Hey Cassie, instead of mail order have you thought of using the farm garden
section of craigslist? I have had good luck finding locals on there who are letting chickens go for a good price. (free sometimes too)
The upside is that I was able to assemble a strong flock of hen raised birds that lay eggs on a free range diet, the downside is I do not really know what breeds they all are.
with chickens from the farm store was realizing how un knowledgable they are when they are not raised by chickens. I understand when you are a big time money making farmer who wants 100 plus birds all at once it is maybe not feasible to have hen raised chicks but for a homestead sized flock it makes no sense for me to have stupid hatchery chickens who I have to over protect and baby.
I brought in a number of those types of chickens and many have been picked off by predators. Some of their babies were hatched by my main flock and the primary hen did her own culling and pecked out the brains of every one of them. It was tough to see, but i figure she knows best since she is the one raising them, in the end I do not want to deal with a dumb or weak bird so she probably saved me the trouble.
Thanks for sharing Gary, good luck expanding and marketing