So what is involved in producing a pasture raised, beyond organic chicken you may ask.  Over the next few months, I will discuss the following four stages:

 

1)  Delivery of Chicks

2) Brooder (up to approx 2-4 weeks of age)

3) Pasture (up to approx 8 weeks of age)

4) Processing

 

Delivery of Chicks

Arrival of day old chicksAs our chicks arrived by courier I thought it was timely to discuss the ethics of having chicks delivered in this way.  The main priorities for chicks in their first few days are heat, food and water so I will discuss these further.


Access to heat

Chicks are quite hardy and access to heat is not usually a problem in transport as long as the transport company has appropriate practices for transporting live animals.  The priority is getting the chicks delivered as quickly as possible as delays sitting in transport depots/post offices are the main area for concern.  


Food & Water

If you look at the way nature works, you will understand why a delay in accessing food of 2-3 days is okay, although 3 is definitely stretching things. 

 

In nature, eggs remain dormant until the mother goes broody and applies heat for long enough to activate the development of the embryo inside.  As a bird lays only one egg a day, she will lay eggs for a number of days after she has mated, until she has a sense that it is time to “set” the eggs and she goes broody.  This ensures that all of the eggs hatch at the same time - within a day of each other.  When the first chicks hatch, she will not leave the nest until her instinct tells her that no more eggs will hatch.  

 

The chicks are born with a small quantity of food (egg contents) in their stomachs that can sustain them for the first 48-72 hours.  As a chick won't leave the nest until the mother does, it is normal for a chick to go a short period of 1-2 days before it gets access to food.  Once a chick drinks water, the digestion system kickstarts and from that point on the chicks require regular access to food and water. 


Our situation

For us, we have access to commercial hatcheries within a couple of hours drive.   For our delivery they hatched Sunday PM/Monday AM, were collected from the hatchery on Monday AM and arrived Monday PM.  We couldn’t do much better than that if we collected them ourselves.

 

So based on the above, we think that it is reasonable to ship chicks by courier, especially seeing that the alternative is living very close to a hatchery or running a breeding program yourself.   The key point is knowing that the method of delivery is efficient and that the chicks can be maintained within an appropriate temperature range whilst being transported.