While it might seem odd and, quite frankly, reckless to ship a small animal such as a baby chick through the mail, there are several factors to a chicken that has just hatched, that lend the bird to traveling in such a manner.
Baby chicks can survive shipping because of three main factors. These are, the immediate lack of need for food and water, the innate docile behavior exhibited when in a place of darkness, and their fuzzy downy feathers.
- No need for immediate nourishment – Just before breaking free of their shell, a chick will absorb the remaining contents in its sac. This provides enough nourishment for a window of about 72 hours. So long as the baby chick arrives at its destination (and the destination is properly prepared for the new arrival), you should be able to open your box and find chicks that are happy and excited to see their new world.
### Important Note ###
It is absolutely crucial that you immediately show them where the water is. Failure to do this vital step, before allowing them to run off and start having fun, can easily lead to the loss of a chick. For an in-depth look at this and the reasoning behind it, check out, ‘How To Give Water To Baby Chicks.’
- Docile behavior in the dark – Chickens are a bird with very poor night vision. And because of this, their innate instincts drive them into a ‘bedtime’ sort of behavior. This means that in the absence of light, these chicks will quietly hunker down inside their shipping box.
This lack of activity also aides them by not burning through the nourishment they obtained from the egg sac.
- Downy feathers – The uber soft and fuzzy feathers that cover the small chicks do a great job at transferring heat. This means that when snuggled closely to either a mama hen or other brothers and sisters, body heat can be easily shared.
When in the confines of a small box, chicks huddled together can do a great job of keeping each other warm. And this is very important as chicks have specific temperature requirements for the first several weeks of their life.
How Old Are Baby Chicks When They Are Shipped?
With each hatchery having its own process and ‘new-life’ having its own schedule (a fact that every human mother can attest to!) setting an exact hourly time for each and every chick to hatch and then be shipped, would be impossible.
However, there is a general ballpark number of chicks being less than 24 hours old when they are shipped. And this is vitally important as getting your new birds to you as quickly as possible, provides the chicks with the best chance of survival.
For this reason, you should spend some time and do some careful researching when choosing a quality hatchery. Not only does this hatchery need the experience to produce a bird with the highest health characteristics, but they need to anticipate hatch time and then process the bird (which often includes separating male from female) in a timely manner.
As you might imagine, these people are working at an incredible pace, where care and efficiency are everything! So do your homework and shop around. Read reviews and look for common complaints. A purchase that seems like a bargain, might not lead to a happy healthy bird.
Can You Mail A Live Chicken?
For those who so inclined, fully grown chickens can be sent through the mail, via overnight shipping.
While this might seem odd, there are situations where this is desirable.
Pullets, for example, are hens roughly 6 months of age and ready to lay eggs. Should you find yourself in a situation where you have a lonely chicken at home, obtaining a pullet to add as a friend, is a completely logical and feasible choice.
What is not good, however, is you introducing chicks to an adult bird, as the adults will quite often see the chicks as a potential source of food rather than a new member of the flock.
Also, it pays to remember, there is a pecking order for a flock of chickens and a 6 month old pullet will be able to defend itself where a small chick, can not.
Should you feel that adding a pullet is a good choice for your flock, please remember that adult chickens are not as capable when it comes to going 72 hours without water as their just hatched counterparts. Overnight shipping is an absolute must for adult birds!
It is natural to have a sense of unease when it comes to sending chicks through the mail. Point of fact, I personally endure a great deal of stress EVERY TIME I order chicks. Yet, I can tell you, that the mortality rate for the chicks purchased from a quality hatchery has been significantly better than chicks I have purchased onsite from a box store.
Yes, things do occasionally get lost in the mail. And it’s because of these rare occurrences that some will choose to pick up their chicks in person. However, that isn’t always an option.
I have found that the chances of something going wrong with shipping is much MUCH smaller than the chances of me missing something – meaning water, heat, ect – during the first week that they are in my care.
In other words, I am more likely to screw up than the post office. Granted, once the chicks are out of the box, their needs expand dramatically and I am responsible for each and every one of them. But as a whole, shipping baby chicks from a quality hatchery has proven to be a much more successful endeavor than buying chicks on site.
### Important Note ###
It’s a good practice to call your local post office and keep them up to date on the chicks and where they are at. Our post office has been really great at calling us, the moment the chicks arrive. (MANY THANKS to all my postal employees!!!)