For homesteader Teri Page and many others contemplating barnyard animals, breeding chickens requires a lot of “figuring out” — what kind of chickens to buy from the hundreds of breeds that exist (and the eternal question of animals who deliver eggs vs. meat vs. both), the best breeds for her region, and whether or not she wants eggs that offer a pleasing hue. Page’s go-to list of sources is extremely long because she possesses 20 years of chicken experience. She says the bulk of her resources are online so ordering a batch takes mere minutes. Most hatcheries ship overnight and take multiple precautions to keep the chicks safe. Page’s preferences include Murray McMurray, Cackle, and Hoover’s. All sell numerous breeds.
Page occasionally orders chicks or pullets from a local farm in Vermont because they tend to be hardy in winter, lay a good amount of eggs, and are also good for meat. She says she prefers chicks that are gentle and a good fit for her farm. But she also worries that the chicks she orders online will be stressed out due to the mailing process.
But Wayne Martin, who works for the University of Minnesota extension in livestock production and alternative livestock systems, says she shouldn’t fret. “Typically, what happens is that chicks are hatched, and they are shipped that same day through the mail,” Martin shares. “They’ll arrive at the nearest post office within a day or two. The chicks have absorbed all the liquid and nutrition in the egg just before they hatch so they can survive about three days in shipment.” Martin reassures that shipping chicks is safe. “This has been done for over 100 years,” he says. So, when you begin thinking about starting or adding to your chicken coop, consider these seven online operations. All offer years of experience, loads of digital features that aid selection, and a home-centric attitude.
1. Murray McMurray Hatchery
Started in 1917, Murray McMurray Hatchery offers an extensive selection of chicks for people who want to buy chickens for their home. McMurray’s most prized breeds are Barred Rock (Plymouth), Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucana (Araucana), Buckeye, and the Red Star. They ship newly hatched chicks within 72 hours and currently sell more than 130 types of breeds. Try the “guided tour” feature, which helps you filter and find what kind of bird you need.
Price Check: $4.37 per chick for a minimum order of 15 female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks. If you can’t decide on a breed to raise, there are assorted packages like Murray’s Choice Layer which has at least five different varieties of chickens that lay white, tinted, and brown eggs for $42.50 per 10 chicks.
Don’t Miss: Check out their list of chicken-hatching eggs so you can see baby chicks come to life.
2. Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms
Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms boasts a collection of more than 119 kinds of breeds. They’re also the largest supplier of backyard poultry in the United States, shipping close to 5 million chicks annually. While picking your bird, a calendar with the next available order will pop up when you scroll down. There’s also an option of vaccinating your bird before it even arrives at your doorstep.
Price Check: $2.25 per chick for an assortment of male and female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks. There is no minimum number of chicks to order, but there is a minimum $30 cost for all poultry orders — excluding male-only chick orders.
Don’t Miss: Each chick listing includes “product specs” so you know its egg color, rate of laying, and mature weight before you click purchase.
3. Cackle Hatchery
Cackle Hatchery’s website details specific bird-hatching seasons when you add the chick to the cart. And if you’re interested in the birds’ digs, check out their virtual Google tour of the hatchery.
Price Check: $3.67 per chick for a minimum order of three female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks.
Don’t Miss: Consider entering the hatchery’s photo contest. Submit any chicken-related photo, and you just might win $100.
4. Hoover’s Hatchery
Thanks to a calendar-like feature, Hoover’s Hatchery shows the next available dates for their chicks. Their website also features a downloadable catalog with a “customer spotlight” section showcasing individuals and their chicken choices and stories.
Price Check: $3.69 per chick for a minimum order of 15 female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks. You can also combine different breeds of chickens to meet the minimum of 15 chickens for an order.
Don’t Miss: Test your chick knowledge courtesy of the “Identify my Chick” page that features pictures of every breed the hatchery sells.
5. Welp Hatchery
Welp Hatchery, based out of Iowa, started doing business in 1929 and offers a great deal of information about caring for chicks. Along with each chick’s “add-to-cart” page, the hatchery offers breed-specific suggestions for vitamins and vitals.
Price Check: $3.05 for one Barred Rock (Plymouth) chick. The minimum order for any kind of chicks is 25.
Don’t Miss: Stop by the “New Breeds This Year” section on the home page to stay updated on their latest breed collection.
6. Purely Poultry
Purely Poultry means pure business, organizing its websie based on breed type (egg-layer, meat, or dual-purpose) and featuring 300-plus breeds of poultry. They also devote space to Tyler Danke, the owner of the poultry farm, who explains how their farm supports sustainable family traditions.
Price Check: $4.53 per chick for a minimum order of three female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks.
Don’t Miss: Bantam chicks come with free shipping for a minimum order of 15.
7. Townline Poultry Farm
Townline Poultry Farm features a sophisticated website and a long history of hatching eggs (they began in 1913). The photographs on the website offer a dose of nostalgia, and the footer details a list of best-selling breeds and prices.
Price Check: $4.54 per chick for a minimum order of 15 female Barred Rock (Plymouth) chicks.
Don’t Miss: The home page’s middle section features customer profiles. Take a moment to read about other poultry enthusiasts and their extraordinary lives.