Hatchery operative monitoring eggs.

Hatchery operative

Hatchery operative

A hatchery operative helps run the hatchery and look after day-old chicks.
Also known as poultry hatchery operative, chicken hatchery operative, hatchery worker or hatchery assistant.

This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.

Hatchery operative monitoring eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, chicks are looked after and then transferred to specialist farms to be raised for meat or egg production. Chicks raised for meat production are called broilers. 

E​​ggs are sometimes incubated on one farm and sent as ‘hatch-ready’ eggs to a rearing shed on another unit. 

As a hatchery operative, you’ll help transfer the fertilised eggs to the incubation machines to be incubated at the right temperature in setter trays. The incubation process takes 21 days. During this time, you’ll move the eggs to hatcher trays, where they’ll hatch.  

After the chicks have hatched, you’ll help grade and sex them. You might also need to vaccinate chicks before they’re taken to other farms. The British poultry industry works to very high levels of animal welfare and production standards. 

As a hatchery operative, you’ll usually work as part of the hatchery team. You’ll be supervised by an experienced member of staff, such as the hatchery manager or supervisor. 

Depending on the size of the business, working hours can vary. You might need to work shifts or weekends.  

Full-time and part-time opportunities are available. 

You may need your own transport to get to work.  

As a hatchery operative, your responsibilities might include:  

  • Moving eggs from storage to incubation machines and then to hatching machines  
  • Grading the eggs for quality, especially at transfer from incubator to setter 
  • Helping with timing and temperature control 
  • Sorting chicks into grades or by sex, ready for farm delivery 
  • Following the hatchery’s biosecurity rules 
  • Meeting health and safety standards 
  • Making sure personal protective equipment is kept clean and in good condition 
  • Monitoring and reporting health and welfare problems to your supervisor 
  • Using machinery and equipment safely 
  • Meeting high environmental standards  

To work as a hatchery operative, you should:

  • Have excellent communication skills 
  • Enjoy working in a team or on your own 
  • Be highly motivated and keen to learn 
  • Have good attention to detail 
  • Be able to follow instructions 

To become a hatchery operative, you don't necessarily need a formal qualification. However, you will need to be trained to a minimum standard set by the British Poultry Training Initiative

Your employer will provide the training, which should cover biosecurity, health and safety, using personal protective equipment, animal welfare, and other areas of your role.  

You can also choose to study further for a better understanding of the agri-food industry.  

As a hatchery operative, you’ll need to be hardworking and keen to learn. For those who want to progress, the poultry industry has many jobs and opportunities for you to explore. 

You can also gain experience by volunteering on a farm or smallholding.  

If you live in a city or urban area, you could volunteer on a local city farm, community garden, or allotment. You can find some of these in your area on the Social Farms and Gardens website

Reading farming newspapers, magazines, and websites will also develop your knowledge and understanding.  

As a hatchery operative, you’ll have the following competencies in relation to running the hatchery and looking after day-old chicks: 

  • Provide high animal and personal hygiene standards to reduce disease and injury 
  • Follow farm procedures to meet high welfare standards and best environmental practice 
  • Grade eggs for quality throughout the incubation and setting process 
  • Sex chicks and prepare them for safe transport to farms 
  • Make sure animals are fed and watered to meet their physical needs 
  • Recognise the signs of poor health in chicks and be familiar with potential causes/ailments 
  • Improve the farm business by supporting successful chick production 
  • Meet relevant health and safety standards 
  • Practice high quality animal husbandry 
  • Manage internal housing environment to maximise successful hatching and early growth 

Salaries are in the region of £17,000 to £23,000, depending on experience and location, or £9.50 to £12 per hour for casual work. 

As a new starter in the poultry industry, there are other job roles you could choose, such as egg collector, catcher, or poultry farm assistant.  

With more experience and training, you could move on to a supervisor role in the hatchery. Or you could look at other roles in the industry, such as poultry technician or farm manager (poultry)

Courses which can help you on this career path include:

Level 1 Diploma Land-based Studies Agriculture  

Level 2 Diploma in Work-based Agriculture  


Apprenticeship Poultry Worker Level 2  

TIAH Essential Skills

Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.

Anyone considering working as a hatchery operative would find our Animal Health and WelfareBiosecurity, and Foundations in Farm Safety courses helpful.

You can find out more about the diverse range of roles in the poultry sector by listening to Ben Eagle's Meet the Farmers podcast, episode 150.

Return to our job profiles page for more exciting roles in farming and growing.