When I ordered chicks for the first time (for the record, Australorps are still my hands down favorite even after trying Barred Rock, Americauna, and Rhode Island Reds). I ordered both breeds (Australorps and Rhode Island Reds)...here's how to order.
ASK AROUND- I asked where everyone else got their chickens, what their favorite breeds were and why. I asked what hatcheries they liked, and which ones to stay away from. (some have better success rates of shipping and customer service is of utmost importance if you happen to receive chicks DOA)
LOCATE A HATCHERY- if you can find a local hatchery with the breed you are looking for you are in a win-win situation. You can drive to get your chicks, avoid shipping costs (they can be a bit pricey) and avoid the almost inevitable dead chick that can come from shipping day old hatchlings. You can also avoid having to slate off an entire day to be at the post master's beck and call for when they receive a peeping box for you to come get IMMEDIATELY from your local post office. I was lucky enough to find one hatchery that carries Black Australorps that is only a 45 minute drive away.
PICK YOUR HATCH DATE: This is of utmost importance because when your chicks hatch they will either be shipped to you within that first 24 hours (you will usually get them when they are between 48-72 hours old and they will be THIRSTY) or you will be picking them up from the hatchery that day, this means preparation on your part as you need to have your brooder area set, heat lamps available, food and water on hand and be ready to go!
PAY FOR YOUR BIRDS AND WAIT: If you are smart, and you want spring chicks, you put an order in to the hatchery of your choice in January requesting your ship date for sometime later in the spring. The reason I say this is because if you do what I did this year, which was wait too long, you are at the mercy of when the hatchery will have your breed on schedule to be hatched, sometimes that can be months after you had planned...especially if you are trying to get 4H breeds that need to be a certain size by fair.
How to care for New Chicks