Even though it’s still cold in different areas of the country now is the time for planning and buying baby chicks for eggs and meat.
If you’re to the stage of building your flock, it means you already know what chickens you want to raise. Whether you want laying hens or meat chickens, if you don’t know where to get them, you will not have a successful backyard chicken farm.
Those new to raising chickens may not know where to buy a flock. The problem is, there’s very little condensed information about hatcheries and breeders.
In this article, we list our favorite hatcheries with a synopsis of each one and what they offer. We also include the difference between breeders and hatcheries and which one is best for your needs.
Buying Baby Chicks: Hatcheries vs. Breeders
Choosing a breeder or a hatchery depends on what you plan for your chickens. If you’re looking for egg layers or meat chickens, then a hatchery is your best choice for buying baby chicks. But if you plan to raise show chickens, like the Brahma and the Cochin, a breeder is the best way to go.
One misconception is that breeder chickens don’t lay as many eggs as those from a hatchery. On the opposite end of the spectrum, others say chickens from a breeder lay better: total BS on both accounts.
The bottom line is, a chicken has X number of eggs during their lifetime with their most prolific laying period from one to four years. Once they lay the predetermined number of eggs, they quit laying.
The number of eggs you get depends on the chicken breed and not who hatched the egg. Rhode Island Red and Leghorn hens lay 250-300 eggs each year while Delaware and Easter Eggers only lay 150-200 eggs each year.
You can find hatcheries in different states with most of them willing to ship their baby chicks to you. Most offer a variety of breeds including layers, meat chickens, bantams, and exotic birds. It’s not always possible and depending on what we’re looking for; we prefer using a hatchery close to us.
Commercial hatcheries have a continuous assembly line of hatching eggs with thousands of chicks born each week. Once you place your order, day old chicks get shipped to the post office closest to you and delivery within 72 hours.
Our favorite hatcheries:
- Cackle Hatchery
- Meyer Hatchery
- McMurray Hatchery
- Hoover’s Hatchery
Cackle Hatchery – Located in Lebanon, Missouri, Cackle Hatchery is a 3rd generation family owned hatchery offering over 193 varieties of poultry. Raising US Pullorum clean poultry since 1936, Cackle Hatchery ships to the 48 contiguous states plus Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.
Cackle Hatchery’s breeder farms and chick hatchery select and raise their breeding stock, producing their own eggs. With their selective breeding program, they have a focused genetic selection for producing productive and disease-resistant poultry available to the public.
Besides poultry, the hatchery sells supplies including:
- Nesting Supplies
- Feeders and Waterers
- Chicken Coops and Supplies
- Transporting Boxes and Cages
411 W Commercial Street
PO Box 529
Lebanon, MO 65536
Meyer Hatchery – Since 1985, Karen Meyer has offered quality poultry and now carries the title of an industry leader with over 160 poultry breeds. The Meyer poultry lineup includes chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, peafowl, guineas, and game birds and a full line of supplies and feed.
The hatchery operates year-round with weekly offerings covering dozens of baby chick breeds and started birds, 16 to 20 weeks, with a periodic availability throughout the year.
Meyer’s caters to all size poultry operations from small backyard flocks with a three-chick minimum order to bulk orders for commercial farming facilities.
Meyer Hatchery holds a membership with the National Poultry Improvement Plan or NPIP. They continue to maintain the NPIP status of Salmonella and Pullorum-Typhoid clean and H5/H7 Avian Influenza clean.
Polk, Ohio 44866
McMurray Hatchery – McMurray has a 100-year history of providing customers with high-quality poultry and poultry supplies. The hatchery supplies small farmers and rural egg producers a large selection of day-old baby chicks, pullets, turkeys, geese, ducks, partridges, guineas, and quail. You can order a free catalog or view their available poultry online.
Besides their high-quality poultry, they offer starter kits, processing kits, general poultry supplies, and feed.
191 Closz Drive
Webster City, Iowa
PO Box 458
Webster City, IA 50595
Hoover’s Hatchery – Providing quality poultry with excellent customer service since 1944, Hoover’s prides themselves on a long tradition of supplying the best poultry in the industry.
Located in Amish country near Oelwein and Hazelton, Iowa and the Mennonite communities of Edgewood, Iowa, Hoover’s keeps 15 breeding flocks for various laying chickens. Their broiler hatching eggs come from a reputable breeder in Hot Spring, Arkansas.
Their chicken lineup includes:
- White Egg Layers
- Brown Egg Layers
- Color Egg Layers
- Meat Birds
- Dual Purpose Birds
- Rare Breeds
205 Chickasaw Street
PO Box 200
Rudd, IA 50471
Some people swear by breeders for buying baby chicks other than show quality. They have the misconception that birds from a breeder lay more eggs, more often. I can guarantee that buying from breeders doesn’t mean more eggs.
When born, chickens have a certain number of egg cells for laying during their lifetime. The number of predetermined eggs depends on the breed. Certain breeds may lay several thousand during their lifetime, like a Leghorn or a Rhode Island Red while others, like the Easter Egger, only lays several hundred. Getting a bird from a breeder makes no difference in how many eggs you get.
If you plan to raise chickens for poultry shows, you need to find a breeder. Hatcheries are great for getting meat chickens, laying hens, and other types of poultry, but rarely can you find a show quality birds or baby chicks.
Breeders are sometimes difficult to find. The first place to check for breeders in your area is the poultry association in your state and local feed stores. Since not all states have a poultry association, we’ve you a list of breeders where you can order chickens.
- McMurray Hatchery
If you can’t find local breeders, you must look online.
Stromberg’s – Besides their quality show birds, Stromberg’s offers laying hens, meat chickens, poultry supplies, and a good selection of poultry related books, videos, and posters.
For show birds, Stromberg’s has a line of high-quality ornamental chickens, breeding them for appearance and conforming to American Poultry Association standards. These chickens have little if any economic value, but if you plan to show them, Stromberg’s is the place to get your chicks.
100 York Street
Pine River, Minnesota
PO Box 400
Pine River, MN 56474
PoultryShow.com – We believe this site is the best place to find show chicken breeders. They don’t sell chicks or eggs, but they run an all-inclusive site offering breeder information from around the US. Besides breeder listings, this huge information database includes poultry show information; swap meets, ABA sanctioned shows, guides to raising show chickens, and more.
We don’t have contact information for you because they have breeders listed in a database categorized by breed. You must visit their website and search for your breed of interest.
McMurray Hatchery – McMurray has a line of rare birds of show quality. See the information for McMurray Hatchery earlier in this article. Or visit their rare bird page by clicking on the link listed below. Be sure to check with them for availability and meeting show standards.
Summing it Up
When you don’t have many local options, or you can’t find the chicken breeds you want, online hatcheries and breeders come to the rescue. Most hatcheries have dozens of choices, and you can find almost anything you want. The important thing to remember is to choose your chickens according to what you want from them: eggs, meat, pets, or show.
If you know a breeder willing to ship, please share their information with us.