Thursday, April 19, 2012

P is for picking up chicks

Our first group of  chicks of the season arrive at the farm today!

(Beth is off to pick them up at the post office and will post pics of the process of introducing them to their new home.)

Our chicken season begins with a pre-dawn (5:15 a.m.) call from the local post office letting us know that our chicks have arrived. Yes, just-hatched chicks are sent through the U.S. mail (this practice began in the early part of the 20th century). Security concerns following the 9-11 attacks threatened this practice, but small farmers, backyard chicken keepers,  and hatcheries across the country made thousands of calls to their representatives to preserve this tradition - not to mention a lot of jobs.

Our van backed in to the loading dock at the post office.

The chicken boxes on the post office cart.

Because we pick up hundreds of chicks at a time, we just go to the back of the post office and collect the chicks from the loading dock. We've done this for a number of years, so the post office employees know us well. When Beth picked up this morning they asked, "Where are your helpers?" One or two of our boys usually ride along when we pick up the chicks. They were at grandma and granpa's house this morning.

Beth taking a couple boxes of chicks from the van.

Today's order was for 800 meat birds. That's eight boxes (100 chicks each)! As it gets hotter, the number of chicks per box will decrease. Day old chicks need to be at about 90 degrees. Hatcheries gauge packing density by predicted temperatures during shipping and are amazingly good at keeping chicks healthy. In nearly ten years of getting chicks in the mail, we've only had one bad experience - this happened when there was a sudden spring cold snap during transport.

Beth taking chicks into the brooder.

Since we've been brooding our chicks in six sided steel boxes four years ago, we've not lost any chicks to predation during brooding! Thanks Frontera Farmer Foundation for funding this project, it has certainly been successful.

A box of chicks ready to get out.

Jody showing the chicks their waterer.

When chicks arrive it is critical that they get water. We hand-dip each chick's beak into the water bowl, so they get a drink and know where the water is.

Jody demonstrating how to hold a chick safely.

Chicks at the water bowl.

A box of chicks is almost as cute as a box of kittens!

Here are chicks discovering the feeder.


  1. never knew chicks could be posted - bizzare idea but how clever:) just dropped by on the A-Z trail and have learnt something new today - I like that.

  2. Now I know where chicken nuggets come from. :-)

  3. It sounds so strange for me to send chicks via mail...but then I have no experience in farming. But I haven't heard of sending animals via mail here in Austria. I guess they don't follow the same process as normal mail does, being thrown around - at least I do hope they are treated better than your everyday mail.

  4. *smile* I have a small rural mail route. It's always fun when the chicks arrive! They "peep,peep,peep" at me for 22 miles! So adorable. Stopping over from A-Z!