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February 6, 2017

How to Order Chicks From a Hatchery


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 crazy chicken lady owner being able to explain how it happened. Or maybe we just don't want to admit that we've added more birds than we thought.

Demystifying the process of ordering chicks from a hatchery.

Those first chicks have to come from somewhere though, right? My first flock came from Murray McMurray Hatchery more than 15 years ago when we lived in Michigan, and we've had at least a couple of chickens ever since.


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.

Chick ordering made easy.

Pullets, Cockerels or Straight Run?

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:

Chick ordering made easy

In other words, if you order 5 females of this breed, you'd pay $2.75 each for a total of $13.75. If you order 25 or more of this breed, each chick would be $2.25.

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.

How to order chicks from a hatchery

Shipping Charges

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, IA
Cackle Hatchery, Lebanon, Missouri
Ideal Poultry, Cameron, Texas
Mt. Healthy Chicks, Mt Healthy, Ohio
Meyer Hatchery, Polk, Ohio
You can use your favorite search engine to look for a "chick hatchery near [your state]" to find the hatcheries nearest you.

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.

Ordering chicks from a hatchery made easy

Vaccinations

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?


Related Posts:
Incubator 101
Chicken Coop Sliding Door
We're So Egg-cited!


This post includes affiliate links. If you click on a link and place an order, I will receive a small commission but it won't affect the price you pay in any way. You can read my 
full disclosure here. If you do order, thank you for supporting Oak Hill Homestead.




This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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16 comments:

  1. I'm planning my order now! I want some blue chickens, but they are so expensive.

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    Replies
    1. Yes they are, Jennifer! Maybe in a few years they will be easier to find and lower in price.

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    2. We featured this post this week, Kathi! Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

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    3. Thank you so much, Jennifer! It's an honor!

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  2. Last year, I ordered some Marans. After they reached adulthood, I realized that some of them are not pure. I have a lovely 'Maran' rooster who has two or three green-black feathers on his wings and one hen who is clearly a mutt and lays cream colored eggs. I will research reviews better before ordering this year! This was supposed to be a small, but reputable hatchery. My new advice is be wary! I think I'll be staying with larger hatcheries from now on. Thanks for the great information!

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    Replies
    1. That's a good point, Ann. I've never had that happen so I didn't even think of the possibility. Thank you for the warning and advice.

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  3. This is such good advice for anyone who is thinking of keeping chickens! More and more of my friends have their own flock and the fresh eggs are amazing! Thank you for sharing this post with us at Hearth and Soul, Kathi.

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    1. April, those fresh eggs really are delicious, not to mention that chickens are a lot of fun to have around, and very entertaining to watch.

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  4. We've never ordered chicks from an online hatchery, but these are great tips! Thanks for sharing this on the Homesteader Hop.

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  5. I just told my husband today I NEED to buy more chickens because I am having withdrawal symptoms! :) this is our first year but it's addicting. So many kinds of chickens but not enough space.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly! :-) Chickens really are addicting, and those chicks are just SO cute!

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  6. This has such great tips. We can only have up to 8, so sadly, no ordering for us. Thankfully we can find them locally. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday Blog Hop!

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    1. Eight is a great number, Katy - I currently have eight too. :-)

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  7. I want to order all pullets but I'm having a hard time finding a online site that isn't just straight run..

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    1. Bailey, try McMurray Hatchery, the link is in the post. I've bought pullets from them in the past. Some hatcheries will offer sexed chicks of some breeds but not of other breeds.

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