For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.
You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.
My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.
Some of the popular hatcheries:
- Cackle hatchery
- Ideal Poultry
- Murray McMurray
- Privett Hatchery
My wife and I recently placed an order with Ideal Poultry. Ideal is here in Texas, just a few hundred miles from my home and the chicks were reasonably priced.
The chicks were shipped out around 6pm Wednesday evening and arrived at my post office around 7:30 am the next morning. Spending around 13 – 15 hours in a box is about as humane as it is going to get. All of the chicks arrived alive and in good health. Going on 2 weeks later not a single chick has died.
The packing slip on the outside of the box with my address and wifes cellphone number were clearly visible. As soon as the chicks were unloaded off the delivery truck the post office called my wife to let her know the chicks had arrived.
Being able to order what we want sure beats calling the feed store to see what they have in stock, then getting to the store before all the best breeds are sold out.
My wife and I originally ordered:
- 5 Australorp pullets + one Australorp rooster
- 5 Dominicker pullets
- 10 Buff Orpington pullets
* a pullet is a hen less than one year old.
Ideal called the morning the chicks were supposed to ship to inform my wife and I there were not enough Australorp pullets to fill the order. The nice lady asked if we would like to substitute with another breed. We substituted Barred Rocks for the Australorps.
End ended up getting:
- 5 Barred Rock pullets + one Barred Rock rooster
- 5 Dominicker pullets
- 10 Buff Orpington pullets
At least one of my Australorp hens goes broody every spring. Hopefully at least one of my Barred Rock hens will go broody. The goal is to develop a self-sustaining chicken flock with good heritage breeds.
Why did we order chicks in the summer
As some of you may know my wife and I lost a bunch of chickens. A fox killed several, chicken hawk killed some, and the dogs I rescued off the side of the road killed some.
When my wife and I moved to the farm in August 2013 we arrived with 13 hens.
Spring 2014 we bought around 18 – 20 chicks, for a total of around 33.
We are down to 15 hens.
My wifes Buff Orpington rooster had what appears to be a stroke. He can not stand, lays on one side, is eating and drinking on his own and crows in the morning. We are not sure if he is going to pull out of this. Just in case we have to put him down, my wife and I traded for a 2 month old Buff Orpington rooster and a 2 month old brown Leghorn.
This gives us three roosters, 15 hens and 20 pullets.
A Rhode Island Red rooster my wife and I ended up with last spring is on loan to my cousin. So we really have 4 roosters, but one is on loan. My cousin has a mixed flock of Australorps and Rhode Island Reds. One of the Australorp hens is sitting on a clutch of eggs. We agreed that if my rooster and her hens hatch out some chicks, we will share them. It is important that the gene to go broody is passed down.
I hope my wifes Buff Orpington rooster pulls through. He was a great rooster who was very protective of his flock. If he does not pull through we have replacements ready to take his place.
Buying in Summer versus Spring
Weather and heat lamp
What is one of the big issues with buying spring chicks? Dealing with the cold weather. The chicks have to be kept in a warm place with a heat lamp.
When buying the chicks in summer, the weather is already hot.
My new chicks are almost 2 weeks old. They spent their first night outside last night and did not have a heat lamp. I would never think about putting 10 day old chicks outside in February and March. If I had a draft free barn with power and a safe place for a heat lamp, yea maybe then.
I just hope the chicks are feathered out by the time winter arrives. Here in southeast Texas our cold weather usually does not hit until November. Sometimes we have a cold front in October. However, those early cold fronts last only a day or two.
Minimum quantity order
Just about all hatcheries require a minimum quantity order during the early spring months. This is to make sure the chicks have enough body heat to keep them alive while being shipped. By the time late spring rolls around, say April, the hatchery will allow smaller orders because the weather has warmed up.
For example, Murray McMurray Hatchery has a policy that says between November – March the minimum order is 25 chicks. Between April – October that minimum order number is reduced to 15 chicks. If you want to mail order just a few chicks, summer time is going to be a better time to order.
March 2014 my wife and I placed an chick order through a local farm supply store store. The delivery was delayed several days due to blizzard like conditions where the hatchery was located. When the chicks arrived just about all of them were dead.
The lady at the feed store filed an insurance claim through the post office. The money is not the issue. The main point is transporting the chicks in a humane manner so the loss of life is minimized.
Being left in a warehouse to freeze or starve to death is not humane treatment. When a blizzard has traffic stopped there is not much that can be done.
During the springtime rush stores will buy chicks from whoever has them in stock. It does not matter if the hatchery is 60 or 600 miles away. The chicks are packed up and shipped out. Sometimes as mentioned before a blizzard will blow through stopping all traffic and the chicks are left to die.
I have a moral objection to animal suffering. I can no longer buy chicks from feed stores when I know they are dying in transit.
Because Ideal Poultry is near my home, and my last shipment was overnight, I will continue to buy from them.
Find a hatchery near you and order from them. This mass killing of chicks in the early spring due to bad weather needs to stop. We as consumers need to move past this mindset that we “have” to buy chicks in early spring.
When I first considered ordering chicks off the internet I was concerned about how the process was going to go. Were the chicks going to arrive alive, how long was the wait period, what would pricing be like.
It was about 2 weeks from when I placed the order to when the chicks hatched.
Hatcheries hatch year round. They may not have the exact breed you may want when you want it. Sign up on a mailing list to be notified when the breeds you want are being hatched.
Overall, ordering chicks in the summer over the internet has gone better than I expected.