Believe it or not, you can ship live birds and poultry with the United States Postal Service. However, there are quite a few guidelines you’ll need to follow when doing so. Lucky for you, we’re here to drop some knowledge so you’ll know exactly what the cluck is going on when it’s time for you to ship birds. Get it? Got it? Good. Time to spread your wings and dive in!
You Must Use Priority Mail Express to Ship Birds with USPS
First and foremost, speed is the name of the game when shipping birds. You need to ensure the birds reach their final destination fast—within 72 hours, to be exact. That time limit is a regulation that USPS imposes themselves. Therefore, the only option you’ll have for shipping birds out of all the USPS mail classes is Priority Mail Express.
What Kind of Birds Can I Ship with USPS?
Pretty much all kinds! You can ship disease-free adult birds, and you can ship chicks that are no more than one day (24 hours) old. If your chicks are older than a day, you’ll need to wait at least six weeks to ship them until they become juvenile birds.
Why Can I Only Ship Chicks When They Are One Day Old?
The answer lies in simple biology. Right before chicks hatch, they absorb the last of the yolk in the egg. This yolk creates energy stores that sustains the chicks for only up to three days. That’s exactly why chicks need to reach their final destination within 72 hours after hatching…and that‘s why you need to ship them within the first twenty-four hours, assuming you ship Priority Mail Express for the fastest delivery possible (1-2 days). For this same reason, shipping chicks that are more than a day old is prohibited because they don’t have enough energy stores to sustain them throughout their journey. Simply put, there’s a good chance the chicks will die if they are in transit for more than 72 hours.
If the day-old chicks in question are pheasants, keep in mind that you can only ship them between April and August (USPS’ rules, not ours). Similar to shipping honeybees, pheasants are subject to freezing during the winter months.
For additional info on shipping day-old chicks, check out USPS’ regulations for mailable live animals.
Restrictions on Shipping Adult Birds
You can only ship adult birds under the following conditions:
- You ship them Priority Mail Express
- Each bird can’t weigh less than 6 ounces and can’t weigh more than 25 pounds
- The number of birds per parcel must follow the container manufacturer limits
- The total container weight can’t exceed 70 pounds
- Food, such as sliced apples, must be in the container for the birds
- You include wood shavings on the bottom of the container (at least a 1-2 inch layer)
- You use a mailing container that is constructed by a USPS-approved manufacturer listed on the PostalPro website
Make Sure You Use the Right Kind of Box When Shipping Birds
As we outlined in the above point, you can’t simply drop off live birds at the Post Office in a regular box. You’ll need a box that has holes in it for oxygen inflow, and it will need to be pre-approved for shipment by the Postal Service. A company called Horizon Micro-Environments actually manufactures USPS-approved boxes for shipping live birds, and you can pick some up on their website.
Pro Tip: In addition to your recipient’s address information, make sure you include their phone number on the box in case they need to be contacted for any reason during transit.
Use Shipping Software to Save Money on Priority Mail Express Postage
Using Priority Mail Express to ship live birds and poultry gets expensive. You’re paying for speed, after all. The good news is, you can use online shipping software to buy discounted postage, and you’ll save yourself a lot of money! Most shipping software solutions offer USPS discounts such as Commercial Pricing, even though the Postal Service typically reserves these savings for commercial shippers. All you need to do is purchase a postage label with shipping software, print it off, attach it to your box, and drop your box off at the Post Office. If you don’t want to leave your birds with the clerk behind the counter, you can also schedule a time for a postal worker to pick up your package.
Make Sure to Weigh Your Container Accurately
Postage for Priority Mail Express is based on weight, so if you’re buying postage at home, make sure you have an accurate way to weigh your packages. You don’t want to drop your package off or schedule a pickup only to find out that you need to pay more for the right amount of postage. Remember: when shipping birds, time is of the essence!