How Baby Chicks Travel Across the Country to Get from Hatchery to Your Coop.
When customers order a few dozen chicks through a mail-order catalog, or online, they are not sure what to expect. They prepare their coop and know the date the chicks are scheduled to arrive at the post office. When the day comes, the post office calls to let them know their shipment of chicks has arrived and they go to pick up their little noisy babies.
This delivery represents a tiny fraction of the millions of chicks that are delivered through the US mail system every year. Shipping those chicks across the country is a trick of timing, cleverly engineered containers , and a network of humans working together to get the tiny birds to their destinations safely. It’s an incredible, adorable journey, especially once the babies get to their new homes.
Chicks have been shipping by mail delivery since 1892. Without mail-order hatcheries, farmer’s markets wouldn’t have poultry. While commercial incubators became popular in the mid-1800,s, it wasn’t until 1892 that Joseph Wilson of Pine Tree Hatchery in Stockton, New Jersey, shipped the first order of newly-hatch chicks to a man named A. Runyun in nearby East Orange. Later in 1918, the postmaster general officially granted permission to let hatcheries send chicks through the mail.
You might think that this shipping is a technological miracle, however, the major miracle is in the chick itself. While a chick is incubating within the egg, it feeds on the nutrient-dense yolk inside. During the hatching process, the baby chicks ingest the bit of reserve yolk that is left. This natural process ensures the baby has enough energy to be sustained for several days before finding food. That’s why there is a 72-hour window for shipping chicks. As long as they are mailed immediately after they are born, they can survive the journey without needing food or water. However, most hatcheries, including us, put a gel-like substance of nutrition and moisture into the box with the chicks. This substance provides nutrients and moisture without jeopardizing the integrity of the container. This container also contains bedding and the sides of the box are full of air holes. The chicks are usually packaged in quantities of more than 5 so that they can huddle together and keep each other warm, and to keep from jostling around. If the weather is too cold, shipment is delayed or shut down. While exact statistics are not available, the vast majority of mail-order chicks do reach their destinations safely. It is estimated that the mortality rate isn’t much higher than if the chicks had never left the hatchery.
The chicks make their journey in cardboard boxes that look simple , but they are specially designed, to best protect their precious cargo. The sides of the boxes are slanted to increase airflow capability. and have air holes. Inside the box is a straw pad for the chicks to hold onto. The number of chicks that are in a box is important. If you have too few chicks in the box they get jostled so there are different size boxes for different size orders. Baby chicks thrive in temperatures between 99 to 102 degrees F with 50 -60 percent humidity. So, hatcheries modify their packaging according to the season. Boxes may be lined with extra cardboard or straw to keep them warm in early spring, or creating extra air holes to keep them cool in the summer months.
We here at Purely Poultry ship to every state with the exception of Hawaii. The largest majority are delivered to people harvesting eggs from small backyard flocks or putting meat birds in the freezer. Other frequent customers include farmers, local farm stores, kids in 4H and Future Farmers of America, and every now and then just a ” crazy chicken lady/guy”, expressing their love for poultry.
(some research done from The Counter.org)