Choosing the right breed

There is an amazing variety of chickens available in Australia, with over 50 recognised breeds. Once you add in standard or bantam, and hundreds of colour combinations the choices are endless.

Generally speaking, chickens are categorised into two size groups: Standard (‘normal’ or ‘large’) and bantam (smaller). Bantam chickens can be ½ to 1/3 the size of standard chickens. We make no specific ‘across the board’ recommendation as to whether chicken keepers in general should have only bantams or standards in your backyard. There are a lot of factors which influence your chosen breed(s) including egg size preference, backyard size, whether you are experienced in keeping chickens, how many eggs you want per week, how old your kids are (if you have kids) and if you want them to free range in your garden. Whatever your preferences are,  we believe there is a chicken for everyone.

What type/breed of chicken is the best for me?

This all depends on what you wanted chickens for. Some breeds are high production egg producers and therefore won’t live for more than 2-3 years – not ideal if you don’t want your children to learn about pet deaths. Others are ornamental and make great pets but don’t produce high numbers of eggs.
This chart is a great resource for some of the purebreed chickens available in Australia, including egg colour and size.
Doing a bit of research and asking others about what they keep is always a good place to start.

ISA Brown Information Sheet

A lot of people who are new to chicken keeping initially ask about ‘ISA Brown’ chickens – to help decide whether they are the right chicken for your situation (or if a purebreed chicken is more along what would suit you) please read the information available here.

Why are ISA Browns cheaper than other ‘expensive’ chickens?

ISA Browns are bred and purchased (by us and other commercial suppliers) from ‘The Big Boys’ in the poultry world, who deal in millions of chickens annually. Backyard poultry businesses and hobby farmers are, in comparison, very small fish in a big pond. They hatch out anywhere from 50,000 +  fertile eggs per week, and often much more. Along with this massive quantity of resulting chicks comes the ability to drive down prices to compete in a competitive market place, such as the egg industry.

This is referred to as ‘economics of scale’. Basically their cost of production ‘per unit’ (chicken) is much smaller than that of someone (us) who are hatching out lower numbers. Also, the technology involved in the breeding of a commercial hybrid chicken means that they have genetically selected a bird that will produce, essentially, maximum eggs in minimum time which also hatches out different colours. This final point allows them to cull the cockerals (boys)  from the pullets (girls) upon hatching, again keeping their costs down.

In the poultry world cockerals are, as a whole, an unwanted byproduct. There is no doubt that there are scientist whiling away hours and thousands of dollars in research grants, trying to work out how to maximise the rate of pullets hatched…

The image below is from Bergs Hatchery in Canada, and clearly shows the two down colours of the chicks at hatching. The red/brown coloured chicks are pullets (girls) and will be grown out for the layer industry or selling to backyard poultry keepers. The yellow coloured chicks are cockerals (boys) and don’t have anywhere near a bright future ahead (see below for more information).

Breed Selection

Breed selection is always one of the more daunting aspects when you are new to the world of chickens, especially given there are over 80 different breeds in Australia. Luckily, we have permission from a wonderful Australia-based poultry keeping forum (Backyard Poultry) to use this wonderful resource below.

The information is wonderful and constantly reviewed for accuracy, but with prices varying dependent on breed availability, quality and age it may be somewhat unrealistic to want to pick up a rare breed which is almost laying for $30 (for example). To see what contributes to the cost of a chicken, click here.

Why are purebreed chickens so expensive?

There are many factors that go into the pricing of a chicken, irrespective of location worldwide… many of which aren’t considered when people new to the poultry world look at an advertised price.

Without going into a mindboggling financial breakdown which would include mind numbing mathematical equations, they can be summarised by the following contributing factors:

– Establishing quality breeding stock
– Infrastructure (coops, sheds etc)
– Ongoing food and health supplements (when needed)
– Vet bills, vaccinations and medications (if you believe in that course of action)
– Land rental
– Incubator and brooder equipment
– Cost of electricity 24/7 for minimum 9 weeks
– Labour
– Tax  ?

And lastly, poultry breeders have to factor in the cost of hatching and raising cockerals into their costs. At a minimum, breeders have to factor in that at least 50% of their hatched chicks will be roosters, of which there is no viable market demand. If the pendulum swings the other way, and we get more pullets, it is a blessed rarity.
A few seasons ago, all breeders we knew who dealt with Pekin bantams (one of our most popular chicken) hatched out 90% roosters. That is for every 10 chicks that were nurtured through to eight weeks of age – the time when most people can differentiate between the cockerals (boys) and pullets (girls) – only 1 was a girl!!! Amazing! No reason for it that we were able to account for, but reality that year none-the-less. And this was Australia wide! I still can’t believe it, years on…

Website & Facebook Recommendations

This awesome website has a Noticeboard where breeders and buyers post for sale/wanted ads, just like an online newspaper. Their BYP Forum is the best online resource available for poultry lovers and has another ‘Wanted and For Sale’ section. Best join up as a member for full access to all areas and see all the amazing pics!

All other recommendations below are Facebook groups (mainly Victorian based, as that is where we are located), which are hugely active and if you can’t find what you want within a decent amount of time, the regulars will point you in the right direction. Most active pages/groups to check out are:

– Melbourne Poultry & Eggs – Buy, Sell, Swap & Chat
– Backyard Poultry Sales Australia
– Chicken Lovers & Hobby Farmers – Sales & Wanted Australia
– Gippsland Poultry and Fertile Eggs – Buy, Sell and Swap
– Yarra Ranges Poultry and Hobby Farmers
– Ballarat Poultry Buy Swap and Sell