Any number of factors can lead people out of chicken-keeping. Perhaps your family is moving to a new home out of town or out of state. Maybe zoning regulations in your township changed, with new ordinances to follow. Finances might play a part in it, or health, or even familial pressure. So you’ve decided to quit. Now what?
Believe it or not, there are almost as many considerations when closing down your flock as there are when thinking of starting one. To help guide you through what might be a heartbreaking process, we’ve pulled together these six guidelines to ensure your birds will be in good hands.
1. Set a Deadline
You might already have a deadline to rehome your flock set for you if you have a move coming up or if you have to comply with local ordinances by a certain date. If not, choose a date on your calendar as the date by which your chickens must be gone. Without a deadline, the task ahead might drag on endlessly and the split might become even more emotionally difficult to bear. Set a date, then start working toward it.
2. Choose Between Selling & Gifting
A key factor in getting your birds settled elsewhere is the financial one: Do you want to try to make a profit—any kind of profit—from the sale of your flock or do you just want them to go to good homes? Once you have determined this, you’ll be able to set everything else in motion.
3. Ask Around for Potential Buyers
It can be hard to sell off a flock, especially during the colder months when most poultry-keepers are looking to minimize rather than expand their ventures. Ask around—friends, neighbors, feed-shop staff—if anyone has leads on someone looking to purchase a flock. Your feed store might have a community board where you can post a flyer advertising your sale. If your town has a chicken-keeping association, contact the administrators to see whether you can post your sale on their site or social media. If you have social media—especially one dedicated to your flock—publish posts (with photos) informing the public of your sale. If you have any conditions—for example, your birds are not to be used for meat—be sure to clearly state this wherever you publicize your sale.
4. Look Nearby for New Homes
If you plan to rehome your birds with no monetary strings attached, your answer might be right in front of you—or to the side or back of you. A neighbor with a flock of their own is the best new home for your hens. The chickens are already accustomed to the climate and environment, so minimal adjustment is needed there. Transporting them to their new home will be far simpler for you and their new owner. If you aren’t leaving the area, you might even be able to visit your girls every now and then, with your neighbor’s approval. No flock-keeping neighbors—or neighbors who’ve expressed a desire to raise chickens someday? Try your flock-keeping friends, your local poultry-fanciers’ group, the nearby 4-H.
5. Keep “Flock Friends” Together
Depending on your flock’s size, you might not be able to adopt out the group as one unit. Do your best to recognize the friendships amongst your birds and keep those chickens together. Remember that chickens are social animals. Moving to a new home, with a new pecking order to follow, can be traumatic for them. Make certain your smallest grouping of birds to go is no less than three, so the chook trio can provide moral support for itself as the birds adjust to their new environment.
6. Sell or Donate Your Gear
Rehoming your birds is not the only concern when it comes to closing down your poultry operations. You have fonts and feeders, feed and supplements, even cartons and incubators to contend with. Offer your equipment to your birds’ new owner(s), either for free or at a cost. Not interested? Offer the items to your poultry-keeping friends and neighbors or donate them to the 4-H. Flyers at your feed store, social-media posts and ads on craigslist can help you dispose of all your chicken-rearing gear. Your coops are a whole other issue. If you cannot repurpose then as gardening or storage sheds—or a kiddie clubhouse—your best bet would be to remove all fixtures and windows and burn the structures or pay a waste-hauling service to take it away.
7. Take Some Parting Shots for Later
You’ve put a lot of love, time and effort into keeping your flock. Just because they’re moving onto new homes doesn’t mean they necessarily move out of your heart. Have a family member or friend take a photo of you with your chickens. This way, you’ll be able to remember them fondly for years to come.