Hatchery discussion. What do you think?

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


7 Years
Mar 23, 2012
Jackson, Michigan
Hello all,

I’ve been a member here at BYC for quite a while now. During this time I’ve seen a lot of posts about how this hatchery is terrible and this hatchery is great. Strangely, these posts are frequently talking about the same hatchery. Some people refuse to order from hatcheries altogether, and others love them. All this conflicting information and differences of opinion was puzzling to me so I thought I should do a little research and post my conclusions on what I found.

In my research I found the differences of opinion is usually caused by varying individual expectations. It’s always a good idea to educate yourself so you can have reasonable and fair expectations, both for your own emotional state and for those you have expectations of. In this case, an important thing I notice is that people don’t realize all the risks involved in shipping chicks. There is a lot of work, fore-thought and planning put in place by the hatcheries to avoid those risks, but is frequently unrecognized. These processes put in place by the hatcheries allow us to easily place an order online and receive our chicks at our front door with minimal casualties, work or inconvenience to ourselves.

The truth is there is always a chance that you will lose some chicks when they are shipped, due to all the risks involved. Chicks are quite fragile when born. Too much moisture can kill them. High, low, or fluctuating temperatures can kill them. A cool or damp breeze can kill them. Rough handling by the postal service can kill them. A delay in postal shipping can kill them. Improper handling by the customer can kill them. These hatcheries try to take every precaution they can and still keep their prices reasonable.

Specifically, they have a minimum and maximum shipping order so the chicks can huddle together for warmth and still not get smothered by each other. Additionally, most hatcheries also plan hatches way ahead so chicks are only shipped at the beginning of the week in attempt to avoid weekend postal delays, but they cannot foresee and avoid every potential risk. This is why they have refund policies in place, because there will be occasional casualties.

In regards to birth defects, it is unrealistic for a hatchery worker to take the time to give a full physical to every single one of the thousands and thousands of chicks that are being sent out within hours of the moment they hatch. Each chick has about 3 days from the moment of hatching that they can survive without food or water. If the hatchery does not ship them out and have them on your doorstep within that time, the chicks will likely die. This short time frame does not allow for physicals. I could go into a lot more detail about all the potential health risks and the processes hatcheries have adopted to minimize them, but it is simply impossible to avoid every risk.

The unfortunate reality is that there will be an occasional DOA or birth defect. It is not anyone’s fault, lack of responsibility, or lack of integrity. They will send you a replacement or a refund when it happens. Humans are not infallible. These are the simple facts that a lot of people have a hard time accepting. I do get how frustrating it can be to watch your little chicks die one by one, when there’s nothing you can do, but it is usually not the hatcheries fault. At the end of the day, it is us who make the choice to have chicks delivered to us and accept those risks.

After all this I would also like to say that this is just my conclusions from the many different articles I have read. This is not intended to offend anyone or undermine a bad experience. I simply wanted to share some perspective and insight that I gained during my research into this topic. I hope you gain a little different perspective in reading this as I did in researching it. From now on I will always recognize the risk I am taking when placing my order. I will likely choose a hatchery closer to home, as well as ordering during warmer months. Thanks for reading.
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Well written. I’ll add a few of my thoughts.

Hatcheries don’t breed for show as their prices clearly indicate. They are mass producing birds fairly cheaply for the vast majority of us. If you want show birds, find a breeder that knows what they are doing and pay their prices.

The hatcheries we deal with may hatch 80,000 to 100,000 chicks a week in season. They lose control when they ship the birds through the post office. Of course there are going to glitches with that many birds being shipped. The vast majority of the time there are no glitches but they can and do happen.

Not every post office employee is exactly the same. Some are better at handling live birds than others. Just because there is one rotten apple in one barrel does not mean that every apple in every barrel in the whole country is rotten.

Not all hatcheries are the same. They all have different people working there. They have different business plans. Some have their own breeding flocks and some get their hatching eggs from breeders. They have different people selecting which birds go in the breeding pens, different people running the incubators, different people shipping the chicks. There are some differences in the hatcheries.

Avoid ordering birds when they would be shipped during a postal holiday. The complaints on here about shipping chicks go up during postal holidays.

A fair percentage of the complaints I see are because the people receiving the chicks didn’t know how to handle them when they got them. Do your homework before the chicks show up. Have things ready for them.

I’ll quit on that. I’ve probably made enough people mad for this morning.
If your looking for a bird to win at the state fair don't expect the hatchery to be handing them out at 4 to $5.00 a pop. That takes handing over some money for a already proven bloodline and then your own blood sweat and tears. Lets face it, a hatchery is what it is, they hatch eggs and sell them.
The biggest problems happen when a shipment takes longer than it should or the chicks are exposed to weather that is either extremely cold or extremely hot. When it's a combination of these, that's when they're really in trouble. Not providing adequate care after they arrive is the other cause of death.

My tips are:

1. Try to get chicks shipped from a hatchery that's closer to you, if you can. It cuts down on the shipping time, if the chicks aren't traveling from one coast to the other.

2. Don't have chicks shipped in really bad weather. This is one of the most important tips for success. By this, I mean the middle of winter in really cold areas or the middle of summer in really hot areas. Those temperature extremes are more risky, especially if the shipment is late for some reason. Think about what the weather is like at the hatchery, also, not just where you live.

3. Be prepared for the chicks. Have the brooder all set up ahead of time.

4. Dip each chick's beak in the water, so they understand they can drink it. It's the first time they've ever seen water. Dip their beak in the food. Sprinkle a little feed on a paper towel the first couple of days, so they'll be tempted to peck at specks of food. That's a natural behavior.

5. Watch your chicks after they first arrive and make sure they're doing okay. If any of them look weak, do something about it, don't just watch them die. This is the other most important tip. They should all be eating and drinking. They sleep a lot in between eating and drinking, especially after a long trip. Other than that, they should be active, not lethargic.

If the shipment was delayed or they traveled in extreme temperatures, they may not have the physical strength to drink or eat. Make up some sugar water for them and put drops of it along the crack of their beak. They'll usually open their beak, to take it. A few drops may be enough to help them. After some minutes, see how they are doing. Show them the water if they start to look better. If they aren't doing better, try more drops of sugar water. You don't want to squirt water into their beaks and possibly down their airway. You just want to offer drops for them to swallow. Electrolytes in the mix may help, also. Usually just the sugar water will help.

Every chick needs to be eating and drinking on it's own, before you can say they're settled in and leave them.

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