box of chicksAfter you’ve made the decision to raise chickens, you naturally need to go get some chickens to raise. Since they won’t magically appear, you have to either go to a specific hatchery or breeder, or you take your chances and go to a market instead. But wait! Perhaps the risks of dealing with a market or fair are a bit too great to really be considered worth it. Before heading out, here are a few reasons not to by your chicken from a market and why.

The biggest issue with buying from anyone other than a specific breeder is that the birds you’re getting could wind up being just about anything. Chickens more so than most animals rely heavily on strict breeding requirements as they are done more to propagate strong qualities that chickens need- such as egg laying ability or quick growth- rather than to keep unhealthy standards around just because they look good, and if you are looking specifically for show standards you’ll need to have a purebred chicken anyway.

Without knowing the full lineage of a particular hen or rooster, you could be opening yourself and your flock up to an unknown, such as a wild temperament or an inherent disease or condition. Much of the time, a market or fair will be selling chickens that couldn’t be sold otherwise, which is why they’re being sold at a discounted price. They could be poor layers or have some other problem with them, but the gist is that they aren’t at the top of the pecking order where they came from.

Of course, this is all speculation. You could very well find a great hen at a fair and discover that she’s the best layer you’ve ever had in your coop. This is all talking in broad generalizations, so if you have a contact at a local market that you’ve been dealing with for years and never once had a problem, great, stick with that! On the whole though, you’re taking a risk with both untested birds and untested sellers, and a bit of caution should be used.

However, making sure to watch out isn’t always enough. It can be difficult to get a market seller to recoup any losses you may have occurred from an unhealthy chicken, or even find an issue with selling you a rooster when you wanted a hen. Some of this is the result of not specifying what you want when you ask, so if you simply say you want a chicken, they have no reason to sell you anything other than an older rooster. Make sure to clearly specify the sex you’d like and the age, otherwise you may be on the receiving end of an opportunist.

Again, you aren’t always walking into a bad situation just because you’re shopping for poultry at a fair or market. You can absolutely find some great chickens, but not without a hint of risk. The best advice is to look into respected and trusted breeders or hatcheries and go from there, but the choice is always up to you!

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