No trip through Missouri would be complete without a visit to Cackle Hatchery®. The facility is not merely a mail-order poultry hatchery. It also operates a year-around poultry-only products store and museum, and sponsors a popular annual chicken festival. The best time of year for you to visit depends on your purpose and on the time frame of your vacation.
If you want to watch baby chicks hatch, the best time to visit is on one of the hatch days. Then you can peek through a viewing window to see the hustle and bustle that goes with packing and shipping day-old chicks. Some 110,000 chick per week ship throughout the United States.
Hatch days are Mondays and Wednesdays from February through July, and Wednesdays in August and September. Cackle’s Chick Days Calendar shows specific hatch dates for the current year. It also indicates which types of the 202 varieties of poultry hatchlings you are likely to see on any particular day. They include not only chickens, but ducks, geese, turkeys, peafowl, and more.
If your goal is to take a few chicks home with you, the best day to visit is the day after hatch day. That would be Tuesdays and Thursdays from February through July. And Thursdays in August and September. On those days, you can find unexpected over-hatch (surplus) chicks for sale at the Cackle Hatchery Store.
For the best selection of chicks, plan on being there between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. You may not find a particular breed from your wish list. But you will still have plenty to choose from without having to preorder. As a bonus, unannounced sales are presented at the store on those days only.
Saturday is the store’s busiest day for visitors. By then the store offers a limited variety of chicks. But there’s still plenty to see and do. You can watch two different video tours. Maybe some eggs will be hatching in a display incubator. You can shop for any type of poultry equipment or supply you might need. You will also find unique gift items and a huge selection of poultry books and magazines. Or you might just wander around enjoying the museum quality displays of poultry related antiques and memorabilia.
Cackle’s chick order center is open throughout store hours. A viewing window lets you watch the friendly staff take orders on the hatchery’s 20 phone lines. Believe it or not, the phones light up continuously from the moment the store opens in the morning until it closes in the afternoon. Store hours are (Central Time) 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays, from January through October.
You’re in luck if your road trip is in early October. That’s when Cackle Hatchery’s annual chicken festival, takes place. Most of the hatchery facility — closed to the public during hatching months — is open for tours.
Activities feature educational seminars with guest speakers, a chicken magic show, duck race, poultry-theme face painting, poultry displays, a petting zoo, hay rides, and lots of drawings for prizes. Other fun games and contests include a poultry theme costume contest and an egg eating contest, both offering cash prizes.
Abundant parking is available for the free event, which spans Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The festival occurs rain or shine, and offers plenty of fun for old or young.
During the chicken festival, Clifton’s West Side Café features lunch specials to entice festival goers. The café is owned by the same folks who run Cackle Hatchery. It is right across the street from the hatchery and takes reservations for group tours throughout October. The restaurant’s famous Friday night speciality is pan fried chicken.
Cackle Hatchery is located in the heart of Missouri’s Ozarks, in downtown Lebanon. It’s right off I-44 and historic Route 66, just 15 minutes from Bennett Springs State Park and trout hatchery. Just 30 minutes away is Lake of the Ozarks. And 90 minutes away is Branson, Missouri, and Silver Dollar City Theme Park. Be sure to include a visit to Cackle Hatchery as part of your Missouri road trip itinerary.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow is the author of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.