A hatchery is a facility where eggs are incubated and hatched. Many hatcheries also care for the young animals in their first few days or weeks of life, until they are healthy and old enough to be shipped to another location. There are several different types of hatchery in use around the world, and hatcheries may be established for numerous purposes, ranging from conservation to a need to create a stable food supply. People who want to order fertile eggs or young animals from a hatchery can do so through catalogs and mail orders.
Some hatcheries handle fish such as salmon. They collect, monitor, and incubate the eggs, using the young fish to stock ponds, streams, and fish farming operations. The hatchery may be established for the purpose of increasing the population of an endangered species, or for supplying fish for sport, ornamentation, and food. Fish hatcheries tend to specialize in a particular species. The release of hatchery fish into the wild has been a controversial topic in some regions, with opponents arguing that the fish may cause problems in native fish populations, ranging from weakening genetic stock to spreading disease.
Other hatcheries deal with poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Poultry hatcheries often handle multiple species, using large incubators to incubate the eggs and protect the young in the early stages of their lives. Some hatcheries breed birds for private consumers, such as fancy breeds of chicken kept by hobbyists, while others supply poultry to the agriculture industry. Many large poultry farms have an attached hatchery which ensures that the supply of birds is consistent and steady.
Hatchery work can be grueling and very dirty. The facilities are usually supervised by biologists or veterinarians who are familiar with animal husbandry, and they require a lot work on the ground every day. Workers must ensure that the eggs are handled safely and properly, and that the young animals are provided with necessary nutrition, water, and clean facilities. A full time hatchery may constantly have eggs in incubators at different stages of development along with young animals which require monitoring, and this necessitates a large staff.
People can also establish a hatchery in their own homes or small farms, using small incubators in a scaled-down version of the commercial hatchery. Hatcheries are also sometimes used for educational purposes, as in classrooms where children learn about animal husbandry by hatching and raising chicks.