Ordering chicks in winter


In the Brooder
11 Years
May 7, 2008
Northwest Montana
I need to get more chickens, and was thinking of ordering them in Dec/Jan/Feb, so they will be laying age when spring/summer begin. I'd like to get Australorps as day olds. I live in NW Montana, so it's COLD here (well usually - the weather has been odd the last few years). I'm not to worried about raising the chicks in winter, but I'm worried about shipping them. I'm planning to find someone to split the order with me, so there are plenty of chicks to keep each other warm.

I see several hatcheries ship year round - is that for the southern areas only?
Can someone recommend a good hatchery to ship from in winter - especially to ship this far north?
Is ordering day-old chicks in winter a horrible idea? LOL.

I lost a bunch of chicks when I did this, and it is a lot warmer here than there, but the PO misdirected the shipment and they were in transit 2 or 3 days longer than they should have been. Even so, about half survived. Of course the hatchery replaced the chicks free, as they do; I just hated to see all those dead chicks.

Chances are it will go smoothly and they will arrive fine. Do try to choose a hatchery as close to you as you can. It might also help to check out with the PO where they will be shipped to. Some people find if they drive an hour or so they can pick them up a day earlier.

I'd talk to your postmaster, he will have experience with this, since the PO is the only carrier left that will take live chicks.
I ordered 50 Ameraucana pullet chicks last December. Ideal had a sale. It is usually not that cold here, but we had cold weather with 8 inches of snow the day before they arrived. We have a small PO & I had them call me when they came in. I actually had to walk about 1/3 of a mile up the drive way, because it was too much snow for me to drive up it. All the chicks were fine. The hatcheries know how to box up the chicks, so they stay warm enough. I believe they ship Priority mail.
I ordered 25 assorted bantams in February last year. I lost a lot of them and they had to send me a new shipment, and a lot of those died too. They said it was because they might have been stressed from being chilled during shipping, but I don't know that they went through too much cold weather in two days from Texas to Arizona. I would think it should be fine if the hatchery is comfortable with doing it, they ship enough to really know how they do. Just be sure that they will replace/refund any that are dead on arrival, just to be safe. Most hatcheries will, Ideal even replaced some of mine that died within a couple of days of arrival.
IMO, springtime is the right time for chicks.
Even if they do all arrive safely, you'll be looking at having them in the house for a longer period before it would be safe to put them outside. Chicks ordered in say, December, are going to be driving you nuts in the house by new years.
I think it's a great idea if you are prepared for the extra time they'll need in the brooder and able to give them enough room and heat.

Gritsar makes a very good point about them making you nuts if you have to brood them in the house--The horrors of the dust and dander that growing chicks produce have made me swear off ever brooding in the house again, the garage is bad enough!

The big plus IMO though is that they'll be hitting point of lay in the spring and you'll have all those lovely eggs at the beginning of the season instead of waiting all summer for them to get old enough and then having them slow down for fall. There should also be a very good market for any extra pol pullets that you don't need that time of year.

ETA: If you're going to do it I'd probably go for a Nov. ship date. Hopefully get them before it's crazy cold and they should be old enough to start laying sometime in April/May just in time for the longer days to really get them going.
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I just ordered 15 chicks from Ideal for the same reason, I want them laying by spring time so I can start breeding and increase my egg production. I agree with some of the other posters, as long as you have the extra time to devote to them being inside longer then I do not see a problem with ordering during the winter. As for shipping and temperatures I know that some hatcheries put in extra chicks to keep everyone warm and if you stay on top of your post office you should be ok. After I got my ship date I was literally on the phone to my post office every day until they arrived.

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