Your Chickens - - Feature | Prices -

GRANT BR­ERE­TON “I of­ten get asked what the av­er­age pure-bred ban­tam or large fowl goes for th­ese days, and it’s not nec­es­sar­ily an easy an­swer. For ex­am­ple, the best breeder of Partridge Wyan­dotte ban­tams was only charg­ing £15 per bird un­til re­cently, whereas oth­ers would charge triple that amount for in­fe­rior stock. So price doesn’t al­ways re­flect qual­ity.

“I agree with Jeremy that profit comes first for many peo­ple, who of­ten de­fend their sub-stan­dard stock by high­light­ing the pro­duc­tion de­cline in ex­hi­bi­tion birds, but such a no­tion isn’t set in stone; there’s no rea­son why a fowl can­not look good and pro­duce well at the same time. And just be­cause a fowl isn’t up to stan­dard in terms of looks and phys­i­cal at­tributes, doesn’t mean it should im­me­di­ately be re­garded as ‘util­ity.’

“The win­ter clas­sic shows will have a de­gree of qual­ity ex­hi­bi­tion stock avail­able, and of­ten be­cause of the tim­ing of the event fail to reach their prices. The Fed­er­a­tion Show is on the last week­end be­fore Christ­mas, for ex­am­ple, so sadly only the die-hard fanciers tend to go and are able to buy re­ally good stock at re­duced rates. The re­main­der of Joe Pub­lic is too busy think­ing about the fes­tive sea­son. It’s quite ironic re­ally, con­sid­er­ing that in­fe­rior stock can sell for triple the prices at sum­mer auc­tions, where warmer weather brings out the crowds.

“But not all sale sec­tions are filled with qual­ity. It’s about do­ing your re­search. And not all su­per­stars pro­duce su­per­stars. In this ‘in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion’ age, the skill of poul­try breed­ing is de­clin­ing rapidly and I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it per­son­ally. When you sell or give away ‘breed­ing birds’ that you know will do the buyer a lot of good, they look at you in dis­be­lief and of­ten aren’t pre­pared to do a cou­ple of year’s worth of breed­ing to find out.

“So, to con­clude, for the right stock with all those years of se­lec­tion, ex­penses, heartache, graft and ded­i­ca­tion, I’m not sure you can put a price on that. What price will you pay for buy­ing the wrong birds?

ANDY CAWTHRAY “I’ve lost count of the num­ber of times I have ‘got vo­cal’ about the prices of birds and those who leap on the band­wagon with the in­tent of mak­ing a quick profit. I’ve seen both ends of the spec­trum, and all in be­tween when it comes to poul­try sell­ing, from the per­fec­tion­ists to the ped­dlers.

“I’ve had re­spectable breed­ers give me ex­cel­lent qual­ity birds for noth­ing, and I’ve had prof­i­teers try­ing to get me to part with £100 for half a dozen eggs for some new fan­dan­gle* (*elab­o­rate but use­less or­na­ment).

The bot­tom line, though, is mar­ket forces, sup­ply and de­mand, trends, and the like. I kept and bred an ex­cel­lent lay­ing strain of An­conas for many years, yet I could barely give them away, never mind sell them. Yet when I had gold laced ban­tam Or­p­ing­tons, some­one of­fered me £70 for two un­sexed day-old chicks. Sales at shows are no dif­fer­ent to poul­try sales any­where; they are sub­ject to the same mar­ket forces and, amongst the sell­ers, there are the hon­est folks and the out­right sharks.

That said, and putting aside mar­ket forces, one day I worked out the cost (ex­clud­ing my ef­fort) of hatch­ing and rear­ing a pul­let. Tak­ing into ac­count the en­ergy costs, feeds and bed­ding costs, fer­til­ity rates and the fact the 50% of the hatch­lings will be only be­come iden­ti­fi­able as male by week 7, I cal­cu­lated that it costs me £7.52 to ‘pro­duce’ a POL pul­let. So sell­ing the bird for £15 doesn’t seem un­rea­son­able, and in many re­spects is un­der-priced. We must also be care­ful not to de­value the live­stock to the point that a breeder can­not even re­cover the cost of pro­duc­tion.

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