Suppose you bought 100 pullets from the lowest-price hatchery you could find, and 100 pullets from an expensive hatchery. What do you think the results would be?
I don’t know if anyone has tried this recently, but I found this very experiment in an old British poultry magazine. The results went like this:
The box from the expensive hatchery had more chicks in it (something like 106), and they were all alive. The chicks were energetic and did very well during the brooder period. The order was for pullets, and what was delivered were pullets.
The box from the cheap hatchery had no extra chicks in it. Some of the chicks were dead. The chicks were did less well during the brooder period. Many of the pullets were really cockerels.
(I wish I hadn’t lost the reference to the article, because I’d like to quote it directly, but you get the idea.)
So what’s up with that? The explanation goes like this: Suppose you’re running a hatchery, but you’re not very good at it, and you get complaints about quality. You need more money to put the kids through college. You have two choices:
- Clean up your act and produce a product that can compete with the best.
- Lower your prices to attract cheapskates. Cheapskates ignore quality and buy solely on price.
On the other hand, suppose you run the best hatchery anywhere, but profits are disappointing and you need more money to put the kids through college. Your choices are:
- Find more sources of efficiency so you can make enough money to live on without raising prices.
- Raise prices.
The difference between the options at the two hatcheries will eventually mean that the crummy hatcheries are all cheap and the good ones are all expensive.
Take-way: never buy from the low-price leader. It’s not just that cheap chicks are more expensive in the long run, it’s that it’s so depressing to have them die on you. You should insure yourself against disappointment by buying quality chicks.
Actually, the best thing to do is to ask around and see where the most successful local poultry folks buy their baby chicks. If you’re raising show birds, ask the show-bird raisers, since the commercial guys won’t know, and vice versa.
I always buy from Privett Hatchery in Portales NM, since in my opinion they’re the best hatchery in the West. I’ve tried ’em all, and their commercial-quality layers are very good. I use Phinney Hatchery in Walla Walla as my backup hatchery. I’m less familiar with hatcheries in other parts of the country, but I know that there are good ones and bad ones. Probably most of the well-known ones are good ones: Murray McMurray Hatchery, Ideal Hatchery, Stromberg’s, Moyer’s, Belt.
I go into this topic (plus many more) in my book, Success With Baby Chicks. If you don’t have a copy, you should. I went through an enormous amount of source material and tried all sorts of different techniques before I wrote the book, all aimed at keeping your baby chicks happy and healthy, giving you that wonderful baby-chick experience that’s what attracts us to poultrykeeping in the first place. I can guarantee that it will be worth purchasing, even if you’re an experienced poultrykeeper. And that goes double for beginners, because there’s a lot to learn, if you don’t get good results with your first batch of chicks, the heartbreak of letting down the baby birds who are so dependent on you will likely leave you discouraged, and you might never try again.