Shipping Chicks & Packing Peanuts

Rooster-postNow that my bunch of chicks is ordered I need to start thinking about when they will arrive.   It won’t be long.   I had picked a shipping time that I thought would work good for us, unfortunately it made my chick ship date in the middle of “Easter Rush”   My hatchery likes to avoid sending small orders of chicks out during the busiest time as they tend to to not travel as well during the busy weeks.  It means my chicks will be shipping March 6th!

For those of you unfamiliar with mail order chicks, the general rules are you order 100 chicks!  That has been the magical number for aeons. They found out years ago that 100 shipped well for the arrival of healthy chicks. Shipping boxes were design for this size and worked well in the US Mail. Those 100 chick boxes stack well, yet provide adequate ventilation.  The chicks have enough room to move around but not so much to be like marbles shaking around in the box.   They keep each other warm for the trip as chick down has no real warmth for the little critters.

I on the other hand order 8-12 chicks.   Boxes are different for small batches of chicks, called quarter boxes.   They are specially configured to do all the same things that the larger 100 chick boxes do, but also understand their small size makes them prone to be not being so easily recognized as having live chicks inside.  When you do a small box, you are required to use a airmail/priority postage to minimize the shipping time.   You can also expect to find in your box not only the chicks you ordered but something else…packing peanuts.   Not the Styrofoam kind, but the living kind. In order to ensure safe healthy chicks they hatchery will include other chicks in your box to make it a full quarter box….you will get 25 chicks even if you did not order them.  No before you, you non-chick people start on the “way cool” hold your horses.   The packing peanut chicks will be the highly undesirable chickens…roosters!

Roosters are uses as packing peanuts because  are more roosters than anyone can ever sell.  There are a whole host of reasons for this

  • A flock of egg layers needs NO rooster to produce eggs.   If you want roosters will only need one or two.  Any more than that and your hens will loose all their feathers as they get gang banged by more boys than they can handle.
  • Roosters can be protective which can be good for free rangers.   They keep watch and will go to bat for their flock when predators come calling.     We had a rooster who hated our dog, who was completely indifferent to the chickens.  Randy the Rooster was raise from a chick with our dog.  He was always “gunning” for the dog and came running looking for him every time we opened the door.  This protection instinct can even carry over to attaching their human owners and chasing children.    Roosters can inflict serious damage on predators, dogs, and people.
  • Too many roosters will fight amongst themselves  as well;  boys will be boys.
  • The testosterone running through their body makes for sinewy muscle tissue.  All but the youngest roosters can be chewy and stringy.

Usually when I get packing peanuts I put them down immediately and don’t go with the hassle of all those boys.   This year I am feeling brave or extremely thrifty and plan to raise a flock of packing peanuts until maybe 8-12 weeks.   Some may be as small as quail or game hens when we butcher them and others may be like three or four pounds tops.   I am not sure what to expect out of this all this year, but will keep you posted as we go down a new road on this chicken raising thing.

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7 comments on “Shipping Chicks & Packing Peanuts

  1. Wow if you aren’t just a plethora of information! A little bothered as well by the live chicks being used as disposable packing peanuts….but when they do arrive, it is work day at your house!!

    • It is one of those sad realities of today’s food market. Think of how many recipes call for chicken breasts. Think of how many folks don’t eat anything but. Until we learn to eat the whole bird this and practices will continue out there.

  2. What? I’m totally freaked out that a living creature is used in this way. I know roosters aren’t needed (wanted) in the same quantity as hens but I never thought about “useful” ways breeders might use them.

    Good luck with raising them to the point where you can butcher them. I think. I’m still too freaked out to really know what I think.

  3. Wow, I have never heard of that. All the hatcheries I have looked at have a 25 chick minimum to ship, I’ve never noticed anything about being willing to ship less and add roosters in. Very interesting.
    We were able to split our order of 25 with friends this year since we want about 17-18 total. I am brooding all of them and our friends are buying whatever I don’t want once they are feathered out. Good luck with your “packing peanuts” – hope it goes well!

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