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How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety)

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Ordering baby chicks through the mail is a lot of fun, but there are a few things you need to do ahead of time to get your chicks off to the best start. Here’s how to prepare for your mail order chicks so they get off to the best possible start!

How to prepare for mail order chicks

Many thanks to Hoover’s Hatchery for sending me chicks via the US mail to facilitate this post.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety)

There are several things you need to do to be ready for mail order chicks (feathered friends, of course). Because let’s be real. I’m not giving advice on any other type of mail order chicks. ūüėÄ

Make sure you have the right supplies

a box of baby chicks that has been mailed

Of course, it’s always better to have these items before your birds arrive – so write out your shopping list and go get them!

    • Brooder Box
    • Bedding
    • Heat Lamp with guard and bulb
    • Electrolytes & vitamins
    • Chick starter food
    • Feeding and water containers


Set up the Brooder Box

This can really be anything you want. I use a rectangular wooden box my husband actually built to be a dog bed. I like that it has higher sides to keep the chicks from jumping out for at least a few weeks. Your box¬†needs to be big enough to give the chicks room to run around, keeping in mind that the chicks will grow quite quickly. My box is about 3 ft x 4 ft with 1 ft sides. It easily fits 25 chicks at a time, and I would have no qualms about housing a few more in there. I’ve also seen people use plastic tote boxes successfully but¬†they work only for a smaller number of chicks.

You’ll need some sort of bedding for the brooder box.I use wood shavings that I get for free from a local cabinet building shop. Pine shavings are ok, but cedar shavings are toxic to chickens. You can use paper towels for the first day or so, but get some type of bedding very quickly for your chicks.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) - put the water up

Prepare their food and water

I have found it helpful to lift it up the food and water off the brooder box floor an inch or two to keep bedding out of it. Little pieces of styrofoam work well. I left them like this so you can see better in the picture, but I hide them a better underneath the water container a bit better to keep them from pecking the styrofoam.

Food should be specially formulated for chicks¬†and is¬†called chick starter crumble or mash. Don’t feed baby chicks layer food for older chickens as the protein composition is not right for the babies. I feed my chickens an organic chick starter that I order from my local feed store and use a galvanized chick feeder.

box of 50 mailed baby chicks

For the first week or so, I make sure my chicks get vitamins and electrolytes in their water. I use Save-a-Chick Electrolyte and just mix a little packet in a gallon of water that I keep near the brooder for easy refills. The vitamins and electrolytes help them recover after their time in the mail and give them a healthy start

Set up a heat lamp and bulb

Chicks need to be kept in a very warm area until they are feathered out. When the chicks first arrive, the heat lamp should be quite close to them Рhanging 5-6 inches from the box. A good heat lamp has a clamp for easier securing as well as a cage around it for safety reasons. A 250 watt, bulb, {red or white} is a good choice for chicken brooders.

The temperature should be around 90-95 degrees for the first week. As you watch your chicks, you’ll know when it’s time to raise¬†the heat lamp¬†as the chicks will¬†start moving to the edge of the box and hanging out away from the heat source. I bought my supplies from the local farm store, but you can also order all of these supplies directly on Amazon and have them sent directly to your house.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) early morning pickup

Prepare for an early morning pick-up

Since my phone is usually on silent, this really means I need to turn on my ringer so that I get the call! The chicks usually arrive at the post office first thing in the morning, so be prepared to get them before the post office even opens. My phone rang a little after 7 am and we left shortly thereafter. On arriving at the post office, we had to ring the bell on the locked door to pick up the chicks.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) dunk the beaks

Encourage your chicks to drink water

They’ll be thirsty when they arrive. As soon as you get the chicks home, dunk each chick’s beak in the water prepared with the Save-A-Chick¬†Electrolyte. This shows them¬†where their water is and helps keep them from getting dehydrated.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) baby cornish cross meat bird

The last thing to be aware of is poopy butt! Read more about that here. Now sit back and watch your chicks. I dare you to get much else done the day they arrive. 

If you think you might like to order chicks, take a look at what¬†Hoover’s Hatchery¬†located in Rudd, Iowa, has to offer. They sell not only meat birds and egg layers, but also ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, bantams, and guinea keets! All of the birds I’ve received from them arrived in great condition and are growing well.

If you liked this post on preparing for mail order chicks, here are several more posts for you!

Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Chickens – care and feeding from day 1

How to Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter

Why you might want to raise chickens for eggs

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About Michelle

Michelle Marine is green living enthusiast and rural Iowa mom of four. An avid traveler, Michelle has lived on three different continents and has driven all four kids across the entire USA (by herself!). She loves sharing farm-to-table recipes, their family travel adventures, and gardening and homesteading tips on her popular lifestyle blog, SimplifyLiveLove.com.

Comments

  1. Beth Ann Chiles says

    I love this post! I love these chicks! I can just see how much fun they are to watch grow . After being to Hoover’s Hatchery I know what great care they take of their “babies’ and I am sure you are continuing on with fabulous care!

    • Michelle Marine says

      That’s a great question, Val. Mail ordering chicks is a great option for people who want to buy large quantities of chicks because they’re often cheaper than you pay in the store. From my understanding, it’s not safe to order only a few chicks via mail, and most hatcheries won’t send out small quantities of birds. But if you’re looking for batches of 25+ – mail order seems to be the way to go!! We enjoyed our first experience with mail order birds and I will definitely order more from Hoover’s Hatchery! ūüôā

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