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Wondering how to order chicks online? For most people pursuing hatchery websites and seed catalogs is an attempt to survive the onset of cabin fever during the winter months.
I know for me right at the end of January is when I start to get a twitch and a craving for sunshine. There is nothing better to warm the soul than looking at baby chicks and dreaming of those cute little fluff balls that are soon to show up in local feed stores like Rural King or Tractor Supply.
While those chicks are defiantly convenient and arguably cheaper (mainly because you are not paying to ship them) then ordering chicks online from a hatchery you don’t always end up with the best quality birds.
Two years in a row I got suckered by those cute faces at the local feed store even though I knew better. After many years in 4H ordering from a quality hatchery and even a few times for my own backyard farm before that.
I knew that I would probably be sorry and sure enough I end up with not-so-great birds.
While yes conformation doesn’t always matter on a backyard bird and your biggest concern is healthy chicks. There is often another big issue with buying baby chicks from a feed supply shop.
More than once the sexes were wrong even though we PAID EXTRA for hens. People have chicken for the eggs. So it’s very irritating when you pay for day-old chicks that are not even what you wanted.
On top of that, the drakes (male ducks) somehow thought it was ok to mate with the hens, not just the other ducks🙄. Driving the hens so crazy they wouldn’t even come out of the coop for days.
That never happened with the ducks we got from the hatcheries so some serious wires were crossed somewhere.
So whether you have had a bad experience with feed store chicks or you want a little variety of breeds in your flock let me show you how to order chicks online.
You Need To Plan Ahead When Ordering Quality Chicks
One thing you need to know is ordering chicks online is not something you can do and expect your chicks next week. I often order my chicks in mid-January and the day-old baby chicks don’t hatch and ship until April.
The amount and variety of chicks you choose will also have an effect on the speed of your shipping date.
Hatcheries like Crackle Hatchery or Meyer Hatchery have a wide variety of breeds. So it can be tempting to want to order a lot of different ones. But what you will run into is some breeds will be hatched one day and some won’t. 3 breeds isn’t to difficult but you start heading towards 5 or more and you are going to really struggle to find a hatch date for all of the breeds you wanted.
So the simplest solution to this is to go online to the hatchery that you want to order from. Add the chicks you want to your cart. Then when you go to pick a shipping date ask yourself which ones you are willing to do without if you can’t find a shipping date for the breeds you want.
You will see how this works further down the post.
You Have To Pick Chicks Up From The Post Office
IMPORTANT – You HAVE TO be able to go get the chicks from the post office as soon as you get the call. (I will explain the process later)
Your chicks do not come to your door and they are not kept in a warm enough location to survive long. Sure they aren’t left in the cold BUT they need 90+ degree temperatures as soon as possible and no post office is that warm.
Chicks are shipped with a heat pack and they help each other stay warm but that is not nearly as hot as they need it to be to survive long.
You can wait until mid-afternoon but the longer they stay in the shipping box and not in a heated environment the more likely they will be to get sick.
These days there are just a few top hatcheries that have a lot of variety and have existed for years.
My #1 Hatchery Choice
My favorite hatcher to order chicks online from is Cackle Hatchery. They have good quality birds and if you are ordering for show or 4-h they are also a good choice. They also have very reasonable prices.
My in-laws have bought from Meyer Hatchery and also ended up with some great birds as well but I don’t feel like they have quiiiiiite as much selection.
Other Hatchery Options
- Murray McMurray Hatchery but they are on the pricier side in my opinion.
- Freedom Ranger Hatchery
- Townline hatchery
- Ideal Poultry
- Welp Hatchery
- J&M Hatchery
There are starting to be a lot more family-owned hatchery poultry operations popping up online these days. If you are looking for a smaller hatchery to support then I would do a google search and see what comes up.
How To Order Your Chicks Online
Once you decide which hatchery you want to order from, familiarize yourself with the shipping policy and the number of chick requirements.
Some places will allow you to order as few as 3 chicks BUT 9 times out of 10 there is a small order charge because they have to add extra heating pads in with the chicks to help them stay warm on the 1-2 day trip.
But in the case of cackle hatchery if you order 15 birds that small order charge falls off.
Also depending on the time of year, certain birds are hatched at different times. Ducks and geese are a perfect example of this. They tend to only be hatched in the warmer months where as you can order a wide selection of chicken breeds most of the year.
Get Ready To Order
When you are on a specific breed page on the hatchery website here is what you will see.
Top Row is for “straight run” or not sexed.
( A word of caution with this. You are likely to get a huge amount of roosters. Here’s my working theory on that. Most people who have chickens raise them for the eggs right? The pullets (female chicks) are separated for the people who order sexed birds. Increasing your chances of getting males. If you truly don’t care then sure go for it.)
Second Row: Pullets (females)
Third Row – Cockerels (males)
If you are buying from a breed that does not have the option to buy sexed chicks then you are more likely to get a 50/50-ish mix. I like to buy cochin chicks and they are not sold separately and we always tend to get a nice mix.
As far as the pricing goes however many you are buying OF THAT BREED is the price you will pay per bird. This does not include tax or shipping.
Some Breeds Have A Minimum
Here is an example of a breed that has a minimum number that you have to buy. Rare or exotic breeds like this have a minimum because they are not in high demand and they need to hatch several out in order for you to get at least the number you ordered.
So make sure to keep an eye out for this. There are very few chicks that you can order one or two of online.
Now, remember that I mentioned a small order fee? Here is what a cart summary would be if I ordered 8 birds online from cackle hatchery.
Subtotal is the cost of the birders.
This order is small (only 8 lower-priced birds) so it is worth paying the small order fee.
When Is It Worth Ordering More To Drop The Small Order Fee
An example of when it would be worth it to up the number of birds you are ordering is if you are ALREADY close to the 15 birds.
Try to find a bird that is going to be at or below the $20 when you add them to your order. So if you need 4 more birds then you would spend up to $5 a bird and get them for “free” instead of paying that money in shipping fees.
Make Sure You Have The Space
Another thing to keep in mind is if you have the space to care for the extra birds it would take to drop the $20 fee. If you have a small coop or housing area then just stick with what you are comfortable with.
But if you raise the chicks to a few months old you could sell them for $20 and make a nice amount of your cost back.
Choosing A Date For Your Order To Ship Your Backyard Chickens
Once you are ready to order HAVE A CALENDAR WITH YOU and make sure to have any days marked that you could be out of town or not able to get your chicks within a few hours of getting the call that your chicks have arrived.
Once you put the number of chicks in your shopping cart you are going to have to click through and see which days all of the chicks you chose are available.
I purposefully put together a difficult order with a wide species and breed selection to show you that you can’t always get the exact breeds you want all shipped together.
You can see the breeds listed in the top row I had in the order. The goal is to get a blue box for each of the breeds in your cart on the same day. Meaning everything in your cart can be hatched on that day.
If that is not possible you will have to let something go and find a different breed. Hatcheries will not split up an order on different days.
Keep in mind that the date you are picking is the hatch day. They will ship out the same day in the evening and arrive 24-48hrs later at your post office. Once your chicks have shipped you should get a tracking number emailed to you.
Your post office will call you often in the morning around 8-9 am. Make sure to know which office your mail comes out of because this is the location your chicks will come to.
Once your postmaster hands you the chirping box DO NOT OPEN IT until you get home and have a heat lamp and brooder ready for them. Chicks need to be as warm as possible so by letting the heat out they will have to work harder to stay warm. For more info on raising chicks read this post.
Ordering chicks online is not as complicated as it seems but once you get the hang of it you will enjoy the process.
Supplies You Will Need For Chicks
Heat Lamp – See On AmazonI like this one because it has a guard on the front so if it falls it won’t be directly on the surface and helps prevent fires.
250Wt Bulb – See On Amazon– Anything less than 250 will not put out enough heat.
Chicks Starter – See On Amazon
Grit – See On Amazon – Chicks need thegrit to help digest their food. Once they eat some for a day or two they will be good to go. So you will have one bag for quite a while.
Feeder & Waterer – See On Amazon
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