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Can You Really Mail Order Live Poultry?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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For people who want to start a new flock of poultry, or bring some new genetic material into an existing flock, there are a number of options for obtaining additional birds. In rural areas, a feed store or farm hatchery will often sell chicks, ducklings, and goslings during the spring, although the available breeds may be limited. For a wider selection of birds, including exotic birds like guinea fowl and peacocks, many people prefer to mail order poultry from a professional hatchery. Mail ordering poultry is very easy, and most companies guarantee live delivery. It is also possible to order fertile eggs for incubation.

When live poultry is ordered, the company usually requires a minimum order. The order fills a small box which is lined with straw, with the birds keeping each other warm through the shipping process. The box is built to be sturdy and provide plenty of air to the young birds, and is clearly stamped with markings indicating that it contains live poultry. Most mail carriers accept live birds as long as they are well packaged and sent via the fastest available delivery method to prevent mortality during shipping. Once the box arrives, the consumer unpacks it with care and sets the baby birds up in a brooder to mature.

In general, live poultry is shipped when it is less than a week old. The hatchery usually offers a sexing service, which is especially valuable which birds which are being raised for eggs. Usually, female birds are priced slightly higher, because there is more demand for them and because sexing them requires more work than simply packaging the birds for the mail. Poultry being ordered for meat is generally not sexed, because the gender of the bird is not important.

The primary reason for mail ordering poultry is to obtain rare or exotic breeds of ducks, chickens, and geese. Many of these breeds become ornamental friends around the barn yard, rather than a source of food. Exotic breeds are colorful, and often have decorative crests or feathers on their feet, along with a distinctive appearance. Chickens, especially, come in a myriad of shapes and sizes which can be quite fun for hobbyists to raise. Teachers sometimes mail order fertilized eggs for their students, and small botanical gardens may use mail order poultry as a source for ornamental species like peacocks and ducks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to mail order live poultry?

Yes, it is legal to mail order live poultry in the United States. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has specific guidelines for shipping live birds, which include proper packaging and a quick delivery time to ensure the birds' safety and well-being. Hatcheries and breeders must comply with these regulations to ship live poultry.

How are live poultry shipped safely through the mail?

Live poultry is shipped in ventilated boxes designed to provide adequate airflow and protection during transit. According to the USPS, shipments must be made using Priority Mail Express service to ensure the birds arrive quickly, usually within 72 hours. Additionally, the packaging often includes food and water gel to sustain the birds during their journey.

What types of poultry can be mail-ordered?

A variety of poultry can be mail-ordered, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guinea fowl. Breeders offer a range of breeds, from common laying hens to rare and exotic species. The availability may vary by hatchery and season, so it's best to check with specific suppliers for their current offerings.

Can I mail order poultry at any time of the year?

While many hatcheries accept orders year-round, the actual shipping of live poultry typically occurs during warmer months to avoid extreme temperatures. Hatcheries often have specific shipping schedules and may only ship on certain days of the week to ensure the birds' arrival before weekends, as noted by experienced breeders and hatchery guidelines.

What should I do to prepare for the arrival of mail-ordered poultry?

Before your mail-ordered poultry arrives, set up a brooding area with a heat source, bedding, feed, and water. Ensure the space is secure and at the appropriate temperature, usually around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week, decreasing by 5 degrees each week thereafter. Being prepared will help the chicks acclimate and thrive upon arrival.

Are there any risks associated with ordering live poultry through the mail?

While reputable hatcheries take great care to ensure the safe arrival of live poultry, risks include potential delays, exposure to extreme temperatures, and the stress of transport on the birds. It's important to order from reliable sources and to promptly pick up the birds upon their arrival at the post office to minimize these risks.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon989116 — On Feb 20, 2015

The roosters of egg-laying breeds are killed by being ground up or suffocated in a plastic bag.

By Alchemy — On Mar 09, 2011

I have a twelve-acre plot of land that I would like to use to raise free-range organic poultry. I am starting to gather information on the process of certifying my poultry organic, and I am curious about where I can buy my birds. Does the hatchery I order my birds form need to become certified organic, or does it not matter because the birds are shipped so young? I am only planning to raise birds to sell eggs and poultry at local farmers markets and specialty meat stores so I am not buying birds by the thousands. I am only looking to start a flock that is large enough for generating supplemental income. Eventually I would like to breed my own birds, but for now, I am looking to order through mail. I would appreciate any insight from fellow poultry farmers.

By cougars — On Mar 06, 2011

@Tondelayo- Nice to meet a fellow Vermonter! I was not born and raised, but I lived there through junior high, high school and about five years after. I also grew up on a small organic vegetable and herb farm, and we raised all kinds of birds. We would order chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, and peacocks through the mail. I cannot recall the name of the poultry hatchery, but we never received a bird that did not survive the shipping process. If a bird can be sent through the mail to a rural state with five-month winters, then they should survive the shipping process anywhere.

By tondelayo — On Nov 13, 2007

As a kid growing up in VT during the '40s and '50s, I was a working part of a family that "had the mail route". VT was a rock-ribbed Republican state in those years prior to the 1960s, and the rural route mail carrier jobs were patronage in nature. Since we were one of only seven families, in my hometown, known to be registered Democrats, my father and mother were the mail carriers during the Truman years, lost the job during the Eisenhower years, and then my father regained it while JFK and LBJ were in the White House. I have vivid memories of those three times a day (Yes, three!) mail deliveries ... and of delivering live baby chicks to farms between Randolph, Randolph Center and Brookfield, VT. More than once, boxes of chicks were delivered to us, as well. We raised fryers for our own use and for sale to others. Seldom did any chick not survive the trip, which is amazing, given weather conditions in VT! Three boxes of chicks could make a lot of noise inside a mail carrier's vehicle, too. As mail carriers, we also delivered bull semen, in metal containers packed with dry ice, for impregnating cows on many of those farms. I'm glad that the USPS still affords the "chick delivery" service.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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