Not sure where to buy baby chicks? In this article, you’ll discover the top (and safest) places to buy chickens!
You don’t need acres of land to raise chickens. In fact, there are many suburban and urban farmers who tend to their flocks in backyards or shared coops. Not only do these chickens produce fresh eggs, but they also become members of your family.
This is certainly true when you start out with baby chicks. Tending to these soft and cuddly birds allows you to experience a unique nurturing experience. Today, I’m going to discuss the first stage of this process: where to buy baby chicks:
- Farm stores
The first place to look for baby chicks is a hatchery. There are several major hatcheries in the U.S. that you can check out. Most of them guarantee their shipments to ensure the chicks you ordered arrive healthy. If not, most have flexible cancellation and reimbursement policies.
I personally use Cackle Hatchery, based here in Missouri. You can read my review of Cackle here.
The main thing to look for when you select a hatchery are the reviews. Here, you can determine a few things from buyer comments:
- Did the chicks arrive on time and healthy?
- Did the chicks experience stress and illness while in the mail for a long period of time?
- Do they ship in a 24 to 48-hour period even on weekends and holidays?
These factors effect you and the chicks. For example, if a hatchery ships them on a Friday before a federal holiday, then the chicks can remain in the post office over a long weekend without proper circulation, food, or water. In the end, the chicks you receive on Tuesday may be sick or dead, and they don’t deserve that treatment.
I’ve had good and not-so-good experiences when ordering baby chicks from a hatchery, and so have many reviewers. While there are benefits to ordering from this type of business because of the variety, there are also drawbacks.
For instance, unless you speak to the Postmaster ahead of time, you don’t know if post office employees know how to handle baby chick containers. You also don’t know if the package is placed in a temperature-controlled area or a space that’s overly hot or cold.
This is not to say the chicks aren’t taken care of at the hatchery. In fact, many of these locations come highly recommended from people who purchase them directly. So, in addition to reading reviews, directly contact the hatchery to get your questions answered.
The next place to look for baby chicks is a local breeder. While you may have a harder time to find these people in a city like Indianapolis or New York, they are around.
Though it seems we live in a nation-wide megalopolis, there are plenty of breeders and other agricultural business not far outside the limits of most cities.
Baby chicks provided by breeders aren’t necessarily treated better than those at a hatchery. However, since they have a local customer base, there’s a better chance to determine if the chicks they sold went to good homes.
It’s always nice to hear how a set of babies went to a family farm instead of the corporate entity.
Another advantage of breeders is they tend not to ship their chicks via mail. The simple reason is they don’t want them to encounter a stressful experience. They also avoid shipping because they offer heritage or designer breeds that may be more fragile.
For instance, there are breeders in the market who raise Lavender Orpingtons. In another example, a breeder might bring up chicks that produce blue eggs. Or, they might have developed their own strain that are too delicate to deliver via mail or UPS.
It may sound too specialized for you. However, when you order baby chicks from these breeders you get additional help to understand how best to raise them. I may not have learned how well Blue Copper Marans do on 22% of game feed if I had to order the chicks from a hatchery.
The downside to purchasing chicks from a breeder is their cancellation and refund policies aren’t as flexible as hatcheries. Since they don’t handle orders at an industrial level, they tend not to have refund policies. In other words, they may not reimburse you if your chicks die within a week after pickup.
Local farm store
A third location to purchase baby chicks is a local farm store. These outlets tend to carry them from March to June. In some cases, they may sell them until they run out, regardless if it’s 90 days or not.
There are several advantages to picking up chicks at a farm store. First, they tend to be reasonably priced – around $5 per chick. Sometimes, you can purchase a chick for $1. Second, since the store is nearby, you can quickly get the chicks to food and a heat source.
The main disadvantage is some locations may treat their chicks poorly. I encountered this when I was recently at one farm store. It seemed like the chicks weren’t going to make it.
In these situations, you probably can’t rely on the staff to provide feed and warmth directions. Nevertheless, if the location is incredibly close to your home, then you might not need advice to set things up.
Another disadvantage is you don’t get the breadth of chick variety. You may be able to purchase a wide swath of one breed but nothing in the designer category.
The last place to get baby chicks is from a friend or someone nearby. They may simply want to find the chicks a good home. Sometimes you will pay for them, and sometimes you won’t.
The advantage here is you know where the babies came from and if their parents were well cared for. The details you get depend on how much you ask.
They may not know the exact lineage, but they can certainly provide some information on the breed. For instance, they can tell you if it’s a mixture of two different chicken breeds.
Purchasing from friends can be fun, because you don’t know the type of baby chicks you will get. While most of them will be standard, you could have a show bird in the mix.
Plus, you know they’ll be healthy, so there’s little need to worry about lack of food or warmth. You simply need to carry on where they left off, especially if they give you additional advice or instructions.
So, do you still wonder where to buy baby chicks? I sure hope not!
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.