How to Buy Healthy Adult Chickens

Starting a chicken flock with adult birds, though less common than raising chicks, is a great way to have a productive backyard coop from day one. But your flock won’t be productive if they aren’t happy and healthy. When you buy adult chickens for your flock, check for these signs of a healthy bird and a reputable breeder:

  • They have bright, clear eyes.

  • They have clean nostrils, with no discharge.

  • They breathe with their beaks shut, unless they have just been chased to be caught or it’s very hot.

  • The comb and wattles are plump and glossy. In roosters, large blackened areas of the comb indicate frostbite, which may cause temporary infertility.

  • They don’t have any swellings or lumps on the body. Don’t mistake a full crop on the neck for a lump.

  • Their legs are smooth, with shiny skin. They have four or five toes, depending on the breed. They don’t have any swellings or lumps on the bottom of the feet.

  • The feathers look smooth, and there are no large patches of bare skin. Look carefully through the feathers for lice.

  • They are alert and active.

  • The setting is clean.

If you are buying sight unseen, which is risky at best, make sure you get a guarantee of health and age. If you’re buying show birds, get a guarantee that there are no show-disqualifying features, unless you and the seller have discussed the bird in question and you are aware of a fault.

Because show quality is subjective, you probably won’t get a guarantee of the bird’s quality. Sellers should, at the minimum, be able to tell you the breed, sex, age, and correct color of the bird or birds that they are selling you.

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