For those of us who will be ordering chicks this Spring, there is some critical information necessary to ensure that your chicks make it home safe and sound and quickly!
Most hatcheries use the USPS Express Mail shipping, an overnight service. Generally, you will receive an email from the hatchery with the shipping date and tracking #. However, if you haven't checked your email, you might be surprised to learn that your chicks have been dispatched and are on their way to you when you are not expecting them. Last year, with the warm winter weather, chicks started shipping heavily months ahead of time; February and March, rather than March and April... many folks who had pre-ordered their chicks had no expectation of receiving them so early, and were not ready for them.
Tips: coming to you from a chicken owner / Sunday/Holiday Express Mail delivery person, as well as
Monday - Saturday Postal Carrier...
1. when placing your order, especially if you are a returning customer... update your phone #, add a cell phone # to your shipping information. This gets printed directly on your shipping label; making sure this information is correct is the first step in ensuring that we can reach you as soon as your chicks arrive.
2. regardless of where you receive your mail, such as a PO Box, please include your street address! There is always a chance that your chicks will hatch on a Friday, ship on a Saturday, and arrive on a Sunday. Your local office is closed, and depending on where you are located, the USPS still has Sunday and Holiday Express Delivery Services in many areas, and we will bring your chicks to your home on Sunday, even if you are a PO Box customer. If you do not have Sunday/Holiday Express Service in your area, the folks at the General Mail Facility will contact you, so you can pick them up. If your order has to sit until Monday, they are then 3 days old, no food, no water... little chance of your full order surviving the extra day. No one enjoys delivering an order of half dead/dead chicks.
3. be prepared! Even if you are ordering months in advance, keep the necessary supplies on hand to welcome your chicks home. Items such as brooder box, litter, working light and/or heater, feed and water containers... don't take up too much space. Once your chicks arrive, they will be fine with just water and heat, while you dash to the store for feed. As feed has a limited shelf life... it's not necessary to purchase far in advance...
4. check your email! Regardless of when you are expecting your chicks, the hatchery may ship them sooner. For example, last year, warm winter weather... chicks shipping far in advance... most of my customers in the Albany NY district, had no idea they were coming when I called to let them know I had their chicks and was within an hour of reaching their residence. The typical response was "Oh my gosh! really? I'm not ready!" Generally, you have that hour to get ready... I might have other deliveries nearby, and can reroute to give you a little more time...
5. even if everything is speedy and efficient... sometimes a chick dies in shipping. As prepared as I try to be, I don't always have baggies and/or hand sanitizer in the car... but I am always willing to take the dead chick away with me. I would think that most carriers would understand the need on occasion, to spare you from having small children being upset...
6. Definitely contact your local Post Office as early as possible to let them know that you are expecting chicks! Please ask for as many phone #'s as you can benefit from:
your local GMF (General Mail Facility) is the first stop in your area for your chicks. If you can make arrangements to pick them up at the GMF, then it's one less big truck ride with many stops potentially before they arrive in your local Post Office.
I have done basic searches online for this information, and sadly, it is lacking. I was only able to find one complicated listing that was not presented in an organized fashion. My advice is to ask your Post Master for the phone # for specifically the Express Desk or Express Hub at your General Mail Facility. Your Post Master does have access to these numbers, even if it requires them sending an email to get the direct line. If you can plan ahead, and are able to give the PM time, it should be easy to get the information.
The supervisors at the Express Hub are busy folks... no doubt! and often, their desk lines have no voicemail. Let the phone ring. If you still don't get an answer, try again in 10 minutes. It's likely they are at the loading dock trying to get information as to what is on the incoming trucks. When there are live deliveries, they are actively attempting to contact the customer, and yes... starting as early as 5:30-6:00 am. It is always possible to make arrangements for your shipment to be held there for you to pick up. Some GMF's actually do have lights... whether they use them or not... or do make an effort to keep them warm.
7. If you are shipping live birds to someone else; yes, there are rules. but they can be bent. feed can be scattered in the bedding... my best advice would be to fill their crops before they get boxed up... so their bedding doesn't get consumed within the first 20 minutes inside.
Use the best Live Animal shipping carton you can find. If you want... add more warnings to the box as makes you happy. The more noticeable the parcel, the better!
Use Express Mail, overnight services. Track your parcel, but realize that the Postal system only updates the millions upon millions of daily scans at certain times, 7pm and 7am is the most common. It's not always easy, there are lag times in updates...it doesn't mean that your parcel has gone astray. Thankfully, it doesn't happen often, but it does happen. That is how I got my chickens. They were destined for another state, and by the time the box was discovered... all the trucks had departed. It would be another whole day before they could arrive at their location... rather than let them expire, we contacted the hatchery, and the customer. Arrangements were made to replace her chicks and it was up to me to find a home for the way-laid chicks. The first Ag store I visited with their order of 200 chicks turned me down. I asked no further. They were Mine.
For my customers, you can rest assured... I suffer for the chicks. I know that all carriers are told to protect the live deliveries and keep them warm. While I know many many wonderful carriers...I cannot speak for them all... only tell you what I do.
In the early part of chick season, I dress in layers, so I can keep the heat blasting in the car and not roast myself. I know they have already been on long rides in chilly trucks. Once they are in my hands, I do everything I can to keep them toasty. I have burlap style bags to insulate the sides with during their ride home. I do not remove the box from the car until I know you are approaching or waiting at the door... I deliver very warm boxes. My customers are always pleased and comment on the warmth. I will never "leave a box in the garage", so don't even ask. (Someone here posted on some thread, a concern regarding the potential that a box of chicks might be left in a hot/cold mailbox... to my knowledge, this has never happened.) I am willing to reroute and come back to you later, or wait for you if you are within a reasonable distance from home. I've even met people halfway to avoid returning chicks to the GMF at the end of the day.
Once the weather is warm or even hot... bruceha2000 is right. The heat is still on in the car. I drink a lot of Gatorade