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Cackle Hatchery and How To Pick The Right Hatchery

Cackle Hatchery What You Should Know Before Buying Blog Cover

Several people have asked us how to find out which are the best hatcheries to get your chicks from.

Cackle Hatchery is one of the largest hatcheries in the US.

In this article, we have put together a guide on how you can assess the hatchery yourself.

You can then decide about your available hatcheries and what they offer.

Not all hatcheries are created equal.

You must do your homework and check the establishment and its reputation before you buy.

Firstly, what’s the difference between a breeder and a hatchery?

Cackle Hatchery and How To Pick The Right Hatchery infographics

Breeder Vs Hatchery

A breeder is:

  • Specializes in one or a few breeds.
  • Will likely exhibit their birds at fairs etc.
  • Small, self-contained enterprise – will occasionally make money!
  • Are knowledgeable about their birds and will happily share this knowledge.
  • Stock that you buy will be more expensive.
  • Usually breed to American Poultry Association or American Bantam Association standard.

A hatchery is:

  • A commercial endeavor – they exist to make money.
  • Generally does not specialize in any particular breed.
  • Birds cheaper and generally slightly less quality.
  • Does not exhibit birds.
  • Generally have more chicks available.
  • General knowledge about poultry – not necessarily breed specific.
  • Sells equipment, incubators, brooders etc.
  • May or may not breed to APA or ABA standard.

Hatchery birds in general are bred for productivity and there is nothing wrong with that.

It ensures a good supply of homestead quality birds for a small outlay.

When you think back to Grandmas’ chickens – she wasn’t looking to win any ribbons, just feed her family!

Before you go and get your chicks, make sure you know what you want from your birds.
Are they going to be for eggs and/or meat, do you want to ‘show’ your birds or are they going to be ‘productive pets’?

If you aren’t going to breed the hens as ‘show quality’ or you don’t want to do exhibitions, the slightly less ‘quality’ hen is probably ok for you.

So, let’s now take a look at how to assess hatcheries and decide which is for you.

Hatcheries also provide ease of use and customer service.

In other words, not every breed of chicken has a designated breeder nearby, and if the breed you want is available over 200 miles away, you could take a road trip.

On the other hand, if you are more interested in just getting started or enjoying the breed for yourself, you can look into hatcheries that ship directly to you.

Additionally, hatcheries will often offer vaccination options for your chicks before they are shipped to you.

Some breeders offer this as well, but you can almost always count on the option from well-established hatcheries.

Additionally, hatcheries may offer the option for sexing chicks.

That way you know what you will get rather than grabbing a couple straight run chickens from a breeder.

That’s not to say breeders can’t tell which is which, but it is more common for a breeder to sell as straight run when they have young chicks.

If you’re ok with waiting until the chicks are older, and cost a little more, then a breeder may be a good choice.

Check The Hatchery’s Background and History

Day Old Chicks Eating

You need to know how long the operation has been in business.

This might seem immaterial, but the older a business is the more likely they are to have lots of customers who keep returning year after year for new stock, which means they are well tested and probably very reliable.

You also need to know is it a ‘bricks and mortar’ business. Several companies on the internet are intermediaries – we’ll talk about them in a bit.

Usually, you can find a short bio of the company right on their front page. It usually says something like: “family-owned business, operating in Utah since 1930”.

This tells you it’s been around for a while, and a giant corporation does not own it – so far, so good.

If the website is messy and difficult to navigate, personally I won’t use it.

I want it to be ‘clean’ and easy to move around in; otherwise, it becomes an exercise in frustration – this is a personal thing, but bear it in mind.

Check Review Websites

Google is a wonderful instrument – make full use of it in checking reviews of hatcheries.
If I’m checking a hatchery I read the 5 star and 1 star reviews first, then I scan through the middle of the road reviews.

The things I look for are recurring themes – wrong chicks, ill or deformed chicks, order mix-ups etc.

If there is a complaint about communication from the hatchery I usually take it with a grain of salt.

Some folks cannot communicate well so it’s a personal thing. If there are several complaints about the same thing – red flag!

Compare the number of positive/neutral/negative complaints recorded – if a site has 500 positive and one negative review, then they are overwhelmingly positive.

You can also check whether the hatchery is a Better Business Bureau member.

If they are, they have to address any complaints appropriately.

Litigation and Health Concerns

These are a bit tricky to find.

The health concerns are the easiest to locate.

Using your nifty Google button, check out the particular hatchery you are looking at and see if they have hygiene issues.

For example – Mt Healthy Hatchery was linked to salmonella outbreaks in 2014 as was Privett Hatchery in 2013.

A simple search term such as ‘hatchery name’ and ‘salmonella’ will bring results that you can refine.

Stock, Availability and Quantity

Some hatcheries have more variety of hens, turkeys, guinea fowl, peacocks etc. than you can shake a stick at!

Other hatcheries are slightly smaller and concentrate on the less ‘exotic’ birds.
Always read the catalog carefully; there are several things you need to know:

  • When will the chicks be available?
  • Is there a minimum number to order?
  • Can you mix and match chicks?
  • Straight run or sexed?
  • Can you request vaccination?
  • Free shipping?

If you have questions before buying, call the company and talk with someone.

A few good, reputable hatcheries with excellent stock and many rare breeds are not that great at getting orders out on time.

Understandably, since the stock is not intensively raised, you can’t determine when a particular breed will start laying well.

If you want a particularly rare breed, you may have to wait for the chicks longer than anticipated.

I’m told the wait is worthwhile, though.

Shipping Your Chicks

Chicks in Delivery Box

A brief note on shipping – usually the hatcheries do their best to get your order to you as quickly as possible, alive and intact, it makes good business sense.

The US Postal Service is responsible for getting the package from A to B in the agreed time frame.

However, this does not always happen – it seems to depend on where your chicks/eggs are coming from.

I have received chicks from California to New York very quickly, in great shape and on time.

I have also received shipments of chicks and eggs from Kansas – two days late despite paying extra postage, two chicks dead, box crumpled at the corner.

The eggs were 75% non-salvageable.

It is not always the hatcheries fault that your chicks arrive dead/dying or perhaps don’t arrive at all, so keep that in mind before you yell down the phone at them.

When you pick up chicks/eggs at the Post Office, open the package in front of the Post Master (they are your witness).

If the chicks are dead/dying, take photos and start a claim form immediately. Call the hatchery when you get home.

Intermediaries/Drop Shippers

Drop shipping is a retail term used in the hatchery trade.

A hatchery may not keep all the breeds listed on their site but have contracts with other people/hatcheries who specialize in certain rarer fowl.

So if you want two dozen Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, the hatchery will pass the order to their ‘subcontractor’ who will fill your order.

Intermediaries are people who gather together several orders for a specific breed, order them from a hatchery and then split them up into the ‘buyers’ request’.

In this manner, you can buy as few as three chicks through the mail.

The cost is slightly higher, but reasonable for the convenience.

Cackle Hatchery – Summary

The main take away point from this should be that you need to do your homework! Try to plan in advance what chicks you want.

A great way to organize your thoughts is to get paper catalogs from various hatcheries.

This way you can easily compare prices and company policies.

It is not always good practice to go with the cheapest – remember you get what you pay for.

In my experience, most hatcheries charge roughly the same for chicks.

Prices can vary a lot if you want something unusual such as Black Swans.

We have armed you with information on selecting a hatchery for your chick orders.

I cannot emphasize enough that if you are in doubt – don’t.

If you are undecided, sometimes calling the hatchery and talking with a staff member can set your mind at rest – or decide for you.

If they can’t wait to get you off the phone, take your business elsewhere.

The hatcheries that I have used have been super helpful, offering suggestions as needed and keeping me updated on shipping dates etc.

We hope this has helped – happy chick shopping!

Let us know in the comments below, how you ‘inspect’ a hatchery…

Read Best Beginner Chicken Breeds

22 thoughts on “Cackle Hatchery and How To Pick The Right Hatchery

  1. Thanks SO MUCH!!! for your emails. I have been told a sprinkle of Oregano on chickens drinking water is a natural antibiotic – Our 11 girls are free to roam our 2 acres, and seem to be pretty happy.
    Again, thanks so much!

  2. We got silkies from Cackle Hatchery..via post office. All survived and wonderful chicks.
    We are on our 3rd generation silkies and love them.

  3. I love getting your blog and learning new things. I live on about 30 acres + and have 18 chickens, 4 are roos 3 of those are from new hatch this spring. I have a mix of Black Jersey, Light Brahma, and 1 Buff Orpington. The joy and entertainment they give as well as the eggs, well thats something you just cant buy. Chickens, ya just gotta love em

      1. Thank you for the Best of luck,as for anyone who has more roos than they need and your hens are getting a bare back, please look into a chicken saddle for them, they are life savers for the hens. As for the roos, when the hens scatter it’s nice to know there will be a roo there to protect them.

  4. We’ve ordered from Cackle twice and both times big success. No issues what so ever. They were a pleasure to work with, communicated via email, we ordered all hens both times which is what they are. ? percent happy with Cackle Hatchery.

  5. My 30 Black Sexlinks chicks were shipped on Monday April 15, 2019 from Cackle Hatchery…they arrived Thursday April 18, 2019…6 are dead right now…I ring their number 1-417-532-4581 at 9:32 AM Central time and the phone just rings and rings and rings and rings…no one answers…I am traumatized…I have ordered before from these people and the chicks ship to me on a Monday and I get them on a Wednesday at the Post Office…need I say anymore? They should consider overnight shipping

  6. So now it is Friday the 19th, 2019…overnight I have had 6 more chicks die…with the temp just right the right pine shaving flooring the right apple cider water vinegar mix for drinking and the egg yolk mix with food and right spacing for light and on and on about how I need to nurse the remainder of chicks back to health I have called this place and speak to a supervisor and am told the only way to send chicks out is through the USPS and it is their pblm if the chicks die before getting to their location…how do these people stay in business when sending out a live animal knowing it may or may not make it…who cares! Never again will I buy from Cackle Hatchery …it is simply about the money and bragging they have been doing this since 1933 or some year long ago. Oh, how would as a small time chicken owner like to call in a final DEAD COUNT 2 days after arrival! I am a small time chicken owner so I could care less what a large chicken house owner, with thousands of chicks has to say b/c they are only in it for the money and could care less about 1 chicken dying it is only if 1000’s die and it hits their pocketbook.

  7. I’ve bought from Meyer hatchery a few times. I once had a problem with the website and called them and they happily place the order over the phone. Usually everyone makes it fine. I did have a death one time though and called it in. The staff were very kind, apologized and asked a few questions such as did the chick arrive dead or did it die after arrival? How many of the air holes were open/pushed out etc… they refunded the cost of the chick quickly, no problem. They even asked if I wanted a new one sent with a couple of buddies with free shipping. Great customer service.

  8. I don’t know how you do it,but every article I read
    from you is full of fascinating information on one
    of my favorite topics,chickens! My neighbors have them,but I am the one who enjoys them the most.
    Truly a joy to watch.Someday,I hope to have some
    of my own in a year or two,when my husband and I move.I cannot wait.In the meantime,I will dream and
    enjoy my neighbors hens.They have even given me
    eggs(I also feed them).Thanks for reading.

  9. This morning I received a box of chicks from Cackle Hatchery, a variety of feather-footed and silkie bantams. My teenage daughter had carefully selected which breeds she wanted to start her own bantam flock. It was for her birthday.
    These 25 chicks were shipped March 18 and arrived this morning March 20. Post office called and I picked up within the hour. Immediately on approaching the box the postal worker and I both noticed the smell of decay, so much that the employee expclaimed about it and another nearby said that when the shipping truck came it smelled “like something dead” when they received that mornings’ delivery.
    Eleven chicks were alive and chirping. But on the other side of the container was a pile of dead chicks. The smell was so intense that I had to put down my windows all the way on the way home. We cared for the surviving chicks and then called the company. Note that even the living chicks had a smell of decay that was noticable even after putting them in their brooder.
    The representative said they may have died from a stressful trip, but when I said that they were rotting she asked me to take photos to document. A few of the chicks seemed fairly freshly dead, but then as I removed each one to check them I found chicks that were so decayed they stuck together with wetness. They had rotted together so much that lifting one lifted several. The smell at this point was terrible, and I have a strong stomach for such.
    I don’t understand how there could be so much decay after just two days.
    I was told to give an update on how many are still alive this Monday.
    We’ll see how they do as far as replacement. But how? HOW were they not just dead but rotten? I took lots of very depressing photos. While doing that, the smell attached dozens of green flies within minutes. I’ll post an update later.

    1. I still don’t know what went wrong to create the enormous loss of chicks in my first order, or why they were so decomposed. But, Cackle Hatchery made it right and replaced the entire order along with 8 extras. All 33 replacement babies arrived safe and happy. Of the original 25, I’m not sure how many were dead because there may have been extras, but among the 11 that survived shipping 10 are still doing very well. One died about a week in. So now we have 43 total birds instead of the 25 we had initially ordered. More than I expected to care for and of two different age groups… but I’m satisfied with the outcome. I would order from Cackle again.

  10. I was under the impression that my chicken since the availibility said a certain date then my chicks , guineas, etc would be ship on that available date. I just received you response saying that they must be shipped all together and some I was expecting this month and some in May won’t come until July. This is my first time ordering and I don’t want to wait on them. I worked two days trying to get some dates that would allow a group to come in April, May and knew there would be 3 in July. I don’t want to wait that long. How do I cancel order #100146321 that is supposed to be shipped on July 8? I must redo my order and my money needs to be returned, Hope Creasman
    338 Chapman Road
    Saluda, SC 19138
    803 724 0021

  11. Starting a flock doesn’t have to be expensive, Monaco says, adding that people can get started by buying some chicks from a feed store.

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