Sourcing chicks, navigating the market, finding reputable sellers and breeders, during periods of high demand and shortages.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing interest in backyard poultry, particularly for egg production and as pets. This trend has only intensified with more people spending time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the demand for baby chickens has skyrocketed, leading to a shortage of available birds and making it harder to find them in stores and hatcheries. Finding baby chickens during high-demand periods can be overwhelming and frustrating for those new to raising chickens. That’s why today I’m sharing my thoughts about sourcing chicks, navigating the market, finding reputable sellers and breeders, and ultimately increasing your chances of obtaining healthy and happy birds.
The Chicken Shortage
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of backyard chickens, with more and more people choosing to raise chickens for fresh eggs and meat. This trend can be attributed to several factors, including concerns over food safety and the desire for more sustainable and self-sufficient living. Some experts also point to chicken disease outbreaks, such as Avian Influenza, which is said to account for the loss of 50 million commercial and backyard birds. The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in the chicken shortage. A globally disrupted supply chain has resulted in shortages of foods at the grocery store, and more people have turned to backyard farming and chicken keeping to ensure a steady supply of food. As a result of this increased interest, there has been a surge in chicken buying, with hatcheries and feed stores struggling to keep up with demand.
In Search of Baby Chicks: Tips for Success
Although the chicken shortage may be discouraging, there are still options for sourcing baby chicks, here are a few tips to help you get the inside scoop on getting chicks early in the season.
Network With Local Enthusiasts
Networking with other backyard chicken enthusiasts or farmers in your area can be an excellent way to find and source baby chickens during high-demand periods. Joining local chicken Facebook groups or forums can help you connect with like-minded individuals who are experienced in raising chickens and can offer valuable advice and guidance. They are often generous with leads on chicks and will share when they spot chicks at local feed stores!
Aside from sharing the latest shipments of chicks at Tractor Supply, they can connect you with reputable breeders or small-scale hatcheries in your area. These groups are also a great place to verify the reputation and quality of birds from breeders and hatcheries.
I can not overstate how important networking and building relationships with other chicken enthusiasts is during times like these. Becoming a member of a local chicken-keeping community can help you establish a source of baby chicks you may have yet to be aware of.
Networking with other chicken enthusiasts and farmers in your area can expand your knowledge and resources for raising happy and healthy baby chickens.
Signing up for newsletters, social media accounts, or email updates from hatcheries or breeders can be a great way to stay informed about new availability and other updates during high-demand periods. Many hatcheries and breeders have an online presence and offer newsletters, social media accounts, and email updates to inform their customers about upcoming availability and other important information. By signing up for these updates, you can be notified when new availability becomes available, giving you a better chance of securing the breed or quantity of chicks you’re looking for. Additionally, these updates can provide valuable information about raising and caring for baby chicks, ensuring that you have the resources and knowledge necessary to give your chicks the best care possible. By signing up for newsletters, social media accounts, or email updates from hatcheries or breeders, you can stay updated during high-demand periods and increase your chances of finding the baby chicks you want.
Where to Buy Chicks
With hatcheries and feed stores struggling to keep up with the increased demand, it is important to know where to look and what to consider when searching for chicks.
Try Your Luck At Feed and Farm Stores
I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook posts about how Tractor Supply is selling out of chicks as soon as they get them this year, and so many people are leaving feed stores empty-handed during chick days. Seeing all this frustration online is what inspired this post!
It is still early in the season, and the chick frenzy will settle down. I think if you are patient and persistent, you will eventually find birds that are a good fit for your property.
Here are a few tips to help you.
- Chick days officially started on 2/21. Be patient, as orders are just starting to trickle in, and the store employees are adjusting to accommodate their care and sale.
- Stores have no control over what varieties they receive or when they will get them. I assume the ordering process is managed by corporate, and deals on surplus birds at the hatchery are negotiated for shipment to stores as they are available weekly. The store employees have no control over what birds they will get or when.
- Even though the stores have yet to determine when they will be getting what, it is still very helpful to talk to the employees. My store typically holds new chicks in the back for 24 hours after they receive them to help them recover from traveling through the postal system. Store employees can tell you their routine for handling chick deliveries and when they are typically moved onto the sales floor.
- Birds are selling fast, with egg prices and bird availability being what it is. Being persistent will go a long way. Check back with the stores often.
- Not all stores will get geese, guineas, quail, or turkeys if those are also on your shopping lists.
- As I mentioned earlier, networking will benefit everyone this spring. Sharing a quick picture of what your local store has in stock or a post regarding where you saw/who you spoke to will make a
There is a quick point I want to make about straight-run chicks at farm and feed stores. Every time I bought straight-run chicks or ducks from a farm or feed store, I ended up with a ridiculous number of males. More than would seem statistically possible. I believe most people ordering from a hatchery do so because they want a specific breed or sex, with females being more in demand. The hatcheries sex the birds to fill their orders first, and the surplus is discounted and sold straight-run to farm and feed stores.
Order Directly From An Out Of State Hatchery
If you are still looking for the type of baby chickens you want from local sources, ordering directly from an out-of-state hatchery may be your best option. Out-of-state hatcheries typically offer a wider selection and larger quantity of chicks than those in your area. Additionally, most will ship chicks to all 50 states and some territories for an additional fee. When ordering directly from a hatchery, be sure to read their policies carefully before purchasing so that you understand the conditions under which they will refund you for losses or misidentifying the sex of the birds if you choose to order sexed chicks.
Most hatcheries have larger minimum orders and hefty shipping charges. It is helpful to split an order with a friend, combine orders to meet minimum order requirements, or get discounted shipping.
Some of the hatcheries I have ordered from and had good experiences with are:
If you are interested in placing a hatchery order, make sure to check out my post, Everything you need to know about Ordering Chicks from a Hatchery
Shop Small and Support Local Hatcheries
Shopping small and supporting local hatcheries is a great way to go if you’re looking to buy baby chickens during a high-demand period. Local hatcheries are often family-run businesses that may be unable to fill large orders, but are perfect for supplying backyard chicken keepers and homesteaders. Additionally, it’s worth noting that local hatcheries offer free pickup options when purchasing chicks in person or by phone. Call around and inquire about any special offers or the current availability if you choose this option.
These are the local hatcheries I am aware of. If you know of other hatcheries in Upstate New York share them in the comments below and I will add them to this list!
Buy From a Breeder
One option for buying day old chicks when they are in high demand is to purchase them from a breeder who specializes in specific breeds. These breeders often have a deep knowledge and passion for their chosen breed, and can provide valuable guidance and advice on caring for your new flock. When buying from a breeder, it is important to do your research and ensure that they have a good reputation and track record for producing healthy and well-bred chickens. Using Facebook enthusiast groups is a great way to connect with local breeders, but it can be a little tricky. Facebook has a policy against ANY animal sales and rehoming, this policy even includes livestock. Often times breeders will post pictures in the group with a description that reads something like “PM me for more details”. All negotiations must be done through messenger.
You may also want to consider the breed’s suitability for your specific climate, lifestyle, and goals, as different breeds have different temperaments, egg-laying capacities, and space requirements. While buying from a breeder may be more expensive than purchasing from a hatchery or feed store, the extra cost can be well worth it in terms of the quality and health of your chickens.
Not my favorite way to source chickens, but social media and online classified ads can be useful tools for finding local breeders or sellers of baby chickens during high-demand periods. Many breeders and sellers utilize these platforms to promote their chickens, so exploring the various pages dedicated to backyard poultry and chicken enthusiasts is worth the time.
You can search for local classified ad websites like Craigslist for chicks and chickens, but when using these platforms, it’s important to exercise caution and verify the reputation and credibility of the seller before making a purchase. Look for reviews or references from other buyers and ask for photos or videos of the birds before committing to a sale. I also highly recommend visiting the farm instead of arranging a meet-up location so you can actually see the rest of the flock and get an idea of the general health of the birds on the property. Remember, when meeting up with anyone always make sure you do so safely.
Also, look for participants in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). The NPIP is a voluntary State–Federal cooperative testing and certification program for poultry breeding flocks and hatcheries. NPIP participants have voluntarily had the state test their flock for Pollurum Typhoid, a contagious and deadly avian virus.
Additionally, be aware of scams and fraudulent sellers who may not deliver on their promises. Using online classified ads, you can broaden your search for baby chickens and find a seller with the breed you want, but be very cautious.
Buying chicks during periods of high demand can be a challenging task but also a rewarding one. Whether motivated by health concerns, economic uncertainty, or a desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle, many people turn to backyard chickens as a source of fresh, local, and ethically-raised food. While it can be difficult to find and purchase chicks during times of high demand, it is important to be patient, network, and take the necessary steps to ensure your chickens are healthy and well-cared for. With proper planning and care, raising chickens can be a fun, educational, and sustainable way to connect with your food and community.