Need a few egg cartons? A bag of flaked pine shavings? Gear to equip an entire coop? You’ll soon find your local feed shop or farm-supply indispensable to you as a new backyard flock owner.
It is indeed possible to purchase items online, either directly from the manufacturers or from Amazon and other mega-sites. But buying locally helps contribute to your town’s economy. And local purchases also provide you with an incomparable resource right in your community.
Our farm is located in one of Lower Michigan’s major rural zones. We are fortunate to have not only a national farm-supply franchise a short drive away but also four family-run feed shops within a 15-minute drive.
Over the years, we’ve developed a symbiotic relationship with several of these. We find ourselves stopping on almost every errand trip. They call us for help with injured or ailing Chick Days chicks and with customer questions.
My husband has even befriended a veteran who works at one of the stores. The two talk about farming, Army life and military hats every time they meet up.
You may not be looking to establish new friendships during the initial steps of your chicken-rearing journey. You will, however, want to establish your local feed shop or farm store as a resource to which you’ll refer frequently.
Here are four reasons why.
Many of the employees at your local farm shop are or have been farmers themselves. Likewise for the shop owners.
These people possess a wealth of knowledge regarding farming tips and techniques that they will happily share with you. Just ask and they’ll be able to recommend one feeder over another and explain why, show you what they believe to be the most effective fencing in stock, and demonstrate exactly why you need a nippler water system.
It’s like going to the library … except poultry supplies are the items you plan to check out and the librarians are old farm hands, eager to help someone who’s just starting out.
One of our local feed shops has its very own feed mill, producing top-quality, certified-organic poultry feeds. Another stocks poultry grit and crushed poultry limestone from a local quarry, plus egg cartons manufactured just miles away.
A third showcases a variety of chicken coops constructed by local craftsmen.
While it’s not necessary to use homegrown poultry goods versus those produced on a national scale, supporting regional ventures such as these does strengthen your connection to the local poultry industry.
Plunk a first-time visitor in the center of my local farm-supply store and I could quickly and correctly guide them to every aisle they need to shop. I’d be a cinch to win a supermarket-sweep style challenge at the store. Over the years, I’ve learned where every poultry product is positioned on the premises.
If I so desire—and, on a few occasions during the pandemic, I have—I could be in and out of the store with everything I need within a matter of minutes. Knowing where everything you need for your flock is located saves you time when you’re in a hurry.
Or it can give you extra time to socialize and “talk shop” with the staff and owners.
Familiarity with your local feed shop saves you time and strengthens your ties with the local farming community. It also provides you with a precious resource should you ever need any kind of assistance with your flock.
As noted previously, I receive calls from the staff of one of our local shops, asking for assistance on behalf of other chicken keepers. They’ve sent customers our way who seek farm-fresh eggs, hatching eggs and chicks in the breeds we raise.
The support and assistance go both ways. When we need a specific medicine or vaccine, they swiftly order it. And when we were experiencing issues with a common local predator, they coached us through this pesky problem using their own expertise.
We aren’t just shoppers. We’re part of the area’s farming family, and family helps each other—regardless of how new to the family you are.