Getting Started: When Shipped Chicks Don’t Make It

Receiving chicks shipped from a hatchery or breeder can be a joyful experience, but when something goes wrong, there are things you must do.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: ArtPyle/Pixabay

Your brooder stands ready, heated at 95 degrees and awaiting the chicks that your hatchery or breeder of choice shipped out to you yesterday. You try not to pace, waiting for the phone to ring.

Finally, the call comes in. Your chicks have arrived at the post office! You hightail your way there and the clerks are all smiles …  until you identify yourself.

Suddenly, the smiles vanish and the clerks exchange concerned looks. One goes back to retrieve your shipment, returning with a sturdy ventilated carton. “I’m sorry,” she says. “All the other boxes are peeping. You’ll need to open this here so you can file a claim.”

It’s heartbreaking to be the recipient of this kind of news—and of this kind of shipment, especially when you can clearly hear other boxes of chicks peeping loudly somewhere in the back of the post office.

Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong when live chicks are shipped. Loss can stem from such factors as:

  • Exposures to heat or cold
  • Delays in transit
  • Blocked breathing holes during shipment
  • Mishandling

Should this occur to you, here’s what you need to do.

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Filing a Claim for Loss with the Post Office

The U.S. Post Office (USPS) accepts very few live animals for shipment and only if certain specific conditions are met. Likewise, if certain conditions are met, the USPS will accept an indemnity claim for the loss or partial loss of your chicks. This conditions are  death resulting from handling errors, from damage to the shipping carton during transit, and from loss or delays in transit.

You must open the carton at the post office and file the claim immediately on site. Ask to speak to the postmaster about filing a claim. He or she will provide you with the form to complete. Most likely, they will also photograph your deceased chicks to accompany the claim.

Read more: When you bring baby chicks home, make sure your brooder is set up and ready!

Filing a Claim for Loss with the Hatchery or Breeder

The postmaster may conclude, upon inspecting your chicks, that the fault does not lie with the USPS but with the hatchery or breeder.

This might also be glaringly obvious. The shipping carton may not have been sturdy enough for shipping live chicks or may not had enough—or any—ventilation holes.

Too few chicks may have been packed in the carton, causing hypothermia. There may have not been enough bedding to cushion the chicks.

Bantam chicks may have been packed with larger chicks, which inadvertently crushed the smaller birds. The same can happen if too many chicks are shipped together. Sadly, too many causes exist that can lead to the death of shipped chicks.

Even if the USPS is not at fault, request a statement from the postmaster testifying that the chicks arrived dead. (This is another reason that it is crucial that you open your shipment immediately at the post office.)

Next, call the hatchery or breeder, preferably from the post office in case they wish to speak to the postmaster. Most hatcheries have some sort of shipping guarantee for baby chicks: some have a 100 percent guarantee, while others require you to notify them within a certain timeframe from when the shipment was received.

Private breeders may or may not have a guarantee for shipped chicks, so be prepared in case your breeder does not offer to replace the lost chicks. If possible, inform the hatchery or breeder of what seems to have caused the chicks’ demise so that this can be addressed prior to sending out replacement chicks.

Read more: Shipped chicks on the way? Here are 6 ways to prepare.

Helping Survivors

Sometimes, there’s still hope: one or more chicks are still alive, but in desperate need of help. Get these chicks home as quickly as possible. Put them right in your brooder so that they can start returning to their proper body temperature.

Stay with them and gently stroke their bodies to help stimulate responses.

Once the chicks begin to react, it is crucial to offer them some form of rescue nutrients. Chick electrolytes and chick gel both come in powdered form for convenient storage. Mix chick gel with water to become a hydrating, easily swallowed and digested gel that contains essential nutrients. It can help revive shipped chicks.

Chick electrolytes mix into the chicks’ drinking water to help stressed birds. If the chicks do not notice the waterer or gel, gently dip the chick’s beak in so it gets a taste. Wait a bit, then repeat. Do this with all the surviving chicks.

You’ll need to keep careful watch over your baby poultry for the next 24 hours. Keep offering them gel and electrolyte water. Stroke them from time to time to help stimulate response.

Keep in mind that your chicks will be exhausted from their double ordeal—shipping and a near-death experience. They need to sleep a lot. A comfortable sleep, however, is a sure sign that they are on the road to recovery and a full life ahead.

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