Three poultrymen debate the price of chickens, starting with Jeremy Hobson
How much to pay?
When I was about 10, I was lucky enough to be gifted my first ever trio of bantams – from which I bred and built up a quite respectable flock of birds. Occasionally it was necessary to bring in a new bloodline for the sake of preventing undesirable traits that might have arisen as a result of in-breeding but, when I did, I generally swapped a bantam of mine with another like-minded breeder.
Of course, there was the odd occasion when I had to part with cash – a situation that doesn’t come easily to a dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshireman; but I doubt it ever amounted to much more than £1 for a good quality bird. I am, though, talking of a time almost four decades ago. Despite that fact, I’m still amazed when I see bantams in particular, and poultry in general, commanding the high prices they do nowadays.
For many years, the interest in chicken keeping was limited to either those who wanted a few eggs and the occasional table bird, or enthusiasts such as myself whose interest was in showing. In doing so, we ensured that a particular breed was kept up to ‘standard’ (as set out by The Poultry Club of Great Britain). Even as recently as 20 years ago, there was limited interest in back-garden chicken-keeping. How times have changed since then!
Making monetary comparisons is difficult when comparing different times: even so, I’m sure that the old boys with whom I used to compete on the show bench as a callow youth would never have been able to comprehend that, at the lower end of the scale, a good-quality, but not particularly exceptional single pure bred chicken might, in 2017, have cost its purchaser as much as £30. ‘How much?’ they would have exclaimed, before then going on to splutter incredulously that ‘when I started work £30 was almost a year’s wages’.
As I’m sure many readers do,
I wander happily around the poultry tents of local agricultural shows during the summer, or stroll down the aisles at places such as the National or Federation Shows in late autumn, in order to see what’s available to buy in the selling classes or in the ‘for sale’ section. I look – and am often tempted towards a purchase – but then remind myself that I’ve no more room at home!
Such venues, plus reputable breeders as might be found in the ‘classified’ section of this magazine aside, one does, elsewhere, need to take care when it comes to spending your hard-earned cash. A little like ‘puppy farms’ (thankfully with
I’m still amazed when I see poultry commanding the high prices they do nowadays Jeremy Hobson
less dire consequences), there are some who are happy to breed birds purporting to be pure and have jumped onto the bandwagon of profit.
Their chickens might well be pure, but in order to achieve a quick end result, have they interbred? Also, if you want to be sure of the best, you have to ask yourself whether or not what’s on offer is the prime example of a particular breed standard? Caveat emptor, or Buyer beware, as the saying goes.
The autumn and early winter show venues can produce some real bargains, relatively-speaking. At that time of year, well-known and hugely respected chickenkeepers might be thinking of moving some of their birds on in order to make room for this year’s youngsters, which they hope will prove either perfect breeders and/or show winners next year.
If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to purchase mature prizewinning stock at a reasonable price. They might not lay as many eggs, nor live as long as birds bought as pullets would, but, in the intervening time, a trio of two hens and a cock bird could quite easily have provided you with the nucleus of a backgarden breeding dynasty – and a huge amount of pleasure at relatively little cost.
ABOVE: How much to pay? Prices are not always uniform! TOP RIGHT AND LOWER RIGHT: Birds for sale
LEFT: Assessing the price... BELOW RIGHT: Checking birds at an auction