Tell me the truth about hatcheries, please


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 11, 2009
Jefferson City, MO
My husband and I just watched a fascinating documentary on PBS the other night titled The Natural History of the Chicken. It was very interesting, in so many ways, and it truly went from the ridiculous to the sublime. They actually have it on YouTube if you're interested.

There were parts, however, that were incredibly difficult for me to watch. Specifically, the factories that crank out hundreds of thousands of eggs, for instance, where the hens are crammed 6 to a cage, never see the light of day and are completely exploited for our country's demand for eggs (I have some opinions about this, can you tell?)
The other part that really upset me was the section on hatcheries. They showed the incubators and then a guy pulling out a tray of half hatched eggs. They then showed conveyer belt upon conveyer belt, loaded with hour old chicks, being tossed and tumbled as they were being "processed" and made ready for shipment. I truly became sick to my stomach and thought to myself, if this is really how it goes down at the hatcheries, I don't think I can ever order them anymore. It will only be broody hens for me. What do you know? Are the smaller hatcheries less "factory" in their approach or is it just the nature of the beast?
I want the truth, please.


10 Years
Feb 7, 2009
ft. worth
I agree about smaller hatcheries. The ones shown on tv are the big commercial breeders supplying eggs and meat birds. I think hatcheries like Ideal and McMurry handle their chicks with less automation. Even though it seems cruel the chicks seem to be ok. They are tougher than you would think.


10 Years
Mar 10, 2009
Quiet Corner, CT
I'll be interested if anyone has some knowledge on this too.

The books I've been reading most lately are by Michael Pollan, who travels around learning traditional methods/organic, etc. vs industrial farming:
"Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food"
They are well written and not written with fear, but just explores the facts.
There is a great movie coming out in certain parts of the country called:
Food Inc.
There are alot of great links in general on that site.


10 Years
Mar 2, 2009
North East
There was an episode of Dirtiest Jobs on sexing and shipping chicks. It's on youtube. It is at a smaller hatchery that ships chicks to people. If I remember correctly the scenes in the Natural History of the Chicken are chicks heading to big farms/meat etc. Someone correct me if I am wrong.


11 Years
Jun 7, 2008
Scappoose Oregon
The hatcheries selling a big vareity to individuals can't use heavy automation, they have to many types of chicks that need hand sorting. Even then it is not a "nice" experience for the chicks since the sorters are paid to get the job done not coddle chicks and they sure don't get paid to check each chick for problems.

All the commercial hatcheries use the giant brooders and the chicks hatch in the big white trays. If they hatch a day early then they sit in the tray waiting, if they hatch late, most of the time they have already been thrown in the dumpster.

My grandmother and several aunts worked at a major hatchery for a long time. They used to talk about garbage bins where the egg shells and unhatched eggs were dumped and there would almost always be a peeper in there somewhere, but they weren't allowed to fish them out. Sometimes they still did and tossed them into a bin where employees could buy them for pennies.

This was ten plus years ago and back then the extra roo chicks went into a grinder for hog feed.


11 Years
Aug 7, 2008
Sandusky County,Ohio
Money modivates people to do the most terrible thing so it shouldn't be a surprise to any of us that it happens.They don't know much about chickens or any farm animal.What's sad is kids (and some adults) nowadays think meat/veg. just comes from the store and don't have a clue or care about quality and the background behind it. My advise-spread the word! Educate every person you know!


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 18, 2009
Citrus Heights, CA
After watching the PBS special the other night - I was wondering about the exact same thing. I made my kids watch it too and they were appalled at the living conditions of the battery hens and the way that the hour old chicks are treated. They now understand my obsession about raising our own hens for eggs. Before then, they just thought I was crazy for wanting chickens - but now they understand my thought process on that one

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