Buy­ing birds

Three poul­try­men debate the price of chick­ens, start­ing with Jeremy Hob­son

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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

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