|Mary, Bri's beloved Muscovy hen was purchased at a local swap|
|Our friend from Kluckadoodle Farm talking to some|
folks about their birds.
I've never been shy about my resistance and disdain for hatcheries and large production farms. The treatment and quality of the animals is below any acceptance level for me. Some argue that certain breeders and auctions are no better. While this can be true, I've found that it's not the general rule. The quality of any swap, farm, auction, or breeder is only determined by the person or people that manage it. There has to be some common sense and care for the welfare of the animals in place. It seems from the posts I've read (while sitting on my hands) that it varies by area as well. Whereas in my area, the auctions are a huge "no-no", in other states it seems they're not. The auctions in my experience and those folks I trust, are a place to dump poor, unwanted animals and culls that have problems those selling there just want to pass off to the highest bidder. I'd rank auctions in my area as worse than the hatcheries I avoid.
Here in our area, I sell from our farm or at local club small farm swaps. They have local, caring breeders and small farmers like ourselves that get together to sell our products and small livestock. I've met many quality, like minded people that have become friends at these events. However, no matter where you purchase from, there's no guarantee that every single vendor or seller there is going to be that quality, caring farmer. You have to look out for yourself and your farm or backyard homestead yourself.
The only way to be safe is to do your research, take your time, look over the animals and how they're being cared for, and use proper bio security measures for your current herd or flock. Is it possible you could still get burned? Yes! Anytime you introduce new animals from other sources, there's that possibility but there are things you can do to reduce and almost eliminate those odds.
Now, there's always one in every group- just because I enjoy and have met amazing, like-minded people in this group, doesn't mean I just purchase from anyone at a swap or forget safety. I will say the swap hosts do their very best to keep things clean and safe but they're only one person and also there to work their tables and get things done. It takes all of us to keep an eye out and make sure things are run smoothly. Here are some ways to avoid problems purchasing new animals at swaps - or anywhere for that matter.
1. Use common sense! If you approach a vendor and the birds are crammed into cages that are too small, not given adequate food or water, stacked cage upon cage on top of each other, it's probably not a good idea to purchase from this person. Of course, we all have to put our birds in cages for the swaps for their own protection. We don't want them taking off across the parking lot and getting injured, but if the bird can't stand or move, it's a red flag for me. Then I would take notice of their other conditions- shade, water, feed. If you see animals that don't look like they have the necessities, consider mentioning it to the swap host before leaving. Many people think it doesn't make a difference, but trust me- it does! I know the 3-4 swaps we sell at have caring and concerned hosts and take the animals' welfare very serious.
|This cage would work for Katniss for a swap, she could stand up and move around to eat and drink.|
Clear, bright eyes with no discharge, bubbles or crust
Clean, shiny feathers that appear in good shape, no pecked out or worn away and dirty. Look around the eyes and vent area especially for signs of mites or lice
Clear, clean vent areas. I know you might not like checking out bums but a dirty bum can be a sign of stress or illness
Flat, clean feet. Chickens get dirty feet- it's a given but you want to look for any signs of bumblefoot, scaly leg mites, or injuries. With hoofed animals, check to see that their feet are well kept, not overgrown or peeling. You don't want to pick up an animal with hoof rot or poor feet
Clean nasal passages, no discharge, no dried crust on their nose, no sneezing, wheezing, or breathing with their mouth open, or labored breathing
Overall healthy appearance and movement. Are they walking around their cage and eating and drinking or are they puffed up in a corner, listless and not moving?
The last one can be tough if you arrive towards the end of the day when they've been out and are tired or resting but there's a generally ill appearance to some animals. Avoid them.
|A male rabbit we "saved" once at a huge medical expense and the loss of one of our best show bucks.|
4. Consider purchasing from NPIP and AI clean vendors. It's not a guarantee of good health and it only certifies the vendor to be pullorum/typhoid free and Avian Influenza free, however, a breeder that goes the extra mile to have their farm certified, usually cares about the health of their flock. Notice, I say usually because, again, it's not a guarantee. It is a clue that they've gone a step above.
|Our friend from Kluckadoodle Farm talkingto some folks about |
6. Talk to the vendors. Ask them questions about their flocks and herds. What do they breed for, what purpose do their animals have (eggs, meat, showing, pets, etc) and do they match up with your own. What feed do they use, what are some of their farm practices. A good vendor will happily talk to you about their flock and how they raise them. They're happy to answer your questions and help you out to ensure their animals get a great home. Do they seem knowledgeable about caring for animals and their own flock or herd? Did they hatch their own or are they passing off hatchery birds? If you're like me, that's really important.
Local swaps can be a much better alternative for finding quality, farm bred poultry and small livestock than going through hatcheries or big chain stores. I'm a huge buy local advocate and have met some knowledgeable and quality breeders and farmers through PCOV and the swaps we do with them. I look forward to the swaps each month during the season. Many of the vendors, like my kids and I, are very concerned and care deeply for our animals' well being and the health of the other animals. The swap hosts also care and want to have a safe, enjoyable place for us to socialize, shop, sell, and find great homes for our livestock.
|Birds like Sugar, that are crosses and won't work for our breeding program, |
can make great pets/layers for others. Sugar was sold to a very
nice home at one of our local swaps.
I purchase my coops, goat's milk, and chevre from a friend that I met through PCOV who attends many of the same swaps, their farm is Nina's Hideaway Farm. They also happen to be where three of our five goats also came from. My Myotonic goats came from yet another PCOV member, Brick Cottage Farm. I've bought my laying hens and some breeders from other members like Kluckadoodle Farm (show in the photos above) and the Farm Mama. Many of our Lionheads came from yet another PCOV member, Falling Creek Ranch & Farm. Chance has one particular vendor that he swears bakes the best cookies on the planet.
So, if you're in Virginia, and want to meet us at a local swap here are the dates we're definitely attending this season at the Fredericksburg TSC Swap.
The address to the TSC in Fredericksburg is
4179 PLANK RD
Facebook page the week before if we're attending any of the others.
I hope this has helped clear up some of the misconceptions and gives you a good start to finding your next