Here are some tried and true common sense tips when shopping for chickens anywhere
Blue Star Ranch raises all our chicks from just hatched to full grown hens by using many organic health products and vitamins, elixirs in drinking water and to clean coops. Only the best at Blue Star Ranch.
When shopping for baby chicks, pullets or hens BUYER BEWARE! There are some (not all) sellers that may KNOWINGLY sell you "egged out hens" or sell you baby "boys" instead of "girls"
When purchasing baby chicks under one week-old use caution! Some "backyard breeders" sell "straight run chicks" and the mix is supposed to be about a 50% to 50% mix of both cockerels and pullets (boys and girls)
BUT some sellers know how to tell the sex of young chicks and will keep the pullets and sell the cockerels. The exception to this is the "sex link" chickens where the pullets are always a different color than the cockerels. "Backyard breeders" are hatching eggs for many reasons, but need a place for all those ROOSTERS!
(Blue Star GUARANTEES Pullets!) Some chicken breeds cannot be sexed because they are too fragile to handle, especially if you purchase Bantam or Polish breeds.
Also, baby chicks under one week old may not have the digestive tract functioning yet. Baby chicks do not eat much or at all 3 days from hatching. Soon after they start eating food, if the chick is not genetically perfect, it can die from digesting food and or water.
It's best to purchase chicks at one to two weeks of age as if they are eating and "pooping" then it's likely that they are going to be fine with proper care, heat, water, and bedding.
Raising baby chicks is easy if you know how, but expensive and time-consuming if you are just getting started. It might be best to choose older chickens ready for the outdoors. When raising chicks it can take SIX MONTHS to get your first egg!
This age is also a good choice. Many times you can see the secondary sex characteristics. Males may have red combs forming and or less feathering on backs and necks or the tails are not as long as the female chicks. The chirps are starting to be more "male like" Males of many breeds tend to be lighter in color than female chicks. Unless you want or need males (roosters) its best to just purchase pullets.
Depending on the weather conditions, many times these chicks can be "seasoned" or let outside parts of the day time Started Pullets (12-18 weeks old)
This is the age that the chick is forming its "hen or rooster" more adult features. Its plain to see that these chickens are roosters or hens most of the time. These chickens again depending on the weather, should be in the outside pens most of the day. Pullets will start to be interested in the nest boxes (in hatchery stock) and young roosters may discover girls and should be separated. Caution should be used around roosters and they will start protecting hens and may become dangerous to children or your knees!
If you are purchasing "laying hens" remember this: most sellers will not sell you their "prime stock" just starting to lay, they may likely sell you the oldest hens they have! Because they sell or eat the eggs THEN sell the "laying hens" Solution? purchase pullets (teenage chickens) you are GUARANTEED to have 3 or more years of eggs from that chicken.
But with a hen... you can't tell the age for SURE. One test is to look under the "tail" of the laying hen to see if there are any "loose or saggy" feathers near the vent. If so, this is an egged-out hen. Also, older hens will have lighter-colored legs. Younger hens will have brighter colored legs or dark stripes near the feet/legs. Many nonlaying older hens can still be quite lovely and pretty to look at, so buyer beware!
When inspecting any chicken before purchase do the following:
1) Inspect chicken for clear bright eyes. Not red or swollen eyes with a discharge.
2) Look for clean unbroken skin on the bottom of feet (sores are not good)
3) Look under wings for signs of any blisters/sores/ (not good)
4) Check the anal area for signs of loose stools
5) Make sure chicken is eating and drinking
6) Chicken should "resist" some in being picked up and handled
7) Chicken should be "heavy" for its size and NOT lightweight. Unless this is a small chicken breed, choose the heaviest chicken you can. You should feel "meat" on the bones (unless a small chick)
8) Chicken should be active, alert and eating, and running. No matter how "cute" a chicken is, do not purchase chickens that are standing in the corner all fluffed up not eating!
9) Sellers should let you examine all chickens before purchasing.
10) Sellers should let you generally inspect coop areas for humane and safe poultry living conditions.
12) If the price is too good to be true. CAUTION
AND BEWARE! No one feeds and cares for chickens for about six months and then sells a full-grown hen for $10 or $20? really? This seller is losing money and may be out of business soon. It's likely these are "egged out" hens and won't lay eggs much longer.
13) How to tell if hen is "egged out" Look under the tail of any adult chicken and see the vent feathers between the legs. If the feathers are loose and "saggy" and the feathers open larger than 50 cent coin, this is an older hen! Don't buy from that seller unless you want chicken soup for dinner!
14) Don't buy chickens of any age if possible during the very extreme cold or very wet rainy seasons UNLESS you have a warm dry barn or inside coop to raise them.
15) You should not purchase chickens from many different sellers this may cause illnesses in your flocks.