Poultry Shipping Requirements

August 25, 2019

Many people that get into chickens often decide to sell some eggs and or birds to help offset some of the costs that come with keeping poultry. With the internet, people often find themselves needing to ship their poultry out of state. There are rules and regulations with both the post office and the different state agricultural departments that need to be followed. Since there is not a lot of information out there to help people get started shipping, I am going to try and get as much as I can in one place for easy reference.

If you are going to ship eggs and poultry, the first thing you need to know what the postal system expects to safely deliver your shipment.

Shipping Animals

521 General Requirements

The full cooperation of the mailer is essential in order to safely and effectively transport animals through the mail. The following factors are applied to all shipments of mailable live or dead animals

  1. Protection of Postal Service employees and the public against harm from dangerous or diseased animals.
  2.   Protection of the mail and the environment against the following  
  3.   Damage to the shipping container or other mail pieces from either the animal or the refrigerant used (e.g., moisture or condensation from melting ice, or pressure build–up from dry ice). 
  4.   Obnoxious odors and noise.
  5.   Protection of animals against death, or protection of animal specimens against spoilage, taking into account the following: 
  6.   Expected time in transit.
  7.   Expected temperature in transit (weather conditions).  
  8.   Packaging, including insulation against impact, heat, cold, and preventing suffocation. 
  9. Ability of an animal to survive without food or water during transport. Live animals must be transported without food or water, because liquids, moisture, and loose foodstuffs can cause damage to the shipping container, other mail, and Postal Service equipment during transport.  
  10.   The ability of the Postal Service to provide transportation and delivery service. Mailers are urged to work with postmasters in providing advance notification of shipments of live animals. The Postal Service advises destination and transfer offices when any significant quantities of animals are moving in the mail. Postal Service field personnel should consider a 4–hour time limit on the period during which animals (especially bees, day–old poultry, and adult birds) may move in a regular, closed Postal Service vehicle.  

Poultry Shipping Containers

Any container used to mail perishable matter must be constructed to protect and securely contain the contents.

Shipping containers for mailable live animals must, at a minimum, be made of 275-pound test, double-wall, corrugated, weather-resistant fiberboard (W5c) or equivalent. The container must be constructed to prevent escape of the animals while in the mail and to preclude the container and its contents from being crushed in normal handling. USPS-produced packaging, including Flat Rate containers, are not eligible to be used. Additional container requirements apply to mailable adult birds.

Shipping Day Old Chicks

526.31 General

The following live, day–old animals are acceptable for mailing when properly packaged: chickens, ducks, emus, geese, guinea birds, partridges, pheasants (only during April through August), quail, and turkeys. All other types of live, day–old poultry are nonmailable. Day–old poultry vaccinated with Newcastle disease (live virus) also is nonmailable.

526.32 Mailability Requirements

The specific types of day-old poultry named in 526.31 are mailable subject to the following requirements:

  1. Poultry that is not more than 24 hours old and is presented for mailing in the original, unopened hatchery box from the hatchery of origin.

  2. The date and hour of hatching is noted on the box by a representative of the hatchery who has personal knowledge thereof. (For Collect on Delivery (COD) shipments made by a hatchery for the account of others, the name or initials and address of the hatchery or the Post Office box number and address of the hatchery must be prominently shown for this standard.)

  3. Box is properly ventilated, of proper construction and strength to bear safe transport in the mail, and is not stacked more than 10 units high.

  4. Day–old poultry is mailed early enough in the week to avoid receipt at the office of address (in case of missed connections) on a Sunday, a national holiday, or the afternoon before a Sunday or national holiday.

  5. Day–old poultry can be delivered to the addressee within 72 hours of the time of hatching.

  6. Day-old poultry sent via surface transportation, must include special handling service fees, in addition to regular postage.

  7. Day-old poultry sent via air transportation must meet all provisions of the airlines. Delivery of the mailpiece is dependent on the availability of air carriers having available equipment to safely deliver the day–old poultry within the specified time limit.

  8. Day–old poultry that is first shipped via a commercial air express or air cargo service and then presented for mailing to a final destination must be in good condition and properly packaged as specified in 526.32a-e.

  9. Boxes of day–old poultry of about identical size, securely fastened together to prevent separation in transit, may be accepted for mailing as a single parcel, provided the total length and girth combined does not exceed Postal Service limits.

Shipping Adult Birds

526.41 General

Disease-free adult birds may be mailed domestically when shipped under all applicable governmental laws and regulations, including the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and any state, municipal, or local ordinances.

Mailers must comply with all applicable governmental laws and regulations, including the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and any state, municipal, or local ordinances. Mailings must also be compliant with the requirements provided in USPS Publication 14, Prohibitions and Restrictions on Mailing Animals, Plants, and Related Matter, Chapter 5.

In addition, each container or package must be marked as required by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under 50 CFR 14. Adult birds must be properly packaged and able to sustain shipment without food or water because liquids, moisture, and loose foodstuffs can cause damage to the shipping container, other mail, and Postal Service equipment during transport.

526.42 Mailability Requirements

Adult birds are mailable only when sent under the following conditions:

  1. The shipment is mailed using Priority Mail Express service.

  2. Each bird must weigh more than 6 ounces and no more than 25 pounds.

  3. The number of birds per parcel must follow the container manufacturer limits.

  4. The mailer must secure containers approved by the manager, Product Classification (see 214 for address).

  5. A mailing container must be used that is constructed by a USPS–approved manufacturer listed on the PostalPro website at


Even with the best packing and shipping, sometimes things go wrong and one will need to file a claim.

File a claim for adult birds

Indemnity may be paid only for articles that are lost, damaged, or for missing contents, and not for death of the birds in transit if there is no visible damage to the mailing container.

Postage refunds may not be available if the Priority Mail Express shipment was delivered or delivery was attempted within three days of the date of mailing as shown in the “Date In” box on Label 11. See DMM 609.

Claim for Day Old Chicks

Indemnity claims (see DMM 609) for damage, partial loss, and loss of insured shipments of mailable, live, day–old poultry are accepted only in the following situations:

  1. Death of the live, day–old poultry resulted from Postal Service handling after conditions for mailability were met and when there was strong likelihood that the shipment could have been safely transported.

  2. Contents were lost because of damage to the container while in Postal Service custody.

  3. The complete package was lost in the mail.

  4. Special handling was purchased as required under 526.32f.

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