We're asked pretty often where we get our chickens from and do we hatch them ourselves.
Although the idea of baby chicks hatching here on the farm might sound nice, we are severely lacking in the resources and expertise required for the breeding, incubation, and the many other necessities of running a real hatchery.
That's why we enlist the services an experienced chicken hatchery as the source for our baby chicks who is able to us via the US Postal Service. Our hatchery of choice is Freedom Ranger Hatchery.
The whole process is actually pretty amazing.
Here's how it works:
Every week the hatchery has a new batch of hatchlings. We call ahead and place an order for the amount we need as well as the date we want them delivered.
When the chicks hatch, they are packed by hand together into a safe and breathable cardboard box. Then they are loaded into mail trucks and routed to their final destination. In our case, that destination is the post office closest to our farm.
Now, our hatchery is located in Pennsylvania and we are in Florida. It takes two days for our baby chicks to arrive at our location. How do they survive without food or water for that amount of time?
The answer is that baby chicks don't technically need anything to eat or drink for about 48 hours after they've hatched.
That's because they are sustained by the yolk of the egg they came from, which is absorbed into their body just before they break through the shell.
We have all the food and water they need waiting for them as soon as they arrive, and truly, they do just fine without it on their short little trip.
We also have a tracking number so we can monitor their progress. And when they arrive at our local post office we get a phone call letting us know that we can come pick them up.
It’s always a little funny opening the door to the typically somber and quiet post office lobby and being met with the incessant peeping and chirping of a hundred or more baby chicks somewhere in the back.
Those chirps are music to our ears, but we have a feeling some of the post office workers might not feel the same!
In general though our package of baby chicks does tend to put a smile on everyone's face there in the office.
Once we sign off on the package we head right home and place our new arrivals one by one into the brooder where they are met with warmth and hydration and food.
We get a headcount (usually the hatchery sends a few extra) and we check for any obvious health issues like leg dysplasia or general lethargy.
Any chicks that need special attention receive it, whether that means feeding them by hand until they’re strong enough on their own, giving them a separate space to live so they’re not bothered by other birds, etc... But those types of issues are very rare now that we've found such a reliable hatchery.
Our chicks tend to spend about two weeks in the brooder before we put them outside on pasture. It mostly just depends on the weather. If it's going to be cold and wet, then we will probably keep them inside for a little bit longer but we try to get them outside as soon as we can.
And that's the story of where our baby chicks come from...
If you have any questions just let us know in the comments below!