If I’ve learned anything in chicken keeping over the years, it’s been that it can be difficult to find a specific breed/breeder that you’re looking for. Each spring becomes this treasure hunt of internet searches, e-mails to breeders and poultry club administrators to find a breed I’ve been dreaming about for years.
While chicken keeping is definitely growing as an interest, finding specific birds is still not as easy as ordering hobby supplies on Amazon.
There are over 100 breeds and colors recognized by the APA (American Poultry Association). And that’s not including some of the really unrecognized interesting breeds and colors like Lavender Orpingtons, Lemon Cuckoo Marans, and Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. There is also an amazing collection of endangered breeds, like the Crevecoeur, Nankin, and the Sultan, which naturally, are hard to find.
Finding a great breeder is not as easy as placing an order with a hatchery, or picking up a box full of chicks at the feed store. (To learn the difference between hatchery birds and heritage breeds, and which one might be right for you, then check out my post Hatchery VS Farm Raised Chickens.)
To begin, you need passion. It may sound overly dramatic to speak this way about chickens, but you have to ask yourself what are you willing to do to add this breed to your flock? Do you have the patience to be put on a waiting list? Are you willing to pay high shipping costs to acquire birds out of state? Are you willing to travel to meet someone and collect birds? Are you willing to spend time researching breed standards?
If yes, then congratulations, you have the itch. Welcome to the world of crazy chicken keepers, and I mean that in the most endearing way.
Breeders are a “breed” all to their own. I know this because I am one, or at least I was in the past and am on my way to delving in again. I’ve also spent a lot of time among breeders and I’ve loved every minute. I love the dedication that they have. It’s more than keeping a few pet birds and enjoying fresh eggs. Most breeders would do what they do with or without the food source. I know I do.
It can be a lot of time and work to produce quality lines. It can take years of careful consideration, waiting for generations to mature and a study of genetics.
So if you find a great breeder, know that the chickens you buy from them are an example of their enthusiasm.
Finding a Breeder
The first step in finding a poultry breeder is to determine the breed you are looking for. This can be a difficult task in itself. My advice is to pick a breed and stick with it before adding another. If you go off in too many directions it can be confusing and overwhelming.
Learn about the breed
In my opinion, anyone who is serious about collecting quality breeds should own a copy of the Poultry Standard of Perfection. This book serves as a guide to what each breed should look like, how it should perform and how it came to be. It is an invaluable resource.
The Livestock Conservancy is another great place to start. This organization is dedicated to making sure our heritage breeds are saved from extinction through breeding programs. If you’re looking for a rare breed, check out both their Conservation Status Page and their Breeders Directory Page.
American Poultry Association
If you visit the APA’s website, there is a list of Club Links which is a list of breeder clubs by breed wit their website link and many times the corresponding Facebook page.
Local County Extension
Your County Extension might be able to put you in contact with specific breeders.
National Poultry Improvement Plan Website
The NPIP is a volunteer program that has helped track and eliminate Pullorum Disease. Most breeders are part of the program as they need to be certified to legally ship and sell birds. The team members in the NPIP work closely with breeders and may be able to provide information about breeds. (More about this in a future Homestead Hustle post.)
Poultry shows are another great place to contact breeders. You also have the advantage of seeing some of their stock in person. We visited the Ohio National Poultry Show last fall and purchased several high-quality Buff Orpingtons from reputable breeders. The ON has a “Breeders Trade, Buy and Sell Section” where birds are available for purchase. A good thing to do is bring a few business cards or post-it notes with your name and phone number to leave on a cage. Let the bird owner know you’re interested in buying some of the stock.
And of course, the internet is a great place to find breeders. I belong to many Facebook “Rare Breed Groups”, “Heritage Groups” and so forth. Just do a Facebook search and request to join. There are usually rules to how things must be posted etc.
Many breeds have their own clubs/forums/websites. Look for a contact page and send a few e-mails.
Buy/Sell websites like Craigslist, Best Farm Buys, and even eBay often have birds or hatching eggs for sale.
With a little patience, some research and a passion to get the breed you’ve always wanted, you can have your dream flock!