In the era of COVID, fewer people are frequenting brick and mortar stores, with many flocking to online destinations to conduct their shopping. What many people don’t know, though, is that live chicks may be purchased within hours of hatching and mailed.

Chicks can survive a few days after hatching without food and water through yolk reserves. Due to high volumes of mail and other uncertainties, it can take longer than 72 hours to deliver the chicks, endangering their well-being, said Leonie Jacobs, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a founding member of the Poultry Extension Collaborative, a collaboration between Virginia Tech, Marisa Erasmus at Purdue University, Shawna Weimer at the University of Maryland, and Prafulla Regmi at North Carolina State University.

“Newly hatched chicks require an environment with a high temperature, around 95 degrees Fahrenheit because they are unable to regulate their body heat,” Jacobs said.

Mailing live chicks can add additional stressors, such as temperatures that are too high or too low and inappropriate handling or accidents during transit.

Because of the potential stressors that could negatively impact the animal, Jacobs recommends buying locally.

“The ultimate solution is to order fertilized eggs and ship those,” Jacobs said. “This requires the buyer to incubate the eggs at home and give them the special experience of hatching eggs. Small incubators are widely available and reasonably priced. Eggs, similar to chicks, need careful packaging.”

If chicks must be ordered via the mail, there are a few considerations that can be taken:

  • Consider waiting to reduce the strain on the postal service.
  • Do your homework and make sure you buy chicks from reputable hatcheries and have everything you need when the chicks arrive.
  • Before placing your order, look up the predicted weather conditions during the days your chicks are in transport and delay placing your order during extreme weather.
  • Know which post office chicks will be delivered to and have their phone number handy.
  • Allow flexibility in your schedule for the days before and after the estimated arrival date of your chicks to the post office.
  • Consider ordering fertilized eggs instead of chicks and hatch them yourselves.


About Jacobs

Leonie Jacobs is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. With a research and Virginia Cooperative Extension appointment, she focuses her efforts on improving the welfare of production animals. Her current research includes identifying measures for positive welfare status in poultry; applying vegetation in pasture-based broiler production; pain recognition, management and consumer interest in swine production; and welfare of cultured trout. As part of her Extension efforts, she co-founded the Poultry Extension Collaborative in 2020 with poultry experts from three other U.S. universities. 

Schedule an interview

To secure an interview with Jacobs, contact Max Esterhuizen in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Office of Communications and Marketing at or 540-231-6630.

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