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Hatchery Chicks or Breeder Chicks for Your Backyard

3 February 2016
Six hens raised from hatchery stock.

Here are our six hens. All raised from hatchery stock.

Adding chicks to your backyard flock is no easy task. First you need to decide on the breeds you want. Then you need to decide whether to get hatchery chicks or breeder chicks for your backyard.

Seven years ago, I bought six hatchery chicks from a farm supply store. All looked healthy but all but one developed “egg-making” problems during the first five years of life. The Silver-laced Wyandotte (SLW) and the Golden-laced Wyandotte (GLW) both laid eggs with thin shells. They also had “personality problems” and were problem chicks. The Buff Orpington (BO) had a problem with eggs breaking inside her. The Rhode Island Red (RIR) just plain old laid down and died at 1 1/2 years. The Easter Egger (EE) had egg peritonitis.

The two I got as replacements came from a local farm and have been much healthier. no egg-laying problems at all. I’d like to get my three new pullets also farm raised or from a breeder but I’ll have to wait until they have the breeds I want. I am determined to not get hatchery chicks. I don’t need hens to lay huge eggs every day of the week. It means more to me that they are healthy and and live longer. Perhaps breeder chicks are best for your backyard flock.

Perusing “Backyard Chickens forum” I found this advice and I’d like to pass it on to you:

Answer from Speckled Hen (moderator):

“Take it from someone who has had 10 or 11 hatchery hens, plus one daughter of a hatchery hen, die of EYP and/or internal laying: Get better stock. None of my good quality breeder stock has died from this malfunction, not one, at least so far. That tells you something. And I mean quality stock, not just someone who bought hatchery stock and is propagating it and calling themselves a breeder.
Hatcheries do not breed for longevity. I mean, why would they? Add that to the fact that chicken hens are the only animal on the planet that suffer from spontaneous ovarian tumors just like human women and it’s a wonder any live past the age of two.

None of my BBS Ameraucanas have died from it. The oldest is going on 5 now. None of my Delawares have died from it. They are over 3 now. None of my breeder Orps have died from it, only one hatchery Buff Orp hen did. In fact, none of my breeder type Orps, both BBS and Buff, have had any egg issues whatsoever. These all came from really good breeders. It’s not the actual breed, but the quality of the stock, from my experience.

The further you get from the first generation hatchery stock, the better, IMO. Even mixed breed chickens may be better than “purebred” hatchery hens. I haven’t had any trouble out of my crosses except one, though I’m watching one right now who may have an issue.  No hen is immune, of course, but your chances are better away from the common hatchery stock.”

This make sense to me. I’m going to start looking for a breeder here on the Central Coast. Not just one who raises hatchery chicks and then sells them at a later age but one who actually hatches them. Know of one on the Central Coast? Let me know by leaving a comment. I will be grateful and so will others.

Hatchery hens on roost.

Six good breeds going to roost in the evening. These beautiful hens were raised from hatchery stock.








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5 Comments to “Hatchery Chicks or Breeder Chicks for Your Backyard”

  1. I don’t know but I’d love it if you would share your results if you find one. I’d love to buy from a local breeder. But they are either too far from me (I’m in the Bay Area), they don’t sex, they don’t vaccinate. All are deal breakers for me. I can’t have roosters and if I’m only going to raise 4 chickens, I’d be devastated if one or even two ended up being a rooster.

    Which is why I keep going back to hatchery birds. But everything you state in your blog is true.

  2. Hello- just starting out on our chicken raising journey. Our chicks are 4 and 5 days old. They are growing so fast! I’ve enjoyed your site and learned so much. Thank you for sharing. My husband has set up a web cam in our brooder:

    Happy Spring!

  3. Went to your blog and got “hooked” watching the chicks. They are still in their “darling stage” at a week but already are getting their feathers! They have such a nice, clean nest. Good for you and kudos to your husband for getting a cam on them.
    I only recognized a buff orpington. What are the other breeds? The black and white is beautiful! Thanks for alerting me to your webcam and best of luck to all of you!

  4. The black and white one is an Ancona. They are beautiful black and white speckled hens that lay white eggs. Good layers but a bit skittish.

    Thanks again for all of the information on your site. It’s been very helpful!

  5. I had to look up the “Ancona” to see what they looked like. Really beautiful with black feathers with white tips. Anacona were named from the town in Italy so named. Evidently, they are much like a leghorn in egg size and disposition. Laying early (17 weeks) and nearly every day thereafter. I’ve not seen them here on the west coast but I’d like to have one!
    Thanks for introducing them to me.

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