As a country-dwelling girl myself, the idea of ordering chicks by mail was a bit new to me! Not everyone has access to local farmers willing to sell you a few hatchlings. Thankfully, eFowl offers a diverse range of backyard poultry, all of which can be delivered right to your door. If you have considered placing your first order for a clutch of chicks, now is a great time to get started.
Before you place your order, it’s important to gather all the necessary supplies for keeping your chicks warm, healthy, and happy.
Preparing for Your Chicks: What You’ll Need
- Brooding area. This will be your chicks’ home for the first months of their lives. If you plan on having chicks on a regular basis, investing in a poultry brooder might be a good idea, but in my experience a box, open crate, or making a sort of ,˜fence’ out of cardboard does the trick. You’ll want the brooding area to have walls that are at least a foot high to keep the chicks inside and the drafty temperatures out!
- Line your brooding area with straw, hay, or wood shavings. Avoid gravel, sand, or wood chips, as these could be ingested by your chicks and will harm them. I recommend wood shavings, as they will make your brooding area easier to clean. You may also want to place a layer of newspaper or paper towels underneath the lining for extra insulation and more convenient cleanup.
- Food and water will be two of your chick’s primary needs. Use a starter/grower feed for chicks under five months. Most starter feeds will be fine to give to any type of poultry, including ducklings, turkeys, guinea fowl, and other types of fowl. Be sure your chicks have a constant supply of both food and water. Once your chicks arrive by mail, you’ll want to give them warm water for the first two days, but can transition to cool water afterward.
Heat is extremely important for growing chicks. A mother hen will sit on her chicks throughout the day and night to keep them warm, so you’ll need to give them access to that same level of heat. A good quality heating lamp is inexpensive and effective, or you can provide a heating pad. It is recommended to have at least one heat lamp per 25 chicks. Be sure your chicks are also able to get away from the heat, however! Try to position your heat lamp in a corner or on one side of your brooding area, about 12-18 inches above the ground, with enough space to allow your chicks to move freely from one spot to the next so they can stay comfortable.
Efowl offers a variety of brooding supplies and equipment to help you get everything you need for your new chicks!
Ordering Your Chicks
Once you have your supplies ready or on the way, you’re ready to order your chicks! There are a few things to consider when selecting your chicks:
- How many chicks do you want? Smaller numbers of birds will require a little extra care to keep them warm during delivery.
- What type of chicks do you want? All poultry types will be a little different, and some breeds may have additional needs. Are you looking for cute bantams to be pets, or do you need sturdier birds that will protect their own? Do you want egg layers, or do you plan on raising birds for meat? Do you want roosters, drakes, or other males? Do your research and pick out the types and breeds that will suit your lifestyle best!
What to Expect on Delivery Day
Your chicks will arrive within 1-2 days via US Postal Service Priority shipping. eFowl ships chicks the day they hatch, so your birds will be 2-3 days old upon arrival. All birds are shipped using poultry boxes and hay or straw for insulation. Smaller orders may include a heating pad to keep your chicks warm, but larger groups of chicks will be able to keep each other warm during shipping. Extra foam padding may also be included to prevent jarring.
Along with your chicks, you’ll also receive eFowl’s initial care guide with tips for transitioning your chicks into their new home and making sure they stay healthy and happy. Be sure to read these guides carefully!
Here are a few things to watch out for during those first few days:
- Your chicks will be thirsty upon delivery! Be sure they have access to warm drinking water for the first two days, then transition to cool water.
- Be sure the brooding area is heated to about 105°F at first, then gradually decrease the temperature to about 95°F after the first few hours.
- If your chicks seem weak and wobbly, or do not appear to be eating or drinking, try adding a little sugar to the warm water, and make a paste using their feed and warm water. Do not let the paste sit uneaten for too long, or it will spoil.
- In the past I have fed weak chicks using a paste made of feed and water, administered using an eye dropper, but this has only been necessary for chicks who were too weak to stand. Try to give them a few drops of food and water, then place them back in the brooder in a warm place and let them rest quietly. Keep handling to a minimum and watch out for possible illness.
- Keep an eye on your chicks and watch for pecking or bullying. Chicks will peck at and groom both themselves and each other, but excessive pecking may mean that your chicks do not have enough space.
- Chicks aren’t always great at cleaning themselves. If you notice an excess of manure building up on their rumps or feet, you can wipe the mess away with a paper towel dampened with warm water. This is called pasting and is fairly common, especially if you are brooding larger numbers of chicks. Be sure to keep their brooding area clean as well!
A Few More Tips:
- Try to keep handling to a minimum, especially for the first few days. Chicks are very fragile and require a gentle touch, so teach children not to grip your chicks too tightly.
- Be sure your brooding area is fully enclosed, is safe from any predators or pets (or jealous roosters!) and will keep out any drafts or wet weather.
- Keep your chicks’ brooding area and equipment clean and dry. This is especially important for food and water sources.
- Be sure to wash your hands after handling your chicks or cleaning their brooding area and equipment.
- Waterfowl such as ducks will enjoy swimming, but be sure they have access to only shallow water, and that they are able to get out of the water easily and have a warm place to go to dry. For new ducklings, you can provide a shallow dish of water for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing their access as they grow.
- Keep an eye on the heating in your brooding area. Heat lamps may need to be adjusted over time as your chicks grow so that they are not too close to the bulb.
Ordering chicks instead of adult birds does require some extra care and work, but watching your chicks grow from tiny fluff-balls into fully grown adults can be an extremely fun and rewarding process.