When you order a batch of chicks, they usually come from the hatchery to the post office in a cardboard box with air holes. Transporting them safely is always a concern.
Extension Poultry Specialist Scott Beyer at Kansas State University says there is no hard and fast rule as to the best type of container to haul them in. A crate can be purchased or homemade, but adequate ventilation is critical for the birds' well-being.
"First of all, I look at the type of bird. And obviously the heavy birds, especially the production-type birds like heavy turkeys or broilers, those birds need a lot of air flow. I love to see them in wire cages or some of those plastic coops people use so they can get a lot of air flow, and I want them placed in an area where they can get that air flow," says Beyer. "It doesn't do you a lot of good to have a wire coop with a lot of flow and then put it in the truck with a closed lid."
The floor of the cage should be lined with an absorbent material such as wood shavings so the birds have something to grip. Otherwise, fecal matter causes a slick bottom. Don't use newspaper. Beyer says it will also become slick and the ink will leach onto the birds.
Ideally, each bird would have a carrier all to itself. But, that's not always possible and many birds in a crate tend to pile in a corner, making them susceptible to heat stress or suffocation. Beyer advises keeping them separated in the crate as much as you can by adding partitions.
"When I've seen people make something temporary, they take a cardboard box and they find one with the dividers in it and they put one bird per side, or something like that. Otherwise if you buy a nice big one, then maybe think about putting some cardboard between them so that you can transport them in separated containers. That's the best way to do it," he says. "If you can't do that, there should be enough pen space left that half of it is still open. That's kind of my rule of thumb."