On one cold, January morning, I received my catalog from Cackle Hatchery, and something stirred in me…..it was time to order baby chicks!
A lot of people who read this blog are just getting into backyard chickens, and aren’t really sure how or where to buy their fluffy butts. OR sometimes readers want a specific breed (which was my situation) and the only place to purchase those chicks are from a hatchery.
As a blog owner, my goal is to inform you, and help you raise your flock so they’re healthy. And that starts with getting quality chickens from a reliable source!
So, this article will tell you my experience purchasing chicks from Cackle Hatchery, and what you should know as a consumer so you get healthy chicks that’ll grow into happy layers.
After getting their latest catalog and happily thumbing through it, I decided it was time to bulk up my bantam stock here on the farm, as well as my colored egg layers.
I’ve purchased from Cackle Hatchery in the past (probably 2 years ago, when I got my Brahma hens and Jersey Giants – they’re still alive and healthy), and had a good experience. This supplier is also 4 hours from my farm, so the babies (in theory) wouldn’t have to go far to reach my home.
Read on, and discover my experience with Cackle Hatchery!
My Buying Experience
First, understand that this is just MY experience. Your mileage may vary, and this certainly isn’t the first (or last) time I’ve ordered from Cackle.
The Cackle Hatchery website is super easy to navigate. I had a hard time tearing myself away from the ducklings and turkey poults, but I headed over to the egg layer section of their website.
I knew the breeds I wanted: Speckled Sussex hens (I owned some before, and SUPER intelligent chickens), Silkies, Mille Fleur d’Uccle, Easter Egger bantams, Porcelain d’Uccles, and Black Copper Marans hens (I wanted some chocolate egg layers).
For this review, I purchased:
- 10 Silkie Bantams (non-sexed, hatchery choice)
- 5 Speckled Sussex Females
- 5 Black Copper Marans Females
- 5 Mille Fleur d’Uccles (non-sexed)
- 5 Porcelain d’Uccles (non-sexed)
- 5 Easter Egger Bantams (non-sexed)
I wanted some rare breeds from Cackle Hatchery, which is why I chose the Mille Fleur d’Uccles and Porcelain d’Uccles.
Remember that most suppliers, Cackle Hatchery included, don’t offer the option to purchase either male or female bantams. It’s harder to sex these chickens because they’re smaller, and the room for error is much larger. (You can learn how to sex chicks here).
So, I knew purchasing the Silkies, Mille Fleur d’Uccles, and Porcelain d’Uccles is a crap shoot. I’m fine with that. If you can’t have roosters in your area, though, it’s something to consider.
Placing my order was easy, and I feel the prices are fair (especially shipping. It only cost me about $25 for expedited shipping, although your mileage may vary).
All in all, my order cost $200, which included the shipping. I was happy with this cost.
Choosing a Shipping Date
Cackle Hatchery doesn’t have a system per se that allows you to choose a shipping date. Other hatcheries I’ve ordered from provide a list of dates, and you click a radio button to choose a specific date.
Cackle requests you put your desired dates in a text box, which was a little confusing at first. So, I put something to the effect of:
“Please ship the chicks during the end of May/beginning of July.”
Why this time frame? Because it’s warm enough so I won’t need a heat lamp in my cabin (where baby poultry live until they can go into a coop. You can find good chicken coop plans here), and not SO hot that the trip here will be miserable.
The folks at Cackle Hatchery ended up choosing the actual ship date: May 29, 2019.
In theory, I was fine with that. In practice, I wasn’t super thrilled: I didn’t realize the chicks would be shipped on a Wednesday for a Friday delivery because of Memorial Day (May 27, 2019).
Why is this a problem? Well, it only takes one dodo at the Post Office to mess up, and my fluffy butts spend the weekend in a cold building with no food, courtesy of the United States Postal Service.
We live in a remote area where mail CAN take an extra day to get to us. So, even though the Post Office guarantees a certain delivery date, sometimes, we get our mail a day later.
So, I would have preferred the babies to ship from Cackle Hatchery on a Monday or Tuesday. (In hindsight, I could have put that on my shipping directions, but it didn’t occur to me at the time – so, it’s something you should take into consideration. I’ll be doing it next time).
You might have a stronger stomach for these things, but I don’t! I worry about the chicks every step of the way.
Receiving My Order From Cackle Hatchery
As the shipping date approached, I notified my mail carrier that I’d be getting baby chicks, and asked her to tell me if they would spend an extra day at the post office before delivery (so I could pick them up early).
We know the post office staff here on a personal level, and they’re just as concerned for the safety of the animals.
When my bantams and full sized chickens shipped, I received an email notification from Cackle Hatchery AND the Post Office (I signed up for text alerts so I could monitor their journey).
It took 2 days for the package to get to my area, and on May 31, the chicks arrived! (By the way, US Post Office, that was the dumbest route EVER: Lebanon, MO → Kansas City, MO → St. Louis, MO → Cape Girardeau, MO → My local area).
My mail carrier texted me, and we agreed I would pick the package up at my local post office (rather than being delivered to the house) so I could get them into their brooder ASAP.
I wanted the chicks as fast as possible, and my mail carrier didn’t want to listen to chirping all day. I get it.
The box had a lot of air holes, was very securely taped, and had stickers informing the postal workers that there were live animals inside the box (in case the loud chirping wasn’t obvious). I was pleased to see a sticker that directed mail handlers to keep the chicks out of extreme cold and heat.
So, it’s obvious Cackle Hatchery does its best to ensure a safe arrival.
How Did The Chicks Fair On Their Journey From Cackle Hatchery?
I resisted the urge to peek into the box until the chickens were home. There was LOTS of loud chirping, which is a good sign.
Angry chicks = healthy chicks! What you DON’T want to hear is silence.
I’d already prepared the brooders, feeders, and waterers, so after I opened the box, did a head count, and checked for any casualties, everyone was ready to get into their new homes!
All the little ones arrived safely – there were no DOA. I’d call that a successful ship!
They were split into 2 different areas of the box, and they were wiggling, and ready to get out.
I was really pleased with my purchase!
Cackle Hatchery included 4 extra chicks to account for casualties, including 1 extra Speckled Sussex, and 3 others I can’t yet identify (a lot of chicken breeds look similar when young. However, they’re definitely bantam breeds).
We obviously had chick starter ready, and added apple cider vinegar to their waterers to help them establish good gut flora. (You can learn about the best chicken waterers here.)
But Are They Healthy?
The Black Copper Marans, Silkies, and Speckled Sussex in particular seemed (and still seem) very healthy. A good sign is when the chicks immediately begin seeking food and water, and they were VERY ready to feast!
The Mille Fleur d’Uccles and particularly the Porcelain d’Uccles seemed stressed and very confused, which isn’t a good sign.
As I opened the box, I noted that the Porcelain d’Uccles already were hunched, chirping loudly, and closing their eyes.
They were quickly put into their brooders and introduced to food and water, and given space and time to settle (sometimes, it’s just the shipping process that can cause stress, and when they realize they’re safe, they snap out of it).
As of writing this review, we lost 1 Mille Fleur d’Uccle and 3 of the Porcelain d’Uccles which I’m REALLY not pleased with (so, there’s only 2 Porcelain d’Uccles remaining from my original order) within 48 hours of receiving our order from Cackle Hatchery.
(Note: They do ask you to call in case of casualties within a 48 hour time frame so they can help you out. Because our chicks arrived on a Friday, I had to wait until Monday to call).
However, we haven’t lost any of the other Mille Fleurs, and they seem very eager to eat, interact with their clutch mates, and enjoy life.
It’s normal to lose some chicks, but the Porcelain d’Uccles seemed to struggle from the moment I opened the box from Cackle Hatchery (I inspect them before putting them into their brooder to check for heat stress, etc).
At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was stress or a health issue, but since the other chicks are doing well, I can’t really say why the Porcelain d’Uccles didn’t make it.
However, losing 4 out of about 40 chicks is pretty much to be expected, and I’m happy with the health of the remaining flock.
The box arrived with a free coop sign, a very useful pamphlet about how to care for my new pets, some stickers (which my kids loved), and a safety flier about avoiding salmonella, directions for washing hands after handling poultry, etc.
Would I Buy From Cackle Hatchery Again?
Would I order from Cackle Hatchery again? YES.
I think they’re a good quality supplier, and the Porcelain d’Uccles notwithstanding, the hatch I got arrived alive, and with most of the chicks in good health.
I got the breeds I ordered, and extras in case some chicks didn’t make it.
Their ordering process was straight forward, the poultry was reasonably priced, and the shipping process as simple and fast as possible.
If you’re a reader who wants to order from a hatchery, I’d recommend this one.
However, I think next year, I’ll drive out to Cackle Hatchery to pick up my order!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.