The Great Hatchery/Breeder Divide


8 Years
Jul 11, 2011
Cottage Grove, Oregon
I am starting to be amused by the hatchery/breeder debates. I like the way the same issue can be phrased so differently depending on your "Side."

Someone will say to me..."Breeders worry more about x and not egg their chickens don't lay as well...." Another person will say to me..."Your hatchery bird will lay well for a couple of years and stop because they are breed for egg laying." So here are my questions. If you have hatchery layers. Do you notice that they stop laying after three years? Are Breeders layers laying less well, but plugging along for 10 years still laying?
It would be especially helpful if someone had the same breed from both hatchery and breeder...
Just curious,
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I'm working on such comparison, but am only on year 1.5 vs 2.5
Otherwise most of my birds at or beyond 3 years aren't the same breed as their hatchery or "breeder" counterpart.
I started with hatchery birds a little over three years ago. They were my first chickens and I liked that the hatchery allowed me the option to get a bunch of different breeds. They are all still laying, albeit a little less frequently than they did at first. They are all good birds and have been fine chickens.

My later rounds came from breeders because I wanted specific breeds of a high quality (ameraucanas and silkies). There is a HUGE difference in hatchery silkies and breeder silkies. Hatcheries for the most part don't even sell ameraucanas at all. They sell EEs. So it made sense to me to go to breeders for the AMs and the silkies. I have been very pleased with both. Since I bought the breeder birds more for color and confirmation, the egg debate wasn't even a factor. However, both the AMs and the silkies have been great layers (when I can keep them from being broody, that is).

I figure if you just want chickens and don't care about color or confirmation, then hatchery birds are no big deal. I have bought chicks at tractor supply and the local co-op and been delighted with all of them. If you want birds that meet a specific standard though your best bet is to go through a reputable breeder to be sure you are getting what you think you are.
Yeah on the subject of Ameraucanas, that's one thing I guess I can't and won't judge. I have all three, most of them at 2 years or older of age, however because Easter Eggers are not the same, I'm not to judge.

Also, most EE's actually aren't bred for production, and that definitely shows in one of my McMurray hens, so, again - Not a fair contest there.
It all depedsn on your purpose for having them. I believe that hatchery breeds can live as long a life and continue laying, but the same cannot be said for sex-link crosses or high production strains. I have an elderly hatcher (feed store purchase) buff orpington who still lays. I also have an even older bantam araucana froma breeder (when young, she was a show bird) who still lays occasionally.
May I suggest a major flaw in your question. Your question assumes that all hatchery chicks are the same. That is not the case. Different hatcheries have different policies and methods of operating. Some raise their own flocks for eggs, some contract out hatching eggs, and some just drop ship. All have different people determining which breeders produce the eggs that get hatched. These different people have different criteria for that selection and some are better at it than others.

In general, the hatcheries are mass producing eggs. They don't have the same goals as "breeders". They pen breed, which means that they have no control over which specific rooster breeds with which specific hen. You are not going to get the same quality of product that way as someone who carefully selects which rooster mates with which hen and carefully culls all but the very few very good specimens. Don't forget that even the very good breeders have a lot more rejects than grand champions.

Your question assumes all breeders are the same. Not even close to true. Different breeders have different goals. Not all breeders have the same knowledge, ability and dedication. Some are trying to win the grand prize at a chicken show. Some are trying to continue the breed. Some do both. There is a pretty big difference in these goals. To win a grand prize, appearance is all that counts. To continue a breed, personality and production traits come into play. You have breeders that are trying to create a new color of the breed. I met one that is developing a six toed strain of a breed just for fun. Then you have the other extreme, people that get hatchery birds, don't even know what the SOP for that breed is, and sell "purebreed" hatching eggs. To lump all breeders together is even more extreme that lumping all hatcheries together.

If you know what you want and you can find someone breeding to what you want, then you can get what you want if they know what they are doing. That may be a specific breeder or a specific hatchery.
JUlie, you are brave to outright jump into this contraversy IMO as I have seen it play out here on BYC. This is like talking politics.

In search of breeding stock ,my experience was that most breeders will not answer the specific questions that I have; so I assume sales and a great image are the most important and I pass. At the hatcheries, they don't say they have SQ stock, so I assume they have breeds that reasonably represent the SOP. IMO SQ stock is rare; only a rare few can qualify as SQ.

I have hatchery birds, because I didn't know private breeders existed; Each of my breeds IMO represent their breed SOP. To get info on who had what is almost futile, and dependent on comments from in the know people on BYC, which is still opinion based. I actually have had to depend on a private source l to tell me who the better breeders were to get stock from.

So to answer your actual question . . . . I don't have the 2 sources of the same breed to compare.

I go with what a well know breeder said to me: go for it, start breeding with what you have.

I honestly try to stay out of the debate; both can be good birds, and both can be less than stellar. Stereotyping is more argumentative than educational. HEnce this is the first time I have entered an opinion of my own. I'm sure I will be shot down for it. ( THat's ok.)

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