Buying and Saving with Friends — End-of-Day Hatchery Specials
How to Buy Leftover, Hatchery Chick Assortments
By Doug Ottinger – Buying leftover, bargain-chick assortments from your favorite chicken hatchery is one of the most fun-filled adventures that any poultry keeper or group of poultry-loving friends can have!
To make sure there are enough chicks to fill all the orders they receive, most poultry hatcheries must set more eggs in the incubators than they generally have on order. Some people want only a few of this breed or a few of that one. Some want 100 or more egg-laying pullets of a specific breed or sex-link cross. Some customers want only certain strains of meat birds. Occasionally there may be minimal orders for certain rarer breeds and there might be extras of these available.
As you might guess, it can sometimes be challenging for mail-order, retail hatcheries to accurately project just how many eggs of which breed they need to set each week. With thousands of hatchery chicks being hatched every week, there are always extra chicks that hatcheries need to sell.
Faced with this issue, just what do hatcheries do with all these leftover chicks? Welcome to the bargain assortment pages of your favorite chicken hatchery catalog or website! Most hatcheries offer various bargain assortments of their leftover chicks at the end of the hatch day and the packing of all the specific orders.
Depending on the chicken hatchery, there are different types of bargain specials available, with variances in pricing. Most of these specials offer some amazing deals on all sorts of hatchery chicks, including many different breeds.
There are pullet specials — lightweight pullets, heavy pullets, and mixed pullets. There are pullet and cockerel mixes for people who want both eggs and meat. There are bantam specials, Cochin specials, all male bargain mixes, Polish or Top Hat specials, waterfowl bargains, and lots more. Each hatchery offers different bargain mixes.
Some of my favorites, though, are the true, end-of-day, leftover bargain specials, that several hatcheries sell when all the other orders, including other bargain mixes like pullet and meat specials, have been completely filled. If you have never ordered one of these hatchery chick bargain assortments, you have missed out on one of the most fun-filled adventures available to a poultry owner!
If you are an incurable poultry buff, you may have a secret desire to own at least one bird of every chicken breed, or other available fowl, before you die. If this sounds like you, an end-of-day bargain mix of hatchery chicks is one way to start reaching this goal! Bargain mixes will give you lots of breeds and let you see which breeds are right for you.
These bargain mixes are also perfect for group purchases. I have purchased these bargains both individually and with other people. There are many ways to work out the financing of the project. Everyone can chip-in on the original purchase and lower cost. When the chicks come, you can either separate them on arrival day, each person taking home the ones they think are the cutest, or one person can be the designated brood keeper, and everyone can help buy feed and any other essentials. If you buy a bargain-mix as an individual, you may get certain breeds that you really don’t like. It seems when a group buys a hatchery bargain box, however, all the chicks find homes rather easily. Each person has different likes and inevitably different breeds will appeal to different people.
What are some things to think about if you buy one of these end-lot bargain mixes? First, remember that you may receive a wide variety of breeds, including notable variances in size and temperament. You may also receive different species that will eventually need different care requirements. For the first few weeks, however, most of the baby birds will grow and survive by implementing and practicing normal baby chick health basics.
Setting up a regular baby chick brooder should work for all species and breeds of poultry you might receive in your bargain box. Keep the starting temperature at about 95 degrees, adjusting it by gradually raising the lamp as the birds grow. Keep the brooder litter clean and dry.
Normal grower ration for chicks will generally suffice. Because of the possible variety of species and breeds, avoid using medicated feeds. Baby waterfowl can sometimes have adverse reactions to medications put in chicken and turkey grower rations. Give the babies plenty of room to get out from under the heat lamp if they get too hot.
Also, be aware that some breeds may be flighty and nervous, while others will remain docile by nature. Some breeds are more aggressive and weaker breeds can fall victim to these fowl. It is a good idea to have plans on how you will separate them if you face this problem. Even notoriously calm breeds, such as Orpingtons and Brahmas, will bully weaker or less-aggressive birds. This is just a part of the birds’ social behavior and the best we can hope to do, as human owners, is to keep more aggressive birds away from breeds that are prone to becoming victims.
Remember that you will receive both males and females in your mix. This is a great time to practice your sex-identification skills. Learning how to tell the sex of baby chicks is something almost any poultry owner can do. Sex identification can be different for different breeds and strains. Some breeds such as Dominiques and Barred Rocks can be sex-identified by the yellow or creamy patches on top of the head.
Sex-identification in some other breeds and crosses can be made by down color or the little chipmunk stripes on their backs. Wing sexing or feather sexing is also used for most major breeds of hatchery chicks today. Anyone can learn these basic identification techniques and it can be fun to see the accuracy of your sex and breed identification skills.
Where Can I Buy These Bargain Specials?
There are many reputable chicken hatcheries and most have their own bargain specials available. If you want some fun surprises from a true, end-of-hatch-day bargain assortment, here are four hatcheries I have found that offer great end-of-day assortments. If you already have a favorite hatchery you deal with and like, check out what they have available. If they don’t advertise end-of-day specials, you still might be pleasantly surprised what you can find with a simple phone call.
1) Cackle Hatchery’s Hatchery Surprise Mix
For one flat fee, shipping included, the hatchery guarantees at least 40 healthy, newly-hatched baby fowl. Most are chickens, but there can be ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, and according to some customers, even the occasional baby goose. I have purchased three of these boxes over the past several years. The mixes have included many different breeds of chickens, Rouen ducks, and various turkeys. One shipment included 11 guinea fowl. My most recent box contained 52 chickens, including Polish, Ameracaunas, Jersey Giants, and Royal Palm turkeys.
2) Murray McMurray Hatchery’s Special Assorted Bargain
This mix can contain any or all of the 60-some breeds that the hatchery sells and ships on a weekly basis. Buyers can order as few as 15 assorted chicks, or up to 100 or more. This bargain mix, as well as McMurray’s Purebred Assorted Bantams special, have been mixes that I have purchased and liked.
3) Meyer Hatchery’s Adopt Me Bargain
Here the buyer can order as many leftover chicks as they want and it is priced on a per-chick basis. There is no choice of breed or sex, but Meyer Hatchery guarantees live, healthy poultry. Friends and acquaintances that have purchased this mix from Meyer Hatchery have all been happy and have become repeat customers. Meyer Hatchery also offers simple, flat shipping fees, which makes calculating cost easy.
4) Schlecht Hatchery
This is a smaller, family-run hatchery in Miles, Iowa, that has 60 years of loyal customer following. Schlecht does not offer as wide a variety of breeds as some larger hatcheries, but they are known for healthy chicks and outstanding customer service. The hatchery sells its leftover, straight-run chicks in minimum quantities of 25 birds, for $1.50 per bird, plus shipping. If you are a person that wants basic, tried-and-true breeds for both eggs and meat, this is one hatchery special you may want to consider.