Wondering how to order chicks online? For most people pursuing the hatchery websites and seed catalogs is an attempt to survive the onset of cabin fever.
I know for me right at the end of January is when I start to get a twitch and a craving for sunshine. Then I start dreaming of those cute little fluff balls that are soon to show up in the local feed stores.
While those chicks are defiantly convenient and arguably cheaper (mainly because you are not paying shipping) 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, I knew that I would probably be sorry and end up with not so great birds.
Aaannd I was right.
While yes conformation doesn’t always matter on a backyard bird. That was not the only issue I had with the feed store birds.
Often times the sexs were wrong even though we PAID EXTRA for hens.
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 more variety in your flock let me show you how to order chicks online.
You Need To Know This First
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 mid-January and they 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 time.
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.
These days there are just a few top hatcheries that have a lot of variety and have existed for years.
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.
Another option is Murray McMurray Hatchery but they are on the pricier side in my opinion.
How To Order Your Chicks Online
Once you decide which hatchery you want to order from familiarizing yourself with the shipping rules and number 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.
Now that I have gotten you all stressed out over the technical stuff just have fun looking through all the available breeds.
Don’t want to forget this information? Save it to your favorite Pinterest board with the image below so you can find it later.
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 why. Most people who have chickens raise them for the eggs right? The pullets or 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)
As far as the pricing goes how ever 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 minimums
Here is an example of a breed that has a minimum number that you have to buy. 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 summery would be if I ordered 8 birds online from chackle 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.
BUT an example of when it would be worth it to up the number of birds you are ordering is if you are close to the 15 birds already. AND are able to choose a breed that will keep the addition of the birds lower than the $20.
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.
Choosing A Date For Your Order To Ship
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 with in a few hours of getting the call that your chicks have arrived.
Once you put the number of chicks in your 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 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 hatch on that day. If that is not possible you will have to let something go and find a different breed.
Keep in mind that this is the hatch day. They will ship out the same day and arrive 24-48hrs later at your post office. Once you 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 to stay warm. For more info on raising chicks read this post.
It’s not as complicated as it seems but once you get the hang of it you will enjoy the process.
Here are some supplies you will need to be ready for your chicks
- Heat Lamp – See On Amazon I 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 the grit 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.
- Pine shavings
- Feeder & Waterer – See On Amazon