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

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

Congratulations! You finally decided to take the plunge and raise backyard chickens. You’ve ordered your chicks, perhaps even from Hoover’s Hatchery a local Iowa business, and received the shipping confirmation. Suddenly you realize that they’re really arriving! Now what? To get your chicks off to the best start, here are a few things you can do to be prepared.

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

Because let’s be real. I’m not giving advice on any other type of mail order chicks. 😀

Gather supplies

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

  • Brooder Box – This can really be anything you want. I use a rectangular 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, like five or fewer.
  • Wood chips / Bedding – I use wood shavings that I get for free from a local cabinet building shop. Pine shavings are ideal, but cedar shavings are toxic. You can use papertowels 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

  • Water & Food – Chicks need constant access to fresh, cool water. They should access it from a shallow container so they can’t drown in it. I’ve also found it helpful to lift it up off the brooder box floor an inch or two to keep bedding out of it. I used little pieces of styrofoam. 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 crumble or mash. Don’t feed baby chicks food for older chickens as the composition is not good 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.
  • Save-a-Chick Electrolyte – I used this for the first time with my mail order chicks and like that it provides electrolytes and vitamins to help give them a good start after being mailed. I used one packet which made about a gallon of water. After the gallon was empty, I switched to regular water.
  • Heat bulb & lamp – 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 – hanging 5-6 inches from the box. A good heat lamp has a clamp for easier securing as well as a cage around it. A 250 watt, bulb, {red or white} is a good choice for chicken brooders. The temperature should be around 95 degrees for a while. 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

The chicks 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 around 7:30 am and we left shortly thereafter. Once arriving at the post office, we had to knock 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

As soon as you get the chicks home, dunk each chick’s beak in the water prepared with the Save-A-Chick Electrolyte to make sure they understand where their water is and know how to get it. They’ll be thirsty when they arrive so you’ll want to make sure to show them where their water is to help keep them from getting dehydrated.

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

And that’s it! Enjoy your new baby chicks.

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.


  1. 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!
    • 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! :-)

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