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Lesson learned- be careful where you buy chickens from!

 
Bella Simple
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I'm allowed a maximum of ten chickens on my suburban block. No roosters. After much research, I decided that Orpingtons would be a good breed of chicken for me. The local chicken breeder doesn't sex her chicks, so I knew up front that I was going to have to do some rooster culling. I figured that ordering 16 chicks would land me with a good number of hens, allowing for a roughly 50/50 ratio of hens/roosters.

I went to the breeder's property. While the "chicken area" looked like a bit of a junkyard (she had at least 20 separate coops all cobbled out of found materials), the birds looked healthy, and they didn't seem stressed. She showed me around to some of the birds, explaining how she liked breeding from this rooster or that rooster because she liked the colours they produced. In hindsight, this should have been a red flag.

She had more than just Orpingtons- she had another 5 breeds, as well as standards and bantams in those breeds. I specified that I only wanted standard Orpingtons. I didn't much care what colour they were, as long as they were healthy.

She rang me when my chicks hatched, but wouldn't let me come pick them up until a week later (even though I requested day-old chicks), saying they "weren't ready just yet". When I picked them up, she only had 14 chicks, not the 16 I requested. She also pointed out that she thought one of the chicks was actually a barnevelder. I told her I only wanted standard Orpingtons, so she pulled the barnevelder out of the box, leaving me with 13 chicks.

Fast forward to where I am now. I have 5 birds left. It's looking like I'm going to lose a few more.

I looked after my new babies well. They weren't stressed, they ate well, they grew fast, and they never got sick. Despite the breeder's emphatic recommendations to medicate and vaccinate, medicate and vaccinate, I did neither. I focused on feeding the best food I could get, and giving them raw apple cider vinegar and garlic. Honestly, I thought I'd lose a few of my chickens because the breeder was so insistent that they'd die without medication and vaccination. But they didn't. They stayed healthy.

As they got older, I noticed problems. One chicken (who I called Wilbur because it looked like the runt) was hitting all the same growth milestones as the other chickens, but he remained only a third of the size. He's a bantam! Another two chickens turned out to be barnevelders. So far, that's three chickens that aren't what I asked for. Out of what was left, two birds had knock-knees. One of them was so bad he could only take a few steps before he'd plop down on the ground. Both of the knock-kneed birds were roosters. The others didn't have knock-knees, so I have to presume it was a result of inbreeding those birds (they were the only brown birds I had) rather than diet related.
I've already culled 8 roosters, leaving the two barnevelders, two orpingtons, and the bantam orpington. 5 birds. And I have a feeling that 3 of those are also roosters (they haven't started crowing yet).

Out of all the orpingtons, NONE of them were even remotely to standard. Now I realise that she doesn't breed for health or to preserve the breed. She breeds for which colours they turn out.

I have the distinct feeling she took me for a ride when she told me she doesn't sex her chicks. I feel that she used me to offload her roosters. I think she held onto them long enough that she sexed them all, then sold them on to me.

Suffice to say, I'll be looking a little further afield for my next batch of chickens. See if I can find a REPUTABLE seller. Anyone have recommendations for reputable breeders of Orpingtons (that would be suitable as breeding stock)? Preferably based in southern New South Wales or Victoria.


Note: (At least the roosters make the best chicken soup I've ever tasted!)

 
Justin Nickel
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That sounds like a bummer! I just received my beautiful assortment of birds from Murray McMurray. We currently have a White Rock hen from last Summer still, started with 6 but are reduced to 1 until these chicks get bigger....

We received Barred Rocks, Blue Cochins, Buff Orpington, White Wyandotte, Aracauana, Black Australorps.... a little experimenting with hardiness of breeds in this Wisconsin Climate, I would love to add some Lakenvelders eventually....
 
Miranda Converse
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Is there a breeders association for Orpingtons? I wanted to breed Ameraucanas and many people will call any blue egg laying chicken Ameraucanas so it's hard to find standards. When I first got chickens, the first ones I bought were Easter Eggers labeled as Ameraucanas. I didn't know any better at the time. When I realized I wanted to breed them I did some more research. There are actually a couple websites dedicated specifically to the breed and they list registered breeders. If there is a website for Orpingtons, that's where I would start. Also, the site backyard chickens has threads dedicated to just about any breed full of people who are experts in that breed. You can always go there and ask for a reference. You will probably pay a bit more and have to receive chicks in the mail, but you'll have good birds from a reputable breeder. Good luck!
 
Todd Parr
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Justin Nickel wrote:That sounds like a bummer! I just received my beautiful assortment of birds from Murray McMurray. We currently have a White Rock hen from last Summer still, started with 6 but are reduced to 1 until these chicks get bigger....

We received Barred Rocks, Blue Cochins, Buff Orpington, White Wyandotte, Aracauana, Black Australorps.... a little experimenting with hardiness of breeds in this Wisconsin Climate, I would love to add some Lakenvelders eventually....


I started with a lot of different breeds from Murray McMurray. I'm in roughly the same area you are, and my best advice is to breed chickens without large combs. Frost bitten combs is the only real problem I've had with my chickens here. I've been crossing my own breeds into some kind of "parr-mix" chickens, but I'm moving toward only keeping only small combed birds from now on.
 
John Polk
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Anyone have recommendations for reputable breeders of Orpingtons (that would be suitable as breeding stock)? Preferably based in southern New South Wales or Victoria.

'ere you go, mate. As close as I could find.
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Justin Nickel
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Todd Parr wrote:
Justin Nickel wrote:That sounds like a bummer! I just received my beautiful assortment of birds from Murray McMurray. We currently have a White Rock hen from last Summer still, started with 6 but are reduced to 1 until these chicks get bigger....

We received Barred Rocks, Blue Cochins, Buff Orpington, White Wyandotte, Aracauana, Black Australorps.... a little experimenting with hardiness of breeds in this Wisconsin Climate, I would love to add some Lakenvelders eventually....


I started with a lot of different breeds from Murray McMurray. I'm in roughly the same area you are, and my best advice is to breed chickens without large combs. Frost bitten combs is the only real problem I've had with my chickens here. I've been crossing my own breeds into some kind of "parr-mix" chickens, but I'm moving toward only keeping only small combed birds from now on.


Thank you for the nugget of knowledge on comb size, I will keep that in consideration. I am quasi hoping to continue a breed of super mutt chickens with large eggs and cold hardiness. I feel like a mad scientist sometimes with my dreams.....
 
Thomas Partridge
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We do not separate our chickens, but when we get a chicken from someone (even Tractor Supply) we never assume it is pure bred even if we are told it is. One of our roosters was sold to us as a Plymouth Rock, but some of the chicks from it and a black hen came out white - turns out that he probably has some Delaware in him. No biggie for us but I wonder how many people bought a rooster or chicken from that lady thinking that it was purebred?

We do not medicate or vaccinate our chickens and we have so few losses after the chick has dried off (none out of the 20-30 chicks this year) that I am skeptical that the lack of doing so is a likely culprit for chick mortality even among stock that is normally medicated vaccinated. None of the chicks we have gotten (even from Tractor Supply) have ever died once we got them home, you might want to evaluate your housing for the chicks.

Your description of their setup is one of the main reasons we do not share our operation with the customers in person. Our chickens have plenty of space to free range, mud is kept minimal with heavy mulching, and they are given fresh water everyday. But we "upcycle" a lot of stuff to be more environmentally friendly. Their windbreak/leantoo? A failed carpentry experiment with a tarp stapled over it to form a completely waterproof and windproof structure. It doesn't look pretty but it works.
 
Bella Simple
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Thanks for the replies!

I've got an orpington breeder recommendation from a bloke who runs one of the bigger poultry shows, so I'm going to check her out.

John Polk wrote:
Anyone have recommendations for reputable breeders of Orpingtons (that would be suitable as breeding stock)? Preferably based in southern New South Wales or Victoria.

'ere you go, mate. As close as I could find.


I tried emailing the Orpington Club Of Australia, but got no reply. Then again, the address was different to the email you've quoted, so I'll check that out. Thanks dude!

Todd Parr wrote:
I started with a lot of different breeds from Murray McMurray. I'm in roughly the same area you are, and my best advice is to breed chickens without large combs. Frost bitten combs is the only real problem I've had with my chickens here. I've been crossing my own breeds into some kind of "parr-mix" chickens, but I'm moving toward only keeping only small combed birds from now on.


Do you get rain during the winter where you are? I've heard that humidity + cold is the big reason for chickens getting frostbite on their combs. If you eliminate the humidity, things can get as cold as they like and your chickens' combs will be fine. Though, this would be much easier to accomplish in climates that have dry winters, I imagine.

Justin Nickel wrote:I am quasi hoping to continue a breed of super mutt chickens with large eggs and cold hardiness. I feel like a mad scientist sometimes with my dreams.....


Lol for some reason I read "eggs" as "eyes. Then I was wondering why the heck you'd breed for large eyes! Mad scientist trying to increase cuteness factor?!

Thomas Partridge wrote:We do not separate our chickens, but when we get a chicken from someone (even Tractor Supply) we never assume it is pure bred even if we are told it is. One of our roosters was sold to us as a Plymouth Rock, but some of the chicks from it and a black hen came out white - turns out that he probably has some Delaware in him. No biggie for us but I wonder how many people bought a rooster or chicken from that lady thinking that it was purebred?


Normally I wouldn't mind if the chickens were/weren't to standard (or even mutts), but I'd really like to get into breeding Orpingtons. They're such a lovely breed, and super rare in Australia, compared with other breeds.
I really wish folk would be honest about their stock. If you don't mind mutts, whatever healthy birds people sell are fine. But if you're looking to specifically preserve a breed? Not so great when breeders lie.

Thomas Partridge wrote:We do not medicate or vaccinate our chickens and we have so few losses after the chick has dried off (none out of the 20-30 chicks this year) that I am skeptical that the lack of doing so is a likely culprit for chick mortality even among stock that is normally medicated vaccinated. None of the chicks we have gotten (even from Tractor Supply) have ever died once we got them home,


And this is the kind of story I hear repeatedly from people in the permaculture scene, thus why I decided to (nervously) forego the breeder's recommendations. I had no losses, even with 6 different species of "potentially disease-carrying" birds frequenting my yard. I'm inclined to take my risks and not support the pharmaceutical industry if it's not absolutely necessary.


Thomas Partridge wrote:you might want to evaluate your housing for the chicks.


I should emphasise that my chickens were/are all completely healthy and grew well. The only two that had head problems were the two brown-coloured roosters I had, who both had knock-knees. Poor diet can be a cause of knock-knees, but given that all the other birds were on the exact same diet and none of them had the problem, I'm guessing the breeder did a bit too much inbreeding with that line.

The birds I lost were the roosters I slaughtered (because I'm not allowed to have roosters on my suburban block). They got turned into chicken soup and broth.

Killing roosters sucks, by the way, for anyone uninitiated.


Thomas Partridge wrote:Your description of their setup is one of the main reasons we do not share our operation with the customers in person. Our chickens have plenty of space to free range, mud is kept minimal with heavy mulching, and they are given fresh water everyday. But we "upcycle" a lot of stuff to be more environmentally friendly. Their windbreak/leantoo? A failed carpentry experiment with a tarp stapled over it to form a completely waterproof and windproof structure. It doesn't look pretty but it works.


Yup, I can appreciate that. I'm a city girl, so I'm not used to the farmers' trend of repurposing scrap materials. I imagine a good percentage of chicken customers would be the same. Given that I'm turning to permaculture though, I'm getting more and more into upcycling and repurposing. My own chicken coop is an unwanted garden shed that I've modified using scrap materials from another job.
The junkyard vibe from her place wasn't just from the cobbled coops- it was the fact she had so many cobbled coops in a relatively small area. There was no green, just a sea of found materials, on bare dirt. I put my impressions to the side, though, seeing as the birds she showed me seemed healthy and happy, which is what's important.
 
Todd Parr
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Bella Simple wrote:
Do you get rain during the winter where you are? I've heard that humidity + cold is the big reason for chickens getting frostbite on their combs. If you eliminate the humidity, things can get as cold as they like and your chickens' combs will be fine. Though, this would be much easier to accomplish in climates that have dry winters, I imagine.



Our winters are dry here. My challenge is that the chickens produce a lot of humidity themselves if you have them in a coop that isn't very open and has a lot of ventilation. So, just make bigger vents right? Except that it often get -20 to -25 degrees F here, and sometimes colder. This year I increased the ventilation area by quite a bit, but with that much ventilation, it gets very cold in the coop. I haven't figured out the best ratio yet.
 
John Polk
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I tried emailing the Orpington Club Of Australia, but got no reply. Then again, the address was different to the email you've quoted, so I'll check that out.

Here are some choices in your region:
Orpington Club Australia
Orpington Victoria
Orpington New South Wales
Bufforpington Australia

And some good Orpington reading: Orpington Outlook (PDF)

 
Bella Simple
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Todd Parr wrote:
Bella Simple wrote:
Do you get rain during the winter where you are? I've heard that humidity + cold is the big reason for chickens getting frostbite on their combs. If you eliminate the humidity, things can get as cold as they like and your chickens' combs will be fine. Though, this would be much easier to accomplish in climates that have dry winters, I imagine.



Our winters are dry here. My challenge is that the chickens produce a lot of humidity themselves if you have them in a coop that isn't very open and has a lot of ventilation. So, just make bigger vents right? Except that it often get -20 to -25 degrees F here, and sometimes colder. This year I increased the ventilation area by quite a bit, but with that much ventilation, it gets very cold in the coop. I haven't figured out the best ratio yet.


Holy cow that's cold! :O If you do figure out an ideal ratio, I'm sure a lot of folk on these forums would appreciate you posting your results. Good luck with it.


Thanks so much for the links, John!!
 
John Polk
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My challenge is that the chickens produce a lot of humidity themselves if you have them in a coop that isn't very open and has a lot of ventilation.

So true.   Chickens neither piss, nor sweat.   They eliminate excess moisture through their lungs.   The most common chicken ailments are related to respiratory issues.    It is essential to keep ample air circulation in their housing - winter and summer.



 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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