Every now and then we like to make sure our online ordering process works exactly the way we think it does, so one of our team members, will order a few chicks to see what happens. A few weeks ago, Melissa placed an order and wrote this blog post about her experiences ordering live chicks online. She gives a nice, real-life, step-by-step guide to caring for brand new chicks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Melissa!
My ship date arrived and I confirmed that the order has shipped. What next? I took a minute to call my local post office, to let them know I was expecting a delivery of live chicks.
Then I prepared the brooder and double checked my supplies:
Heat lamp? Check!
Food? Eh…I needed chick starter! Medicated and non-medicated are both easily available and there are a lot of different opinions on this so you may want to do some research.
I also keep some vitamin powder on hand, and usually get whatever the feed store recommends.
Make sure the brooder box is draft free. It can be something as simple as a cardboard box or as elaborate as a wooden, handmade, custom built, oak and cherry work of art. I shoot for something on the lower end of the spectrum, but a bit sturdier than a cardboard box. I often choose a large plastic storage tub. Tubs are easy to clean, and when the chicks outgrow it, all the supplies can be stored inside it until the next batch.
For the heat light, I use one intended for reptiles. In my experience it warms at a good predictable heat without being too hot either. The lamp I found to go with it allows me to dim it somewhat too, to lower the heat each week as the chicks need it less warm.
When the chicks arrived at the post office, the clerk called to let me know the chicks are there. They’ll often call VERY early, so if you sleep through your phone ringer, check your voice mail in the morning. I went to the post office as soon as possible. Not only is that best for the chicks, but for the sanity of the clerks working next to a box of chicks that peep non-stop.
I checked the box right there at the post office, to make sure all are alive and well.
Here they are in the box. Everyone looks vibrant and well. In fact, there appears to be too many! I ordered 10, straight run bantam Cochins and Silkies. But, the packing slip says in red ink that there are extra males for warmth. This is unusual, but I’m glad the chicks are warm and well.
I took my chicks home and again checked them to see that they all looked good. It’s always a good idea to make note if any have died, and count how many are alive.
How many are alive is the key, because that is the number you will report to us. For instance, I ordered five Silkies and five Cochins. In this case, all made it fine and fit, so yay for me!
If, however, some of your chicks do not make the trip, we will offer a refund or a store credit to cover the losses. We sometimes will add extras to cover possible losses, but not always, so please do let us know how many live chicks you receive.
As soon as possible I get the chicks I mail ordered into their prepared brooder box. I line the bottom of mine with shavings, other people like to add a layer of paper towels on top of newspaper. This gives them good footing and prevents them from developing spraddle leg, a condition caused by them not being able to get good footing. In extreme cases spraddle leg leaves their legs useless and splayed straight out to their sides. Paper toweling works great, though, and after the first few days the toweling can be removed in favor of just the shavings.
The next step is to dip their little beaks in water. I gently dipped all of their beaks into the water so that they got their first drink right away. Sometimes the other chicks see the first one drinking after you dip its beak and it becomes a case of “monkey see, monkey do.” Or, maybe it’s “chickie see, chickie do.” (Tyler does recommend dipping the beaks of each and every chick.)
Next, I did the same thing with the food. Some people don’t like to, but I wet the food the first week or so. I find it’s easier for my mail order chicks to eat that way, then slowly I offer it drier and drier until they are eating the food dry. In my experience they make less mess with it this way too. Here’s one that has figured it out after a quick second of pecking:
A brief note about the heat requirements: For the first few weeks it is important that new born chicks are kept very warm. It is routinely advised that you start by keeping part of the brooder 95 degrees, but with plenty of room for them to get out from under the light as they need to.
Each week lower the heat by 5 degrees, or the move the light away light away from them a bit by bit to attain the same result. If you worry about them not having enough heat, get one of those old fashioned hot water bottles for them to snuggle against.
If they are running all over they are doing well. If they are always clustered together shivering under the lamp, they are too cold. If they are as far from the heat lamp as they can get and panting, the area is too warm, lower the heat or raise the lamp a little bit.
If you notice they just don’t seem to be doing well, add a little vitamin powder to their water and attempt to dip beaks again.
Keep them warm, their area clean and their food and water fresh and you should have hours of enjoyment from the poultry you order online.