I'm a student studying avian veterinary medicine right now and I'm a member of the school's poultry club. Today, we visited a small hatchery and I got to see how things work behind the scenes. The guy who ran the hatchery was mostly involved in the commercial business, but he had some helpful advice for backyard people. It was a great experience and I wanted to pass on some good information to you guys that didn't even occur to me! He was mentioning mortality in shipped chicks at backyard farms. He said one of the biggest reasons chicks die at a week old is due to dehydration. During shipping before they have had a drink of water, their crop tends to dry up. When this happens, the crop becomes like a dry sponge and it can hurt to eat or drink, so the chicks will not eat or drink properly. He mentioned a great way to prevent this is to feed your chicks wet (not soaking wet, but moistened) chick feed for the first day or two after they arrive. This will help rehydrate their crops so it is not difficult to eat and drink. He said most commercial farms do this for all their newly arrived chicks. Commercial chick mortality rate is also quite low in most farms, especially egg layer farms. A lot of it is because the farms have things like heat, bedding, etc down to a science to cut out monetary losses. Another interesting thing brought up was vaccinations for backyard flocks. I guess it didn't occur to me that people don't get their birds vaccinated from hatcheries because I usually just order my birds vaccinated. Quite a few people don't vaccinate because they feel it will reduce the "healthiness" of the chicken, egg, or meat. In reality, vaccinations for poultry have come such a long way and are incredibly effective at helping to cut down illness in poultry. This guy has been antibiotic free on all of his egg and hatchery farms since 1997 due to strict biosecurity and regimented vaccinations. I thought that was pretty incredible. It was a good reminder how important biosecurity and vaccinations can be for the health of even backyard flocks. He also mentioned a disease that is becoming more prevalent among backyard birds called Infectious Bursal Disease. I'm still doing research on it, but there are vaccinations and I can certainly talk to you if you'd like more info!