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Hi,

I'm just about to become a first-time chicken-keeper.  Because I have a tiny garden, I'm am planning to keep my birds on my allotment.  I've just got a 3 metre cube Mk2, plus additional walk in 2 metre run, and am aiming for 4 chicken layers - (x-breeds) to start.  But the only way to buy chickens in my local rural area is my town's weekly fur and feather market, where people don't pick up / hold their chickens before purchase.  I havent lived here long so don't know any of the breeders (although this is a lovely place and I am sure people would help if I knew what to ask).  Please, does anyone have advice here?  From outside a cage in a noisy auction shed, what should I look for?  Also chickens tend to be for sale in pairs.  If I buy 2 pairs and put them in together, will they all fight?

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Two pairs simultaneously put in a new coop and run shouldn’t be a big issue. There will be a few squabbles, but probably nothing major. Although there is no way of quarantining this way, which some here would suggest. I’m more of the chuck-em-together method.

I’ve never bought anything on a auction or market, but would mostly look for active alert birds. Bright, clear eyes and clean beaks. Stay away from any lethargic (lying around, snoozing a lot, head bobbed down) birds, any sneezing or snotty beaks and scabby rough looking leggs.

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Last time I went to an auction (Penkridge), a rather sick looking cockerel died in the cage a few minutes later. They laughed it off and sold the hens that with him anyway and also the birds in the cages either side of him. Needless to say we bought nothing and never returned.

My only concerns with keeping hens at an allotment are security (theft and predators) and visiting twice a day without fail to check food and water, clean out and collect eggs. It will be a lot of work.

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I agree with Beantree - on both counts; there are a lot of thefts of livestock and vandalism of coops on allotments, but I guess that you have weighed up the risks.

I don't buy from auctions, unless they are the more informal ones where they are happy for you to inspect the birds. If you are a first-timer, this isn't an ideal way to get your first flock, and could well end in tears (seen it happen on here enough times). I usually buy, either from a local bantam breeder, or from the sale pens at poultry shows.

I am guessing that you possibly aren't in the UK.

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I have bought from auction - thoroughly enjoyed the process at the time, but I had mixed success and don’t think I’d do it again. I bought 3 cages - 2 Plymouth Rock bantam pullets; 3 Dutch bantam pullets; 1 gold Sablepoot bantam. 

Within a few hours of getting home, the Sablepoot bantam started to look very pale and sickly and I discovered it had previously had a broken toe which was very deformed. I isolated it, fed regular nutri-drops for a few days and got it eating good quality pellets and drinking water with tonic in. Turned into a beautiful, healthy, friendly Sablepoot COCKEREL!!!!!

Also within a day or two one of the Plymouth Rocks started to become very sneezy and her beak bunged up with mucus. I ended up taking her to the vet who couldn’t confidently diagnose anything but suspected mycoplasma and gave antibiotics (which I put all the new stock on as they were sharing adjacent runs). Sadly she died the next day - luckily none of the others ever exhibited he same symptoms.

The Dutch bantams were all healthy and are now lovely little hens. 

So having come home with 6, I ended up with 4 (the lovely Sablepoot cockerel had to go and live with more rural friends), and I actually count myself lucky that whatever ailed the cockerel and killed the Plymouth Rock doesn’t seem to have been passed to the rest of my flock.

Lesson learned I think - if you can get to know local breeders and see their hens before you buy, that’s probably a better bet.

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Thanks everyone

 

Dogmother, I am in Southwest Devon, and so far my on-line search shows that other than my local market, I would have to drive 4.5 hours each way to get quality layers.  Perhaps someone could tell me where else I should be looking for layers?

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Have you thought of ex bats?  Or, given where you are, I’d be surprised if there aren’t other chicken keepers around who might be able to help.  Are you looking for a particular breed? 

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Scrambled eggs I’m in Cornwall. There are quite a few breeders in west Devon. I bought my first 4 girls as POL from ‘Al’s Eggs n more’ in Tavistock. They’ve been excellent. I’ve also bought hatching eggs from Taylormade Poultry in Ivybridge ( not the absolute best set up ever but they have lots of choice and certainly much better than buying from auction. I’ve also seen that a breeder called ‘Hen House Farm’ sells POL hens at Tavistock Mole Valley on Saturdays.

The auction I was talking about above was Holsworthy.

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I am originally from Devon and had no problem sourcing hens. BHWT is based just outside South Molton, there are some breeders in  Crediton and many local farms sell POL. 

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