IYou can buy your chickens from the Omlet people. They sell those groovy-looking Eglu henhouses, and you can buy a whole package with henhouse, chickens, feed, and everything else you need with just a few clicks of your mouse. They'll even deliver it all to your door. Compared to getting everything you need to keep, say, a large dog, it's not that much more expensive. But if you want self-sufficiency rather than an unusual pet I think it will take you a long time to recoup the cost in eggs. If you have the money available, though, this option has the advantage of being the simplest.
Another way to get your hens is to rehome ex-battery hens. This is a feel-good way of getting chickens, but it will require patience to get these creatures back to condition. However I've heard that they lay very well once you have settled them in. The Strawbridge family from It's Not Easy Being Green and Richard from Down the Lane are both examples that I know of.
If I needed to buy more hens I think I'd look in the adverts of a smallholding magazine. My dad very kindly bought me a subscription to Smallholder and there are several columns of small ads in the back of each issue for poultry suppliers. I'd have a look before I bought, and I'd be ready to walk away empty-handed if I didn't like what I saw. If you choose to get your chickens from such a supplier, ask for point-of-lay hens. That means they're young and haven't started to lay eggs but they will soon. That way you get all the eggs - a chicken's useful laying life is only 2 or 3 years so if your hen is already an old lady she might not repay your investment.
My girls are "hybrid layers", that is they're not pure breeds, they're mixed breeds which have been selected to lay plenty of good-sized eggs. Alternatively you could go for a pure-breed layer. Just make sure that if you're after eggs you don't accidentally buy a bird bred for meat, or because it has a whacky looking pom-pom on its head, or any other reason. Know what you want before you go shopping.
I get my feed from the local pet shop. I live in a rural area (the pet shop seems mainly to deal in horse-related paraphernalia) so they keep layers pellets in stock, but I order organic ones especially. Before you get your girls sort out how you are going to to get their food.
Finally, other sources of information. I mainly use three books:
- Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski
- The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour which has several pages devoted to poultry
- Food From Your Garden by The Readers Digest which also has a few pages about backyard chicken keeping.
- Down The Lane which has pages devoted to keeping chickens in a suburban setting
- Self Sufficiency In Style which has information about keeping chickens for eggs
- Self Sufficientish also has an article about keeping eggs, as well as a friendly forum where you can ask any questions you have
- Downsizer.net which also has a helpful forum as well as articles on the topic
Links to Part 1 and Part 2