Farm family gets cracking with Woodbury Hatchery, shipping thousands of chickens weekly

Crops still come first, but Woodbury Hatchery at Wyndmere, North Dakota, has grown and now has customers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, mostly supplying backyard flocks.

Father and son holding chickens
Herbert Woodbury, 4, and his dad, Todd Woodbury, spent some time holding a couple of the chickens in their breeding barn after egg collecting on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

WYNDMERE, N.D. — Todd Woodbury opens the doors of the incubators in a shop on the family farm, showing tray after tray of the fruits of the family’s labors — eggs that in a few weeks time will be chicks ready to ship off to customers.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Woodbury family used the heightened interest in backyard poultry to capitalize on the trend, starting Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere in southeast North Dakota.

He said it started as a project for the Woodbury family’s four children, hatching about 300 eggs per week.

That has quickly scaled up, and as the 2023 hatching season begins, the farm will hatch 3,000 to 8,000 chicks per week.

Henry Woodbury watches as his younger brother Herbert checks the development of chicks still inside their eggs at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota on Feb. 20, 2023.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

The hatchery mostly supplies backyard flocks, with a typical order being about 75-100 chicks.


“Our hatchery focuses mainly on practical breeds, that would be good for meat, for butchering, or good egg producers. We go from them, that are top-of-the-line egg producers or meat producers, to novelty chickens that would be good for a kid to show at a fair,” Woodbury said. “And then we have birds that lay different color eggs, from white, brown, dark brown, blue-green, there’s a lot of hobby producers that are interested or like that.

Having chickens that produce colorful eggs is popular with hobby farmers, Todd Woodbury of Woodbury Hatchery says.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Crops still come first for the farm, but the chicken hatchery has grown mostly through word-of-mouth and now has customers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

They do supply some larger scale farms that might order 4,000 birds.

“We have a few customers that are beyond backyard flocks, you know, that are doing it for a business,” Woodbury said.

There’s a 20-chick minimum for shipping but customers can also pick up orders at the farm, so an order could be as small as a single chick.

“This spring, there’s increased interest due to egg supply, or lack of egg supply, and prices being higher than what people are used to,” Woodbury said. “So there’s increased interest in layer-type chickens this year.”

Woodbury chicks.jpg
Hybrid chicks that can be used for laying or as a meat bird huddle in a box at Woodbury Hatchery on Monday, Feb. 27, some of the first birds of the 2023 hatching season at the Wyndmere, North Dakota, farm.
Courtesy of Woodbury Hatchery

It’s three weeks from when eggs go into one of their incubators until they hatch. The incubators control the temperature and humidity and even occasionally tilt the eggs back from one angle to the other, simulating how a hen would move the eggs in a nest.

Todd Woodbury slides a tray of eggs out of one of the large incubators at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota, on Feb. 20, 2023. The farm can hatch 3,000 to 8,000 eggs per week.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

The first hatch of the year is in late February. They will hatch every Monday until early July and then hatch every other week until September.


They have about 1,000 chickens in their breeding barn and the family collects eggs three times per day.

The Woodbury family runs Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota. From left at the back are Jack, Rebecca and Todd; in front are Julia, Herbert and Henry. In the background is an incubator that periodically tilts the eggs in a different direction, simulating how a hen would move her eggs.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

The whole family participates in collecting eggs and other chores. Todd Woodbury and his wife, Rebecca, have four children — Jack, 17, Julia, 12, Henry, 11, and Herbert, 4.

There are other chores, feeding, watering, monitoring the health of the flock. The busiest days are the hatch days, which Julia says are her favorite.

“Chicks are the most exciting,” she said.

Girl collecting eggs
Julia Woodbury, 12, collects eggs with her younger brother Herbert on Feb. 20, 2023, at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota. At left is their mother, Rebecca.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

After the chicks hatch they are sexed. Todd Woodbury said with most of their varieties, the gender can be determined by looking at the wings, but it’s still a time-consuming process when time is of the essence.

Orders need to be boxed up by 5 p.m. on hatch day when the delivery service truck comes to pick them up.

Jack Woodbury had the the job of scouting for eggs that may have been layed on the floor rather than in the egg collecting trays at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota on Feb. 20, 2023.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

In the off-season, when they aren’t hatching chicks, they will sell eggs and some eggs that are too small or are double-yolkers won’t go into the incubators.

Woodbury’s advice for those interested in chickens is “don’t start too big and have plenty of room for the birds.”


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This is a color yield rooster at Woodbury Hatchery near Wyndmere, North Dakota, used to breed chicks that are used as meat birds.
Courtesy of Woodbury Hatchery

“In any livestock or agricultural thing, you get out what you put into something,” Woodbury continued. “If their nutritional requirements are not met, if you’re trying to skimp on their feed, they don’t have clean water or they don’t have good shelter, you’re not going to get good results.”

He said using cheaper feed, such as screenings, will become evident.

“Start with good housing and good feed and things will go well.”

Reach Agweek reporter Jeff Beach at or call 701-451-5651.
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