Live poultry offered for sale is classified in one of the following age groups:
Day old Chick = A chick that will be sold within a few days of hatching (not always exactly one day old). It is possibe to sex some breeds as soon as they hatch, while other breeds cannot be sexed until they are a few months old. Buying day old chicks will usually save around 75% of the cost compared to buying at point of lay. Even in cooler climates such as in Victoria and Tasmania, day old chicks can be trasnsported using a hot water bottle in a small padded shoe box. Once the day old chicks arrive at their new home they will need a heated brooder, chick crumble, and water supply. For further information on raising chicks visit Poultry Australia's Raising chicks Guide by clicking this link.
Chick = A bird within its first few weeks of life.
Point of lay = A hen that is just about ready to start laying eggs. Pullets are usually aged
between 4-6 months old. A healthy cross-bred pullet for egg laying can cost as little as $20.00.
Pullets = A hen under one year old. Pullets are the most expensive age group to buy as they are proven egg layers and will start earning their keep immediately.
Mature = A bird over one year old. Mature poultry is usually sold when their owners decide to downsize or no longer keep poultry. When buying mature poultry it is important to know the age of the bird and how many eggs it is laying per week. The life expectancy and the span of time that chickens will be productive egg layers depends on the breed. A hen over three years of age is likely to end up costing more in feed than the value of the eggs that she will produce. One indication that can be used to tell when a hen is reaching the end of her egg laying life is a decrease in the number of eggs laid per week. Many breeds can live for years after they stop laying eggs and can turn out to be quite expensive to keep.
Sourcing live poultry
Before purchasing live poultry it's always worth talking to the breeder who raised the birds to ensure that they have a good level of understanding about their flock. Even if you are not interested in purebred birds and don't plan to breed them, it is important that parent birds of your flock are healthy. This includes a healthy diet and clean, spacious enclosures with different breeds of poultry seperated from each other. If the breeder meets these criteria then your flock stands a far greater chance of living a long and healthy life. Quality genetics can be insured through the breeder constantly updating their flock's bloodlines. Quality bloodlines are linked with the quality and number of eggs that a hen will produce over her lifetime.
The best way to source live poultry is through breeders who are passionate about breeding quality poultry. Members of local poultry clubs are a great way to find a breeder who will be more than happy to help you start you own flock. Poultry clubs often hold shows and poultry auctions where the public have an opportunity to buy chickens from experienced breeders. Although some breeders will charge more than other sources of live poultry, the added value of reassurance and quality always pays off in the long term.
Another reputable way to start your own flock is purchasing directley from farms. It should be noted that chicken farms breed their birds to produce a large number of eggs over a short lifespan. Many farms also devlelop their own cross-breeds, which can be more susceptible to joint issues and becoming egg-bound. If you decide to buy poultry from sites such as Gumtree, make sure that you see where the chooks have come from to ensure they are healthy. If you can’t see the whole flock, then the best option is to walk away. Finally, make sure you know what the chickens you are buying are actually worth. If the chickens are not sold by reputable breeders then don’t pay a premium for them.
There are three main aspect that will determine the value of poultry:
1. The age of the bird
As mentioned previously, the first factor that influences the price you pay for poultry is the age group that the bird belongs to. In general, day old chicks are the cheapest and pullets are the most expensive. Day old chicks can be found ranging in price from $3.00 to $15.00 each, while you can expect to pay around $35.00 for an average pullet.
2. Type of breed and bloodine history
The second major factor that will influence the value is the type of breed and quality of the bird's bloodline history. Unless a bird of any breed is for breeding purposes then it should not cost more than $80.00. Cross-breeds are the cheapest breed available and a pullet should only cost around $20.00. Cross-bred hens are usually a cross between breeds such as Isa Browms and other common breeds such as Australorps or Barnevelders. Cross-bred roosters are worth very little (if anything) with many owners happy to give their cross-bred roosters away to a good home. Purebred breeds vary in value depending on how rare they are. Bantams, such as Pekins and Silkies are often sold in trios (one rooster and two hens) for around $40.00, while a purebred Araucana hen can set you back up to $70.00. The value of a breed will depend on your local area. The best way to get an idea of a fair price is to visit a local poultry club or show.
3. Where they are sourced from.
The third factor that will determine the price you pay for poultry is whether they are purchased from a farm, breeder, petshop, or through an independent sale. Petshops and farms will often sell ther birds vaccinated for common poultry diseases raising the price. If you are after value for money, then the quality offered by hobby breeders outweighs the profit driven 'average' quaity birds found in petshops and farms.
Also see Poultry Australia’s guide to Purchasing Fertile Eggs.
How much does live poultry cost?