Have you ever heard of chicken math? This is a strange phenomenon where six chickens somehow become twelve or twenty-four or even more, without the
If you're planning to begin your first flock by way of a hatchery order, here's what you need to know.
Choose your breed
There are a lot of chicken breeds to choose from, but mostly it's a personal preference. You can choose from standards (regular-sized birds) and bantams (small birds), then by body type, the color of their eggs, comb type, feather-legged or clean-legged, and the color of their feathers.
To see what's available, look through the online catalogs of the big hatcheries and see what you like. Personally, I like the heavy-bodied brown or tinted egg layers.
Hatcheries sell their day-old chicks as all females (pullets), all males (cockerels) and straight run (unsexed). Ordering all pullets is the highest price, followed by straight run, with all cockerels being the least expensive option. There's no way to know how many of each sex you'll get with a straight run order, which are put into the shipping box as they hatch, so if it's important to you to have more hens than roosters, order pullets. Just remember that you can end up with a cockerel or two in a batch of pullets unless you order sex-links which can be sexed by color when they hatch.
The Price Chart
When you look at hatcheries online you'll see that pricing also depends on how many chicks of that breed and sex you are buying. The price chart will look something like this:
Most hatcheries have a minimum number of chicks they will ship to you. This is to keep the day-old chicks warm in the shipping box as they make their way to your home. Some require that you buy a minimum of 15, others require 25. Some reduce their minimum in the warmer months when it's easier to maintain body heat in the shipping box.
If you want to order a few of several different breeds to reach the minimum shipping number, you'll need to pay the price for the number of chicks of each breed you order. It's less expensive to order all of one breed, but I won't judge you.
Smaller orders are available at some hatcheries so call and ask if you don't want 15 or 25. You'll pay a small order fee and higher shipping costs though, so if you have enough space you might want to order the larger number and sell the extras when they're well started. You can recoup some of your costs of raising them this way too.
Shipping costs will depend on where you live in relation to the hatchery. The farther away you live, the higher the cost will be. Choosing a hatchery near your home will mean lower shipping costs and will be easier on your chicks as well.
While these are the best-known hatcheries, there are many smaller hatcheries across the country too. Most offer fewer varieties; on the other hand, they sometimes specialize in certain breeds that might be harder to find elsewhere.
Murray McMurray Hatchery, Webster City, IAYou can use your favorite search engine to look for a "chick hatchery near [your state]" to find the hatcheries nearest you.
Cackle Hatchery, Lebanon, Missouri
Ideal Poultry, Cameron, Texas
Mt. Healthy Chicks, Mt Healthy, Ohio
Meyer Hatchery, Polk, Ohio
Some hatcheries allow you to come pick up your chicks and avoid postage costs (and stress on your birds) but you'll need to contact the hatchery and see if this is an option. You must order in advance and pick up your box of chicks at the appointed day and time.
You can choose to have the hatchery vaccinate your chicks for Marek's Disease, coccidiosis and other diseases at a small fee per chick. You can find information for these conditions online to help you make your decision.
Availability and Shipping Dates
Once you've decided on a breed, check the hatchery's website to see when chicks will be available. Orders are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and if there aren't enough eggs in the incubator to handle the demand your chicks will be ready later in the season. So order early, even if you don't want your chicks for awhile yet. You can request a certain delivery date if you wish.
Your New Arrivals
All that's left now is to await the day your post office calls to let you know your little fluffy babies have arrived. How exciting! What breed did you decide on?
Chicken Coop Sliding Door
We're So Egg-cited!
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