This is a great question and one that all chicken newbies ask. There are a few things I considered when looking to purchase birds.
The first is how far they will have to travel. When birds ship they are shipped by USPS and they can survive, most of the time, a couple of days without food and water. However, the closer the birds are to their final coops, the better. So when you researching, take into consideration where the hatchery is.
Secondly, I looked for reviews! Seeing what others are saying about the health of the bird, customer service from the company, and the varieties offered gave me great information. As we all know, people are more inclined to leave a negative review if they are unhappy than a positive one if they are happy. So, if you find a place with tons of great reviews you can bet you will have a good experience.
Finally, I considered minimum orders. You may not have room for the 10-15 birds that are a minimum with some hatcheries. Most hatcheries require a minimum order for the safety of the birds during travel. But the company’s minimum can make the difference of whether or not you can purchase from a specific hatchery.
I have, admittedly, only purchased birds from three places, Tractor Supply Center, a local farm store, and Murray McMurray Hatchery. However, after doing a ton of research, I will be trying out these two places for my upcoming orders.
Hoover’s Hatchery: They are in Iowa so not too far to travel to get to me. They have the highest minimum order (15 chicks) but this is fine for my purposes. They have decent enough reviews. Where they are a winner for me is in variety. At this point, I want to add uniqueness to my flock and Hoover’s provides that opportunity.
Meyer Hatchery: They are in Ohio so a little closer to me which means less stress on the chicks. They have GREAT minimum orders (3 chicks April – November and 8 the rest of the year). They have about the same reviews. Their pricing can be a little higher on unique birds but I want to give them a chance because they are so close.
Let me know if you have tried a hatchery that you really love!