Learn how to order baby chicks in the mail by finding a reputable chick hatchery with good customer reviews.
So you want to start raising backyard chickens? And you want to start out with cute, fuzzy chicks? Of course, you do. You can either purchase them from another farm, a local feed store, or order baby chicks in the mail.
Wait, you say. Is that safe for the chicks? Amazingly, it is. Hatcheries have been sending chicks through the mail for decades, and the postal service is very adept at handling orders.
For the first two days of life, chicks are still digesting the yolk sacks from the eggs. They can survive shipment as long as they are kept warm and arrive within three days at the most. Chicks are packaged in bulk, in safe and well-marked containers. If your chicks don’t arrive safely, the well-reputed hatcheries are quick to refund your money.
In 2012, I ordered chicks from Ideal Poultry, combining my order with another friend. We ordered about 40 chicks and ducklings, including tiny Silkies. Of the entire shipment, only the male duckling did not survive. The year before, the same friend ordered 25 chicks, with no casualties. Two other friends safely ordered from the same hatchery. These babies arrived in March and April; one shipment arrived in January!
On the other hand, I once entered a local feed store to find chicks that had pasty butt, or were incredibly ill with swollen faces and runny noses! I told my daughter to back away and not to touch a thing. We left that store and disinfected our shoes before returning to our chickens.
How to Order Baby Chicks by Mail
First of all, start NOW! You get to choose your ship date, but if you want specific chicken breeds, the hatcheries might sell out long before that ship date. Get a catalog, or go online, and put your order in as soon as you can to reserve rare breeds. To attain a catalog, go to the website and request one. Order baby chicks online because it’s the best way to guarantee which breeds are available.
Some hatcheries specify you order a certain number of chicks, while others specify that you just order a certain dollar amount. Ideal Poultry requires a minimum order of $25, which amounts to 10 or fewer chicks, depending on breed. Each hatchery also varies on shipping policies and rates. Be sure to read the shipping policy of each hatchery. It also helps to learn where the hatchery is located, so your babies have the shortest possible trip.
If you don’t order enough babies to keep each other warm, little cockerels may be added for warmth. You won’t be charged for these cockerels, as they are usually “extras” and are the hatchery’s insurance that your purchase will arrive safely.
Do a little research on your breeds, if you don’t already know what you want. A fun tool from My Pet Chicken allows you to find what breed suits your needs.
Some hatcheries allow you to choose between pullets and cockerels. This differs from site to site. For instance, Ideal Poultry only sells Polish chicks straight-run (you get whatever hatches). Meyer Hatchery will sex Polish, selling pullets. My Pet Chicken will sex Silkies, which is difficult for this tiny breed.
Because sexing isn’t always accurate, hatcheries have a 90% policy: If you order pullets and end up with some cockerels, they refund anything exceeding 10% of the order. So if you order 10 pullets and one ends up being a cockerel, you will not get a refund; if two are cockerels, they refund for one of them.
When you order baby chicks in the mail, the hatchery will always tell you when your chicks have been shipped. The post office will call you when your babies have arrived.
Be ready for those babies. Have a brooding box with bedding, a heat lamp, chick starter feed, grit, and a waterer. Your babies will be tired from their trip, and won’t want to wait for a little water and heat. When you take the babies out of their box, dip their beaks in the water before setting them under the heat lamp. Encourage them to take a few more drinks. Let them rest and relax awhile before picking them up again.
And enjoy your babies!
Which hatchery is best? If you Google each hatchery, you’ll easily find reviews on all of them. Customers are quick to report hatcheries with sick or low-quality chicks, or with bad customer service. Because the hatchery wants your repeat business and because they have to comply with certain humane standards, they do their best to ensure you have a safe and happy delivery.
Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.