If you want to add any birds to your flock outside the standard Tractor Supply Breeds you’ll likely have to order them online. Believe it or not, shipping day old chicks is really common and safe!
The other day I was talking to my boyfriend about ordering chickens online and how I couldn’t finish my order until I decided on turkeys. He looked at me like I just told him I was going to order a spaceship via Amazon Prime and pop over to Jupiter for dinner on Tuesday.
It was then that I realized that buying chickens online isn’t a normal life event for a lot of people.
He had a bunch of questions and I’m sure he’s not alone. So I put together this guide to make online chick buying easier.
His first question was Why would you order chickens online? You can get them at TSC.
My farm girl heart fluttered at the mention of Tractor Supply, and of course, he’s right. I have no problem with buying birds at a local place.
In fact if you only want a few birds or you’re fine with a common breed you should get them locally. It’s cheaper thanks to no shipping charge, no waiting and you can see what you’re getting.
Learn All About the Chicken Breeds Sold at Tractor Supply
But. If you want to get high-quality stock, anything that’s not one of the common breeds of chicken, or any of the other barnyard birds like geese, ducks, guineas or turkeys you’re out of luck. That’s when you need to turn to a hatchery.
Read more about Heritage Turkey Breeds vs Broad Breasted Turkeys
My Geese are from Meyer Hatchery. I wanted Pilgrim geese and they happened to have them when I was ordering.
How do they Send Chicks in the Mail?
Chicks are mailed in a box. A box like this:
Most hatcheries will have a minimum order number. That’s for the health and safety of the chicks.
When the weather is cool or cold they huddle together to stay warm.
You can usually order a smaller number if you’re willing to pay a fee for different packing. For Cackle Hatchery there is a fee for chicken orders of fewer than 15 birds.
Chicks are actually very easy to ship. They don’t need to eat immediately after hatching, they can live off the yolk remnants for up to three days.
When a hen sits on a nest she’s usually got a few days of hatching going on so it makes sense that the babies can live in the nest for a while before she moves the whole group out.
How to Order Chicks Online
Now we get to the actual ordering. I clicked over the the Welsummer page to check off the first bird on my list. Wellies lay beautiful dark brown eggs, I got a few in my Surprise box and I love them. This is what the page looks like:
By the green arrow you see the three options for ordering: Not Sexed, Female & Male. Sometimes you’ll see ‘Straight Run’ instead of not sexed. That means you get them as they hatch, ideally it’s a 50/50 split but it rarely works out that perfectly.
Learn more about Welsummers & their lovely speckled eggs
You can pick all females or males but vent sexing chicks isn’t an exact science. Cackle lists a 90% guarantee for sexing chicks.
In the past, I’ve only ordered straight run from them but it’s always been pretty even. Out of the 20 pullets I ordered in 2018 I ended up with 2 roosters. Lucky for me they were Welsummer roosters and I love them.
Even my surprise box had a pretty even mix which was much appreciated!
Love chaos? Pick up a Cackle Hatchery Surprise Box for 40-50 Random Poultry
I used to order everything straight run and butcher extra roosters. I don’t have a good set up right now or the time so this year I ordered all females with a few exceptions that I’ll get into later.
Below the main picture, there’s an image carousel that includes pictures of eggs and chicks.
If you order a mixed variety of birds this page is your new best friend, it’s where you’ll want to look when trying to identify your chicks.
The box for ‘Breed Facts’ has a ton of information if you’re looking around for something special. I think the sizing information is especially helpful.
I can’t be the only one excited by surprise chicken colors can I?
Straight run means I run the risk of 10 roosters but I’m ok with it. First, it’s really unlikely to go that way. And both Cochin and Silkie roosters are the chicken equivalent of cotton balls.
I have a giant splash fluffy Cochin roo (his name is Super Fluffy) and I love him. Earlier this year I rehomed 11 roosters; I kept him, a Welsummer, and a farm mutt that looked particularly fancy.
The 2018 rooster count is a bit higher than I’d like, I ended up with the 2 Welsummer roosters I
Unfortunately, whenever I let my hens go broody they deliver up an overwhelming majority of roosters. They added an extra 5 (2 hens!) this year so a clean-out will soon be in order.
You can also get great deals like the Frypan special, which is all male chicks from heavy breeds. That’s a great alternative to raising cornish x if you’re in the market for meat birds and you have some extra time to get them to size.
A similar deal is the Backward Barnyard which includes 75% female to 25% male heavy-breed chicks. I’m using Cackle as an example but most hatcheries have similar deals.
If you’ve made it this far it’s time to check out. I’m not quite there yet, I still can’t decide on turkeys.
My best tip is to place your order as soon as you know what you want, you’re more likely to get everything you want. Especially after the egg-pocalypse and everyone and their mother decided to order chicks!
Don’t be like me and wait or you won’t get any Blue Laced Red Wyandottes.
Pick your Delivery Date
During check out you get to pick the delivery date. First off, make sure you’ll be home that morning. When you order chicks online they’re shipped via USPS and you will get an early phone call from the Post Office to come pick them up.
As for picking a date I try to aim for about 6-8 weeks before my last frost date. At that point the chicks should be fully feathered, the weather isn’t cold and I can get them OUT OF MY HOUSE.
Usually, by 6 weeks I’m asking myself why I brought more chickens into my house.
Much like having a baby, you forget how much it sucks and you do it again.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, the kids love it, but it also sucks a little. My last frost date is around May 30th so I try to get my chicks delivered mid-April. If I need to shift that around for availability I’ll go earlier.
This is turning into a novel so I’ll write another post on what to do when your chicks arrive. Are you ordering chicks this year? Are you a newbie or a pro? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions
Looking for more info? Check out my Chicken Keeping page or start here: