The First 24 Hours With Mail Order Chickens – Heritage Acres Market LLC

Ordering chickens from a hatchery online and having them delivered by mail is becoming more and more popular. I order about 500 guinea fowl keets every year that they send me. I have learned over the years that the first 24 hours after receiving mail order chickens can affect their survival! learn what you need to do to have the best survivability possible.

order chicks online

Ordering chicks online is a popular option, especially if you’re looking for select breeds.

There are several different hatcheries, but some of the most popular are:

  • murray mcmurray
  • crowd
  • meyer
  • stromberg’s
  • hoovers
  • ideal
  • purely poultry

Most hatcheries that ship birds will have a minimum of 15-25 chicks so they can be kept warm enough during transit. if this is more than you want, see if you can find a friend who’s willing to split the order with you!

in the mail

When chicks are shipped in the mail, they are often shipped without food or water. how do they survive?

When a chick is developing in the egg, the yolk provides food from the earliest stages of life until hatching.

In nature, not all eggs hatch at the same time. one chick may hatch, a few hours later another chick, and so on. the mother hen cannot leave the nest for each hatched chick to take to food and water, otherwise the remaining eggs may become cold or be lost to a predator.

Because of this natural delay in hatching, chicks can survive up to 3 days after hatching without food or water.

Mail birds are shipped the morning they hatch and are shipped priority mail (or express/overnight in some cases) to arrive at your home within 36 hours of hatching.

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configuring the brooder

Chicks will need to have a brooder ready for them when they arrive. so be sure to set up the brooder before sending it out. To read about how to set up your brooder, click here.

I recommend turning on the heat source at least a day before the chicks arrive to adjust the temperature, making sure the brooder stays within the correct temperature range without major changes. check the temperature again before picking up your chicks. For the first week, the brooder should be at 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit and turn down 5 degrees each week.

what to do when the chicks arrive

I order over 500 guinea fowl keets every year. When I started breeding keets (several years ago), about 25% of them died within the first 3 days of being in the brooder. I finally learned what was causing it to disappear and how to prevent it. now I only lose 2-3 total each year, less than 1%!

pick them up

Chicks will not be delivered to your home, but will be held at a local post office for you to collect. The post office may not be your local one, so if you live in a rural area, you may want to confirm which location has live animals for pickup.

When the post office receives them, they will call you and let you know they have them. I would recommend picking them up as soon as possible.

I’ve heard stories of postal workers trying to do the right thing and keeping birds warm (or cool) and accidentally killing them. While I know this is not the norm, I believe it is best to get the birds into your possession as quickly as possible.

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water and electrolyte water

I found that one of the critical keys to survival is giving the chicks warm water with electrolytes right away.

Do not feed them until they are warmed up and hydrated! remove the feed from the brooder and replace it in a few hours.

The journey through the mail was probably stressful for the birds, and they may be approaching the 36-hour mark when you receive them. My chick’s survivability skyrocketed when I started adding electrolytes with probiotics to her water. i really like the vitamins and rooster booster amp. electrolytes with probiotics.

The water should also be lukewarm (not hot!). The easiest way to heat the water is to put the drinker (with electrolytes) in the brooder the night before and turn on the brooder heater.

If you’re just raising chicks, they’ll likely find the water pretty quickly and start drinking. game birds are not as smart as chickens, so it is necessary to show the kebabs and other game birds the water. That said, I also do this with chickens just to be safe.

To ensure each bird is hydrated, gently dip the beak into the water, but don’t dip the nostrils! within a few seconds, they should take a drink of water. then you can put the chick down and often it will drink some more, but others may start exploring its brooder or take a nap under the heater.

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don’t feed the birds right away!

When chicks are first placed in the brooder, the priority is to hydrate and warm them up as quickly as possible. after they have been in the brooder for an hour or two, you can introduce a feeder with chicken crumbs.

Chicks need to be hydrated before eating, so this step is important.

let them sleep

after eating and drinking, they will do what all babies do: sleep and poop!

I usually leave the chicks alone for the first 24 hours to make sure they are settled in and reduce stress. the next day it’s okay to pick them up and play with them.

I know it can be hard just to look at them, but their little bodies are fragile and need a chance to get used to their new surroundings and recover from the journey.


A side note specifically about guinea keets: while chickens can have pine shavings in their brooder, keets can’t! I discovered that they were eating the chips and their crops were affected. I now line her brooder with a pool liner that can be easily sprayed clean, but something like a shelf liner would work too.

what now?

After the first crucial 24 hours, things are pretty simple. keep the brooder clean, turn the heat down 5 degrees every week, and wait until it’s warm enough (or they’re old enough) to come out. now is also a good time to build coop and run if you haven’t already!

To learn more about raising chickens, read Everything You Wanted to Know About Raising Chickens.

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