Friday, March 25, 2016

How do I get the most out of a swap?

Swap meets are very popular with poultry breeders. Here are a few tips to help you have the best experience possible. Want to try them out? The Walworth County Fur & Feather Swap is Saturday, April 9 in Elkhorn, WI.

Who holds swaps?
Most swaps are fundraisers for either a poultry club, 4H club or other youth organization.

Do I buy baby chicks at a swap?
Yes, but you must realize they might not be purebred and they might be straight run (mix of male and female birds).
"Take us home with you!"

How do I choose healthy chickens?
-The sellers will have them in boxes, cages or crates. You don't want the box to seem so crowded they can't move. It might be a clue the sellers aren't taking care of them at home.
-The birds should look generally healthy, with no runny nose or runny eyes. They should not seem lethargic. The birds should not sit with feathers fluffed up (not to be confused with broody hen), and should jump if you touch the cage.
-More than 95% of the people selling are honest people, but there's always a small percentage trying to sell a five-year-old hen as a year-old pullet.
-Find someone who is hosting the swap, and ask if they know the seller.

How early should I get there?
The earlier the better, since that's when you'll have the best variety. Most swaps have a food stand so you can have breakfast there.

What do I need if I buy birds?
-If you think you're going to buy something, bring at least a carrier or a few cardboard boxes with covers. If you think you're in the market for baby chicks bring a small box. If you are in the market for the bigger animal, bring a carrier. If you think you are not going to buy anything, bring both. (rimshot)

-In Wisconsin, you should get pullorum and typhoid papers to sell birds at swaps or show the birds at fairs. 

Even if you have backyard chickens, you should have papers showing it's from a Wisconsin Tested Flock, Wisconsin Associate flock, Wisconsin 90 day test papers, NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program). By state law if you bring birds together you have to have one of the four types of papers. They should be in the name of the seller, so you know who sold the birds.

What should I ask the seller before buying the birds?
Most people will talk to you about the birds if you have questions.
General questions--what do you feed your birds, how long before the birds start to lay. You'll get a different answer from everybody but you'll average it out. General rule: people selling at swaps are really friendly.

If you see something you like but aren't ready to buy it yet, get their name and number so you can call them when you are ready.

As always, ask further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, AKA Turkeyman