Are Expensive Hatcheries the Cheapest?

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.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!
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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

7 thoughts on “Are Expensive Hatcheries the Cheapest?”

  1. We’re on the East Coast and the best we’ve found is McMurray Hatchery and Mt. Healthy Hatcheries. As you state above they aren’t the cheapest but the chicks have always been vigorous on delivery and I can count on one hand the number we have lost during brooding. We have tried cheaper places as well and have experienced the same things you mention – unhealthy and dead chicks on arrival and higher losses during brooding.

  2. You mentioned Phinney Hatchery as your back up. Do you have any contact information for this place. I find reference to them all over the net, but no website. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you

  3. I ordered from Murray McMurray many times and out of hundreds of chicks I received one that died a few days after arrival.

    I ordered this year from Mt. Healthy and received mostly dead chicks. They are sending a second order because of this. They arrived right in the middle of a heat wave in the Midwest.

    I am hoping this was the problem anyway. They said they were sending the second order so I assume it is on the way. I have no idea how it will turn out.

    I posted just to say after many orders at the Murray McMurray hatchery, I never had a problem with them.

  4. I received a mostly dead order from Mt. Healthy this year also. I also out of many years with Murray McMurray had one chick die several days after I received them. I assumed it was probably the tubes that allow them to eat drying out in the incubator that caused the death.

    I can’t be sure of this but it was one out of many years of ordering from them.

    Do yourself a favor and get them from Murray McMurray.

    In defense of Mt. Healthy, they also sent me a new order the following week so their customer service is top notch, but I did have that bad experience. Strange that it matches the person above.

  5. Can’t wait to try hatcheries you recommended Thanks
    I have 17 “PET”hens,DOB 05/01/09 7 Buff Orps, 5 RIR, 3 Bar Rox, 2 EE 1-Barred Roc Rooster, would like to add: Black Australops Welsummers, Cuckoo Marans, and Salmon Favorelles, Need 4H project birds also

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