With the click of a few buttons, we ordered a box of baby chicks and got them in the mail just a few days later. It was simple, fast and the highlight of our week.
Once you have a handful of chickens, you can’t help but want more. Or at least that’s our story. This past weekend, we ordered a mix of fuzzy baby chicks and received the “you’ve got mail” call from our local post office at 6:45 a.m. just a few days later. What we used to call snail mail from the United States Postal Service (USPS) has now been dubbed chick mail at our house.
I’m still amazed that it’s so easy to get baby chicks quickly, but apparently the USPS has been shipping chicks for more than a century—1918, to be exact.
Where to Order Baby Chicks
Though there are many hatcheries that sell chicks, we chose to go through Tractor Supply since we frequent our local store often and are familiar with the company’s processes and local offerings. We considered going to our local store’s Chick Days, but we didn’t want to wait a month for it to take place.
So with my husband at the reigns of the laptop and my kids hovering around him, we browsed the online cataloguing of available chicks.
There are so many options available through Hoover Hatchery on Tractor Supply’s website. I tend to lean toward chickens based on their looks or the coloration of their eggs. My husband is solely focused on how many eggs they produce. But since much of marriage is about give and take, we settled on a mix of chicks that I think will make us all happy.
Our Chosen Breeds of Chickens
We bought three different packages, each containing 10 chicks. One package is a mix of Barred Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red. Another package is Red Sex-Linked: a hybrid of a Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn. Our final package is called the Brown Production Pack, which can be a mix of so many breeds: Amberlink, Asian Black, Barred Rock, Black Australorp, Black Jersey Giant, Black Sex Link, Buckeye, Buff Orpington, Cinnamon Queen, Golden Comet, Golden Laced Wyandotte, ISA Brown, New Hampshire Red, Partridge Rock, Production Red, Rainbow, Rhode Island Red, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Turkens, White Rock.
If you’ve followed our story on Instagram, you know that we bought 6 pullets from a local guy about 7 weeks ago when they were 5 months old. We have since discovered one—and possibly two—of these hens to be roosters.
The world of chicken sexing is complicated, but hatcheries have a 90% policy. So out of the 30 baby chicks we bought, we can expect about 3 of them to be roosters. If more than 3 are roosters, the hatchery will refund us.
How Can Chicks Survive being Mailed?
If baby chicks have been sent through the mail since 1918, they are obviously resilient. But how do they survive?
First off, they are placed in a special cardboard box with holes in it for airflow. The sides of the box are also slanted so that if the box is placed amongst other boxes, the air holes won’t be covered.
Secondly, shipping baby chicks is all about perfect timing. Hatcheries package and ship chicks immediately after they are born because they have to work within a 72-hour window. Chicks that are shipped right after hatching can survive the journey without food or water because they are still digesting the yolk sacks from the eggs for the first two days of life. Most hatcheries require a minimum order of chicks because packing them together helps to keep them warm on the journey.
We had read that sometimes a chick or two will die during transport, so we were prepared for that. Though none died during the journey, one died within 10 minutes of unpacking the chicks and we are watching a couple more that are not moving well and not eating or drinking. It was a bit sad, especially for my daughter, but we tried to explain the best we could the circle of life and death with creatures.
Related: Hello Modern Homesteading!
Post Office Rules for Delivering Baby Chicks
I’m sure every hatchery operates slightly differently, but Hoover Hatchery only ships chicks Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This ensures that chicks arrive to your local post office before the weekend. We were able to check our order online to confirm that our chicks had shipped.
Once your local post office receives your chirping package, they call you and ask you to pick up your chicks within 24 hours. Thankfully, we were able to get them right away.
Prepping for Baby Chicks in the Mail
Before our baby chicks arrived, we used a few items we had on hand and picked up a few supplies from our local Tractor Supply to prepare for them.
Using what we had, we repurposed an old bookshelf by removing the inner shelving and laying the furniture on its side. We filled this homemade brooding box with pine shavings, a heat lamp, chick starter feed and a waterer.
We didn’t let our kids move the chicks from the shipping box to the brooding box. We were nervous that if they accidentally dropped a chick, it might harm or kill it. Our kids are beyond excited and can’t wait for a few days when they can safely hold the chicks. Until then, the chicks have quite the captive audience.