Hatchery questions

Karenin

Chirping
Nov 19, 2020
23
64
56
I need to get some more hens. I want to get them from a big hatchery because there aren’t that many little ones where I am. but I’m worried that the chicks might end up being boys or die along the way. I want to know what your experiences are with hatcheries and what the best one is.
 

ChickenCanoe

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Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
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All the big ones have well experienced vent sexers on staff. Stay away from bantams because they are more difficult to vent sex and there will be mistakes. Some hatcheries don't even sell sexed bantams.

ETA
That said, I'm in a different category of chicken keeper. I've only bought from a hatchery 3 times. Two were from Freedom Ranger Hatchery for meat birds so no need to sex. The other time was from a no-kill hatchery so all their birds are straight run as well.
I now keep a closed flock of a single breed raising each subsequent generation from my own hatchlings.

I know Cackle and Murray Mcmurray to be good companies.
Depending on where you are, mail may be an issue. There are delays in many parts of the country.
 
Last edited:

Karenin

Chirping
Nov 19, 2020
23
64
56
All the big ones have well experienced vent sexers on staff. Stay away from bantams because they are more difficult to vent sex and there will be mistakes. Some hatcheries don't even sell sexed bantams.

ETA
That said, I'm in a different category of chicken keeper. I've only bought from a hatchery 3 times. Two were from Freedom Ranger Hatchery for meat birds so no need to sex. The other time was from a no-kill hatchery so all their birds are straight run as well.
I now keep a closed flock of a single breed raising each subsequent generation from my own hatchlings.

I know Cackle and Murray Mcmurray to be good companies.
Thank you for your help. I’ll check those two hatcheries out.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
26,710
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Southeast Louisiana
I’m worried that the chicks might end up being boys or die along the way.

You will pretty much find the same stories (good and bad) for all the established hatcheries. When you hatch 80,000 to 100,000 chicks each week in season and ship a lot of them, some things will go bad. But a lot will be good or they won't stay in business. Each hatchery is different since each is a small business, often family run, with different people running them. But you should be able to order with the same confidence from any hatchery that has been in business for several years.

Major hatcheries have experts that can sex chicks by looking in the vent. These people may vent sex tens of thousands of chicks on a hatch day, so they are working very rapidly. Sometimes the differences between boys and girls aren't that clear. They don't always get it right, especially working at that speed and after many hours or sexing chicks. Most hatcheries give a 90% guarantee, that 9 out of 10 will be sexed correctly. From my experiences they do better than that, they are right more than 90% of the time. But others have different experiences. There is a bit of luck involved. If I want boys I order boys. If I want girls I order girls. They are pretty accurate but there are mistakes. I ordered five Delaware pullets and got one cockerel. In the same order I ordered ten Black Australorp pullets and got ten pullets, no boys. So 14 out of 15 were correct. My other experiences have been in that range.

With certain chicks you can order sex linked chicks. These are not breeds but are crosses. If you set up the parents genetics correctly you can tell by down color what sex they are. All major hatcheries have them. They often have marketing names that include "comet" or "star" but can be called something else. If you are looking at a specific hatchery if you let us know which we may be able to tell you which ones are sex links. You can be really assured of getting the right sex with them.

As far as them dying during shipping, it can happen. I've never opened a box and found a dead chick and I've never had one die a day or two after they arrive. But any time you deal with living animals you take a chance of dealing with dead animals. When I hatch them myself I can occasionally have a dead one with no shipping involved. That's the way life works.

The big problem happens when there is a delay in shipping. That usually has nothing to do with the hatchery but does with the post office that does the shipping or the airlines that fly them. One of the things you can do to reduce these shipping risks include avoid ordering around postal holidays. Another thing is that delays happen in extreme weather. Try to avoid ordering when you are likely to experience a blizzard along the shipping route. Nobody can predict when tornado will shut an airport. You typically don't have a good forecast when you order so try to pick better times of the year. There is some luck involved in this.

I don't know where you live but try to pick a hatchery fairly close. They will fly chicks from the east coast to the west cost, which isn't totally horrible, but the more stops along the way the more opportunities there are for something to go wrong.

The way it should work, the chicks will arrive at your local post office and they call you to come pick them up. When they call, go get them, don't wait around. Have the brooder ready when you get home with them. The first time I was expecting chicks I talked to the people at the post office to find out what their procedures were. The chicks often arrive before the post office is open. Find out what you need to do if that is the case. With mine I had to go to a back door and ring a bell so someone could let me in to get them. I I had not talked to them ahead of time I could have been confused. Make sure the hatchery has your correct phone number so they know what phone number to put on the box.

Any time you deal with life things can happen. A huge majority of shipped chicks arrive fine, but some don't. The further down the distribution line your local post office is the more opportunities for something to go wrong before they get to you. Bad things can happen, but they usually don't.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
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southern Michigan
We've ordered from cackle multiple times, and have been very satisfied. Also, years ago, several times from MMcM, also good experiences.
Both hatcheries have done well with the 'pullets only' orders we've made, seldom have there been suprise cockerels.
Cackle has sent extra chicks, of the breeds we ordered, including pullet orders.
MMcM has sent extra suprise chicks, often cockerels, and different breeds. That was a few years ago, so inquire when you call for current policies.
We have an order coming from Cackle in mid April!
RR already included lots of information, all good.
Your best choice may be because of the breeds offered too.
Mary
 

Kirkwooder

Songster
Jan 17, 2021
141
486
101
Cohocton NY
I've had my best luck from Cackle Hatchery. I do like the service that I have gotten from Whelp's but their sexing seems a bit questionable to me. We always end up with a few of whatever we didn't order, be it pullets or cockerels, but Whelp's seems to have a much higher percentage of mistakes. Great Cornish crosses though.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
26,710
18,471
857
Southeast Louisiana
Cackle has sent extra chicks, of the breeds we ordered, including pullet orders.

Cackle did that for me too. I'd ordered six straight run Buff Orpington and they sent a seventh. What is funny is that although it was a straight run order all seven were pullets, including the extra.

MMcM has sent extra suprise chicks, often cockerels, and different breeds. That was a few years ago, so inquire when you call for current policies.

I've never ordered from McMurray but that remined me about packing peanuts. Hatcheries always have a lot more extra boys than girls because people want pullets. The different hatcheries have minimum orders, in part so the chicks can keep each other warm during shipping. Some of the hatcheries will include extra chicks with the order, especially if cold weather is expected. These are almost always extra boys and are called packing peanuts. McMurray is not the only hatchery that does that. You can tell them that you don't want packing peanuts if you wish. It is something to be aware of.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
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southern Michigan
Order early! Last year many breeds sold out early, so get that order in soon. We ordered our chicks in early January, and the first date we could get every breed we wanted was mid-April. You might be able to order a week or two in advance of your preferred shipping date, but don't count on it this year.
Mary
 

feather13

Crowing
8 Years
Sep 4, 2012
690
1,143
321
southern california
Our most recent order was with Murray McMurray and we're very happy with our birds. They are now 9 months old and only one died right after the 17 day-old chicks arrived. We requested vaccination for coccidiosis and Mareks and so far, so good (we have Mareks in our flock). One chick did get coccidiosis, but we treated all the flock according to directions from awesome BYC members and the chick recovered.

Out of the 17, only two were roosters (one of which was a "free" chick). So not bad odds, I guess. None of the chicks were "packing peanuts" btw. The only thing I would recommend is not getting Polish. The four we ordered were pecked mercilessly and needed to be rehired to someone else who has Mareks in their flock.

Good luck! It seems there are several very reputable large hatcheries out there.
 

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