Sunday, January 4, 2015

Shipping Chicks - Baby Chickens in the Mail

For the past five years or so I've shipped day-old Buckeye chicks all across the US, about 400 or so a year.
This year I'm taking off, for several reasons, and encouraging others to pick up the baton and run with it, to get some of their lines out there. One of those is my friend Sharon Fildes, who lives in Ohio, and who has a ton of various rare breeds of poultry and waterfowl. She also has some great Buckeyes, in both large fowl and bantam. And this year she's ramping up to hatch and ship a lot of large fowl Buckeye chicks at a very reasonable price.

She has a Facebook Page you should check out: S.M. Fildes Rare and Endangered Poultry, which she's still working on, but which will soon have her price list and photos of her Buckeyes. You can also email her to get on her waiting list, the time to do so is now if you want chicks in the spring! You can also find other breeders of Buckeyes on the American Buckeye Poultry Club website.

And for those of you who haven't shipped chicks before because you weren't sure what it entailed, I encourage you to do so. It's much more efficient and cost-effective than shipping hatching eggs, due mostly to the damage eggs receive during shipment which prevents them from hatching. If done right, shipping chicks is safe, easy, and gives one a much better base of stock to work with.

When I ship chicks I buy several items from Cutler Supply: 25 chick shipping boxes, sisal mat box liners, heater pads to ensure the chicks stay warm, and Grow Gel Plus, which keeps the chicks hydrated during their journey (I usually buy the larger bag of it to ensure I have enough in each box.)

Where I put the heater pad depends on what the temperature is out when I ship - when it's very cold I will put it on top of the sisal mat, when it's warmer I put it underneath the mat. But I always use one, as you never know where a box of chicks will wind up. I stop shipping in early June, as it's too hot to do so by then here in KY.

That's really all you need. Oh, that and a spreadsheet to keep track of your wait list, which if anyone wants they can send me a message and I'll be happy to share the one I have made up so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Your next step is to get your birds into breeding pens, make sure they're getting a good quality breeder ration, and collect eggs several times a day (eggs which get too cold lose fertility.) Do a test hatch or two to make sure your fertility rates are good, then hatch away!

I like to set hatches on a Monday afternoon or early evening, which means the majority of the chicks are hatched out by 21 days later, ready to ship by a Tuesday. I don't ship on Mondays, because there's often a lot of mail going out on Mondays and I want the birds to get where they're going with no delay.

I always ship chicks via Express Mail. It's just not worth it to to me to take the chance with Priority Mail, although I know some folks do. I generally include the cost of the shipping in the per chick price, so it's a flat rate for everyone.

I also have a roll of Express Mail tape that I convinced my local USPS to give me (they're really great in Grant County!) and I use that to put the boxes together. Once the chicks are hatched they get popped in the box and off to the PO I go.

I know some people print postage labels online, and while I do that for work, I'm more comfortable having the Posties do my labels for chicks, although I do get copies ahead of time and fill them out before I go. I also have some plastic envelopes that I use to attach the NPIP paperwork right on the box, in case the state to which I am shipping requires it.

Be sure to get the phone number of the person to whom you are shipping, as Express Mail labels require it, and then call or email the buyer to let them know when you shipped and what the tracking number is. That way they can be sure to make arrangements to either pick the chicks up at their local PO or to be home for delivery. Its generally easier on the chicks for the buyer to pick them up, just tell them let their local Postmaster know they have chicks coming and they will get a call once the box arrives.

That's really all there is to it folks. Easier than it seems, and a great way to get your customers the birds they're clamoring for. If you have any questions, send me an email, or stop by the Facebook Page for the American Buckeye Poultry Club and give me a shout, happy to help!