Poultry production: How to source day-old chicks

The success of a broiler production business depends on a reliable supply of day-old chicks.

Some farmers might struggle to find hatcheries willing to supply them, while others believe the chicks they receive are of inferior-quality. Sometimes farmers are also advised to consider using smaller hatcheries in order to obtain a better supply and price.

But guaranteeing a consistent supply is all about good business practice. Farmers have to be reliable, place orders in advance, have adequate facilities to receive chicks, and pay their accounts on time.

Furthermore, they have to remember that day-old chicks are perishable products. Producers of day-old chicks have to plan their supply chain meticulously and can only accommodate farmers who place orders well in advance. It is simply crucial for broiler farmers to establish a formal relationship with chick producers to ensure an uninterrupted supply.


If you can’t guarantee your need for continuous orders they won’t want you as a customer. Chick supply is a two-way relationship: The hatcheries carry the expense of preparing and delivering chicks; the farmer’s responsibility is to prepare housing.

Some farmers assume the hatchery is to blame for bad results, but sometimes hatcheries find that the housing a farmer’s prepared doesn’t have adequate heating for chicks, and could cause them to die soon after delivery.

Farmers have to be reliable, place orders in advance, have adequate facilities to receive chicks, and pay their accounts on time.


It’s often difficult for new farmers to access capital to set up a proper poultry production infrastructure, but without this it is difficult to run a viable business. Birds don’t perform well when management is poor. You have to manage the process properly, whether you have 100 or 10 000 chickens.

Farmers should not, however, be willing to pay for inferior quality. Don’t feel shy to ask the hatchery about the chicks you receive. You have to know which flock they come from, the age of the flock and whether the hatchery carried out vaccinations.

Some broiler farmers like to move from hatchery to hatchery with each new order. Often, this is because farmers believe they’re getting poor quality or the price is too high.

If you’ve discussed the problem with the hatchery but haven’t arrived at a resolution, by all means buy from another hatchery. But if supply is consistent, don’t move even if the chicks are a few cents cheaper elsewhere. You may save amounts worth but in the long run you’ll lose out because the hatchery will think you’re not a reliable customer.

Manage your income and expenses carefully and don’t allow outstanding bills to run into arrears, otherwise hatcheries will be reluctant to continue doing business with you. Draw up a budget to make sure you set enough money aside to meet production costs such as vaccines, electricity and feeds.


Hatcheries generally prefer to deliver chicks in large quantities, as smaller batches are difficult to manage. Smaller broiler producers could consider setting up a co-operative or partnership to allow them to buy more chicks on a single order.

Not only will this help farmers to get a better price, but it will also help negotiations should there be supply problems.


Millard advises farmers who don’t have reliable transport to collect their day-old chicks at a central collection point. If you opt for this, make sure you’re at the collection point when the chicks are delivered.

Alternatively, nominate a reliable farmer in the area to act as an intermediary between the farmers and the hatchery. If he’s paid a small commission, he could deal directly with the hatchery to ensure that farmers always get what they’ve ordered.

  • This article was first published in the book: Guide to poultry production, published by Landbouweekblad.

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