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I've previously attended class for raising chickens, toured the coops and now, finally, have a coop built in our backyard. We will appreciate recommendations and resources for beginners to buy our laying hens and any must have products to get started.
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I should probably add that we are located in Central Phoenix.
I live in Central Phoenix, too!! When I got my very first chicks, I got them from Western Ranchman. The stock shop in Glendale has them too. Call around to the different feed stores to find out which breeds they have in stock. Also, check this board, as people sometimes sell their hens. :)
Although buying laying hens is convenient, it can be disastrous. When you buy an adult bird, even if you know its history and get it from a trusted friend, there is no way to know what it has been exposed to. Soil and local birds have an affect on the flock in your yard. Because moving an adult bird is stressful on the bird, even a healthy bird can get sick and infect your coop and flock. When I first started, I introduced a serious upper respiratory disease into my flock with a bird who appeared healthy. It is important to always buy chickens in pairs and take flock introductions carefully. It can be done successfully but is risky. The best way is to go get some chicks. You can go to your feed store, order chicks through a hatchery, or order locally. Baby chicks are fun and do require extra work for about 4-6 weeks. But not too bad. If you want to skip the chicks, many times you can buy 6-8 week old birds that are ready to be off a lamp. This is safer than buying adults because at this age, it is easy to find birds who have only been in a brooder and never touched soil. Please let me know if you want to chat more. I have a hatch happening Tuesday that you are welcome to...602-615-2044
Western Ranchman usually carries the book as does Tempe Feed Barn, it's also available at the VPA's booth at the downtown farmer's market. There may be some copies inside the public market store, but I don't know about that. I think chicks are definitely the way to go, I get A LOT of emails from distressed people that got hens and wished they hadn't-- and we're at a great time of year to buy them. If you have breeds in mind, call around and see what chicks different feed stores have; you can safely mix chicks from different feed stores, the younger the better. Aside from the usual brooder requirements (heat, feeder, waterer etc) definitely pick up some rooster booster no pick lotion and I like Gail Damerow's, "The Chicken Health Handbook".
I agree that chicks are the way to go. I have had a bad expeience buying older hens from a feed store. Don't buy older birds from Pratts. Their chicks are great, lots of breed selection, but their older birds have some serious health problems and they are all kept in the same pen, or adjacent pens...so you are essentially bringing home a whole host of diseases.
If you really want to try to get point of lay hens, I have heard good endorsements of Rent-A-Hen. Its a local guy who hand raises the chicks and then you rent-to-own them. You pay for them up front and if they don't work out for whatever reason within 3 months he will take them back. I am curious if anyone has any first hand experience with Rent-A-Hen?
Thank you all for the very helpful input. We will definitely go the route of chicks instead!
Hi Kelly, We, too, attended the classes, toured the coops and are in the process of building our coop. I just picked up five chicks at Western Ranchman. I think they are probably the best place to go if you only want a few chickens. I also bought the book "Hobby Farms Chickens" at Western Ranchman. So now I have my five baby girls in a nice wooden drawer that I got at Starlight for $4 with a screen overtop for $1.
I have them on some old towels. I bought a thermometer, little feeder and water-er also at Western Ranchman (they're at 32nd St. north of Greenway, btw). They are currently living in my shower because I never use it in the winter (hot water doesn't reach that far, so I use my husband's bathroom). I have a heat lamp suspended over the shower head. This is great because I can keep raising it as I need to to lower the heat. I adjusted it so it's exactly at 95 degrees.
So, my suggestion is to call Western Ranchman and find out when they're getting in their next batch of chicks (seems like they get ones in weekly during the winter).
Let me know how you do. Marilyn Stevens
We went to Western Ranchman today and they were very helpful. We bought one of each variety, for a total of four chicks that are five days old. We are very excited and look forward to watching them grow!