’t want to keep cockerels, as we don’t want any more chicks and want to eat the eggs. Just wondered if anyone had any ideas of what to do with them. We suspect 2, maybe 3, are cockerels but as they are currently only 4 weeks old, it’s impossible to tell. Eating them is not an option!

    • You will need to dispatch them once you can be sure of their sex. You can try rehoming them but unless they are from a renowned / sought after exhibition blood line, you will find it very hard to find homes. Everybody unfortunately has too many males.

  3. We’ve got 3 chicks (Was 4 but sadly one died yesterday…Missing you Maggie…) and one of them had spot of blood in it’s poo…Is this serious? Also I am worried about them being cockerels… Can you tell the difference between fertilized eggs and normal ones?

    We have come home today to see that one of them has a little bald patch behind it’s eye. They are getting along perfectly now and it doesn’t look sore or bloody… Do you think they might have pecked her or just general feather loss?

    Thanks for any advise, this website is really helpful.


    • If it persists, I would suspect coccidiosis. This normally strikes when they are 6 or so weeks old though. Sometimes you will get a little tinge of red in the poo which isn’t usually anything to worry about if its a one off.

      On average you will get 50% cockerels. It will vary but if you hatch enough, it will end up 50/50.

      Yes, fertilised eggs can be spotted if opened. There is a small white circle that we call a bullseye on the yolk.

  4. Hello we got 3 hens 2 days ago. I got them home at 5:45 at night and locked them in the coop for the night to get settled. I let them out the following day and only 2 came back at night the other one wouldn’t come in. I have seen her today and she is around but she won’t come in at night she seems to be sleeping in te bushes behind our house or just over the road. We are very rural. Any tips on getting her back in. I have tried grapes and corn and mealworms but she’s having non of it.

    • She doesn’t know where to roost. You will need to watch where she roosts and then catch her / put her in the coop. After a few nights of doing this, she should go back in to the coop to roost.

  5. Thank you for your website& information – brilliant!

    I got 3 new 18-weeks-old hens (Brown Nicks) from a farm, where they were kept inside a large shed in extremely crowded conditions. They saw sunshine for the first time yesterday..

    Is there anything I need to know (or do) during the first couple of weeks week?

    Thank you!

    • Pop them into your coop and give them time to adjust. They were probably fed layers mash so will normally only eat this at first. You can gradually change them to pellets if you wish.

      • Thank you! The hens adjusted fine.. but..

        All went well, until a week ago the chickens have been attacked by fox. The fox ran away before it had a chance to kill all the chickens. Two left.

        One hen is totally fine but another cannot open an eye (the other eye looks fine) and does not eat/ drink much at all (just an odd peck during the day), she just stands there. There is no physical damage on the head or elsewhere on the body. But after a week she is just the same – and not getting any better or active.. Will she recover?

        • I’m sorry it’s hard to say… I would get her checked by a vet and if she seems to be suffering, and isn’t recovering, I would consider having her put to sleep… Not what you will want to hear I am sure but if she isn’t recovering after a week, it doesn’t sound too promising…

          • Thank you for your answer. Good news: as you advised we got our hen checked out – she was declared to be fine.
            Then I observed the most amazing thing: the second chicken would encourage her to eat by making ‘fuss’ of food, occasionally ‘pushing’ her towards it! Also they developed a strange sleeping pattern: they would sleep together in the nest, squeezing into it and the second chicken would ‘cover’ the wounded one with her wing!
            Yesterday, the poor little thing laid her first egg! She is active now and her eye is finally functioning.

            My question today: they still remained their sleeping habit: they sleep together only in the nest (and leave their droppings there ofcourse). So far no eggs were squashed but the nest is harder to clean then the tray underneath..

            What would you advise please?

          • Shut of the nest boxes at night and place them on their perch. They usually prefer to roost higher up so a perch higher than nest boxes is usually the best.

            You can use a cardboard box the rut size in each nest box which is easy to implement.

  6. I have just got my coop and run, so now need some hens. Our local paper has 2 adverts, one for POL £17 and one for 32 week old hens for £8. Which do you suggest I should go for?

    • Hard to say really – the 32 week hens are probably ‘ex-commercial’ hens and should be in lay (but may moult when taken out of the farm if they had artificial lighting) and the POL will be a good few weeks coming into lay but will last longer of course and have their main laying ahead of them.

  7. I have just had to euthanais one of my chickens but I had her a year and she didnt lay, she also had a very red bottom, which did not get any better. its sad but it had to be done,

  8. Great information site, thank you. I’m looking at getting our first hens and have a small paddock next to our garden to set up a coop etc. I have seen in our local vets an advert looking for homes to re-home battery hens, which seems like a nice idea, what’s your thought on this?

    • Yes, its a great thing to do and gives those poor hens a free range retirement. Be prepared though – they don’t live for too long (typically 1-2 years from when you get them I’d say) and the quality of their shells does deteriorate with age, they are prone to prolapse too. They are at the end of the day ‘commercially spent hens’ and are bred to give everything in their first 18 months. The high egg production takes its toll.

      I don’t wish to put you off, but go into it with knowledge. Even if they only got a short time of free range, it’s wonderful that they can have this.

  9. Hi.
    I’m just about to recieve 4 SS Hamburghs tomorrow and am currently setting up coop. I have a 4x6sqm fenced area, not predator proof but a work in progress, and wanted to ask the perches are same height as nest boxes, will this pose a problem? Also when setting coop which is new, is it advised to use red mite powder or only when there appears to be an infestation.?


    • The perches may be ok – see what happens. If they prefer the nest boxes then you can keep them out with a cardboard box placed in each until they get used to using the perches.

      If they still do it after a month or two then I guess it’s raising the perches slightly!

      Red Mite powder is useful to use as a prevention, but it’s only needed from about April / May until October during the warmer weather.

  10. Hi there,

    Great site! Very informative. We are thinking of getting 4 chickens and keeping them in a section at the end of the garden. This part of the garden has lots of bark chipping and not much grass (as we were deciding what to do with it) Is bark ok or should we plant grass there?

    Also, the section is about 1.5m x 4m is that enough space or should I be letting them out in the garden? I’m scared they are going to dig up the grass and eat the plants in the borders or rockery?

    last question! You talk about the automatic doors for hen houses does this mean that the chickens just know to go into the hen house at dusk?

    many thanks, I will join the fb page once we get some chickens.

    • Hi Emma,

      We don’t have a Facebook page but tend to contribute to the Facebook page instead.

      Bark chips can harbour mould spores which can cause aspergillosis in chickens. The alternative is to use wood chippings (no bark) or rubber chippings (available in many colours), gravel or sand. The last two can be a difficult job to replace when soiled but do wash through reasonably well.

      I always say to people allow as much space as you can for chickens. They do love to free range but will spoil a garden quickly. If they are well managed- kept clean and given sufficient greens and have enough to do (scratching and pecking at hanging vegetables and so on) they can thrive in a small space.

      Once chickens learn where to sleep (it usually takes about a week) they will put themselves to bed. The automatic door can be adjusted so that it closes as it gets dark, after the chickens have gone to bed. It saves a lot of worry, especially if you are late getting home one night. You should change the batteries every year at least so make sure to put he date on your calendar or you can find they get shut in, out or left open when the batteries go flat.

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