Why hatch?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jun 8, 2010
Upstate SC
Hey all,
In a debate on the home front about a very broody hen, the question was raised - why hatch eggs versus getting mail order chicks? The assumption here is that we don't have fertilized eggs so we'd have to get some.

Thus the question really is: why hatch mail order eggs versus getting mail order chicks?

Anyone got a good list of pros and cons?

----- Ed


13 Years
Feb 12, 2009
Well hello Ed.
3. If you have a broody hen, that is better. There are 2 possibilitys for you, one you can buy some free ranged chicken eggs at the store. (I've heard you can hatch them, no I've never tried it) 2. Find a someone who has a rooster and buy some of their eggs. You will love watching your hen take care of them. I'm having a blast watching my girl.


8 Years
Aug 18, 2011
<~~ Have never hatched any, so "take it with a grain of salt" - but it seems like it would be a pretty cheap way to increase your flock with the breeds that you want. Hatching eggs from breeders (generally better quality birds than most hatcheries) are sometimes cheaper than chicks. And judging from many of the posts here, they often ship better - or at least, aren't quite as traumatic if some are lost during shipping.



11 Years
Jul 17, 2008
DC Region
Well. They're right. It's fun. It is interesting. It's challenging. Broodies don't happen always when you need them. And if you are intent on flock improvement. Or acquiring a rarer bird than locally available. Eggs are cheaper than chicks. Hatchery birds are...gasp...in most cases hatchery quality. If you want better quality birds, that come closer to the breed standard or show quality birds, you get those from bringing in show quality lines. And that can be a huge cash out lay unless you hatch. Wheaton Marans, a breed I love are ahem.. Not a cheap breed to buy mature show birds or breeder quality birds. Even good peeps can run you ten to fifteen a peep. Eggs are less certain but cheaper and more often available.

Here's your warning. Hatching is addictive. Really once hooked, there is no going back. I even got hooked on building my own incubators... On my tenth now.

There really isn't anything like taking a box, wiring, heat and moisture and a bunch of eggs and managing to grow life. It's an art. It has it's heartbreaks, being responsible for tiny lives. But the joys, the highs, the pride. You can't top that.

Today I can go to friends sites and houses and look at generations of birds that came directly from my hands. That's something too.

But remember this, if you chose this path. Ye were warned...:D


9 Years
Jun 4, 2010
My Coop
My Coop
Like everyone else said:
It's so much fun.
A great learning experience for everyone.
A great way to get rarer breeds and better quality birds.
Plus, it's very, very addictive


9 Years
Apr 2, 2010
Sullivan, IL
Well, as far as the hen is concerned there isn't really much of a difference. What it comes down to is what you want and what is available to you.

Most people don't recommend giving a first time broody hen more than 6-8 eggs/chicks to care for. Mail order eggs can give you a bit of an advantage here as there is no "minimum order" of eggs required to provide enough heat in the packing box for shipping and it's usually not that hard to find someone who will sell you only 6 eggs. Most hatcheries require a minimum order of chicks that is larger than what most people are comfortable letting a first time hen cover. Yes, there are hatcheries that will allow a minimum order of as few as 3 chicks...although even then that small a number is largely dependent on whether or not you live close to a large city (My Pet Chicken has a minimum order of 3 chicks, but unless you live next to a large city their minimum order is actually 8). And shipping so few chicks is significantly more expensive than shipping say 25 chicks.

On the other hand, getting shipped eggs to hatch can be quite the challenge. There are no guarantees with any eggs that they will hatch after the poor broody hen sits on them for 3 weeks straight. Even with the most careful packaging and best incubation techniques you can still get a zero hatch from shipped eggs. If one egg is broken when you get the box, then you know that the rest had some significant turbulence too and may be damaged even if they look good. Even if no eggs are broken, they still may have been shaken up so badly as to make your hatch rate very low. Then again, some people can get 100% hatches with shipped eggs. It's pretty much a matter of luck in how your eggs are handled in transit.

What kind of birds you want your broody to raise can also play a part. As others have mentioned, you can usually get better quality birds by buying hatching eggs than you can buying mail order chicks. If your main purpose in having chickens is eggs with the entertainment value on the side, then it may not matter and hatchery birds may fit the bill perfectly. Quality aside, availability also becomes a bit of an issue. If you wait for a hen to go broody before ordering chicks, there's a fair chance that the kind of chicks you want may not be available. Hatcheries fill their orders before they set their eggs, so you usually have to order chicks several weeks in advance before their ship dates. They usually set more eggs than they have orders for so that they can meet the demand of pullets or in case some of the eggs don't develop, so it may be possible to get live chicks ordered on short notice if you have a hen that decides to be broody, but your selection is going to be significantly decreased. If you don't much care what kind of chicks you add to your flock, this isn't really a problem. And has the added bonus that you could buy sexed pullets and not have to play the wait and see game of which chicks are male and which are female. But if you want a particular breed or color there's a strong chance you may be out of luck ordering chicks instead of hatching eggs.

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