Are you wondering when is the best time of year to raise chicks?
Some people think the season makes a huge difference whereas many others are unconvinced and hatch whenever they have the need or ability.
To better help you with your hatching ideas and plans, in this article we are going to explore when is the best time to raise chicks.
We will explain the pros and cons of raising chicks in either spring, summer, fall and winter.
Once you understand the advantages of each season you can pick the best season for your particular circumstances…
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Which Is The Best Season To Raise Chicks?
Most people agree that if you are hatching and raising your own chicks then spring is the best season.
Everything is much easier in the springtime.
The weather is better, there is naturally more food around and it is the time of year chosen by nature to start the regeneration of life process.
Springtime is the beginning of the natural rhythm of life.
It is the time of the year that all things are starting to grow, whether it is chickens, trees or mammals. Depending on where you live you may disagree with springtime hatching and know that summer is best for your circumstances.
Of course much will depend upon the weather.
Those who live in the cooler more temperate areas of the world are governed by the seasons.
Whereas those who live in warmer areas can expand the hatching season. However they will still be bound by natural events (such a molting).
Below we will look at each season and discuss the pros and cons of raising chicks during that particular season.
Most people agree that early spring (March/April) is the best time to raise chicks.
However this can be subject to the weather.
If you live further north it might be best to wait until the beginning of May.
So why is spring a good time to raise chicks?
In northern climates the weather is now becoming warmer and this will make it easier to transition the chicks to go outside.
Also during spring fertility is high in the flock.
Your hens have been resting and repairing their bodies over the winter months to prepare for the year ahead. Roosters are the most fertile in spring and are just ecstatic about breeding with the ladies. So if you are planning to breed your own chicks then spring is definitely the time for it.
Also, if you are ordering chicks from a hatchery, then the greatest selection will be in the spring catalogs.
Finally, because the weather is not too hot, lots of bugs such as coccidiosis are still relatively dormant. This gives your chicks a chance to thrive early on.
The biggest downside of raising chicks during spring is trying to buy them!
If you are ordering from hatcheries then early spring can be disastrous because they are often sold out.
I can vividly remember one particular year I had ordered chicks for the early spring. Unfortunately they got held up in a snowstorm and all but one was dead on arrival.
One of the biggest advantages of raising chicks during the summer is the weather.
Fertility within the flock will be high and your rooster is more than happy to oblige the ladies with his attentions.
This means less work for you although the chicks will not be quite as friendly as hand raised chicks.
The weather should remain co-operative, however it can get too hot for chicks at times.
They will need to be monitored in their early weeks for any signs of heat stress or dehydration. Your chicks should not be allowed out in extreme heat, you should take your cue from the adult birds. If your chicks get too hot you may find yourself with chicks experiencing sudden death.
Also during this time flies, mosquitoes and bacteria are very active.
Flies love brooders because of the moist, warm and poopy environment. You will need to keep the brooder as clean as possible to prevent any diseases from spreading.
You will also need to consider who is going to raise your chicks if you are planning a summer vacation. They will need your oversight for around three months or so before they can safely be left.
Fall can be a good time to raise chicks providing it is early fall.
You need to plan to have your chicks grown by the time the snow starts flying!
If you raise chicks in the fall then they will be ready to start laying eggs for you as springtime appears. There is also some anecdotal evidence that chicks raised in the early fall will lay larger eggs than chicks raised in the spring.
Fall is also a good time to raise your meat birds. The weather is stable and the temperatures are more tolerable for these breeds.
Late fall hatchings should be avoided unless you have an indoor area that is dedicated to hatching and rearing.
However there are a few disadvantages to raising chicks during the fall.
If you are planning to breed your own flock then remember that during fall your rooster’s fertility is dropping.
The hens will soon be molting and shutting down egg production for the year.
Also because the earth has warmed significantly, bugs such as coccidiosis are a real danger to your chicks. These bugs will not die until the temperatures drop dramatically during the winter.
Hatchery stock is now likely to be quite depleted too. If you want the more common breeds such as Rhode Island Reds you should be ok but rarer breeds will be sold out now.
As much as I love the winter I cannot really think of any positive things about hatching chicks during the winter months.
Some folks raise chicks in the winter specifically for shows and exhibitions. These folks usually have a well-planned and organized area where they can raise these chicks.
However I would generally not recommend this.
Sometimes a hen will produce a surprise clutch of chicks. If this happens then both the mother and chicks will need to be carefully monitored.
If you live in the northern states then your biggest disadvantage is the weather.
Your chicks will not be able to survive outside so they will need a dedicated area that is heat constant, draft free and predator safe. Just remember that power outages are a distinct possibility in many areas, so you would need to have a backup generator or power source.
Unfortunately only a few folks have the resources to have such an area.
When Should You Incubate The Eggs?
If you are planning on hatching for a certain time period then you need to do the math. If you are incubating your own then you know that it will be three weeks until the eggs hatch. There will be a further period of eight weeks or so before they are off the light. After this, you can plan for integration into the flock.
In essence, you need to be gathering eggs for hatching eleven to twelve weeks before you want the chicks.
If you are buying from a hatchery then the time count is slightly less. However you will of course have the eight weeks of brooding before they can start to integrate.
Why is this important?
Timing when your chicks mature is very important.
Many folks make the mistake of thinking that the heat in the brooder should be enough for chicks. If the room in which the brooder is set up is frigid cold then it is going to affect how quickly they grow and develop.
Keeping them inside your house is an option and many people do this, but if you have family members that suffer from asthma then it can be very unhealthy as chicks kick up a lot of dust and debris.
Just work backwards from when you want your chicks to reach maturity and factor in either 8 or 11 weeks.
How To Pick Good Hatching Eggs
Regardless of which season you choose to hatch your chicks, you should only choose the eggs that are best suited for hatching.
If you are hatching from your own flock this should be fairly straightforward.
However if you are hatching from another source then it can be difficult to know what you are getting.
Try to go and see the flock where you are getting your eggs from – this can often give you some idea of the quality of the eggs you get.
The eggs you are going to hatch should have a definite pointed end.
Rounder eggs should be discarded. So too should soft shelled eggs, wrinkled, dirty, cracked or otherwise marred eggs. Remember that the eggs should not be cleaned because they need to retain their bloom. The bloom is a protective coating applied to the egg to prevent harmful bacteria from entering.
If you are storing the eggs before incubation then you should keep them in the refrigerator or somewhere else cool but not cold. Make sure the eggs are pointed end downwards.
They will keep perfectly well but the chances of a successful hatch drop the longer you keep them.
Do not store the eggs longer than 10 days prior to incubation.
FAQs About Raising Chicks
My hen is broody during winter, what should I do?
Winter is not a good time to raise chicks.
If your broody hen decides to stop sitting or abandons her chicks, you will have to incubate or raise them in the house or other consistently warm area without drafts.
Ideally you should try to stop and deter her.
Will baby chicks be ok in the snow?
Chicks cannot regulate their own temperatures until around 8-12 weeks old, so they should be kept out of the snow.
When can chicks go outside?
Once the ambient air temperature has reached 60°F your chicks can go outside.
If the night time temperatures still dip into the 50s (or lower) you will need to provide them with a heater. Read the complete buyer’s guide to chicken coop heaters for more.
I want to raise my chicks for a spring show, when should I hatch them?
You should hatch your chicks at least six months in advance of the show. Exhibiting young chicks at a show is not recommended because a great deal of preparation will need to go into maintaining them during the exhibition.
Which Season Should You Raise Chicks (Summary)
The final decision if yours and you can choose to hatch whenever you please.
However there are some seasons that are definitely better suited than others.
Your answer will mainly depend on where you live.
Hatching in the southern states of the US in the winter is going to be much easier than hatching in Manitoba, Canada.
You know your local climate conditions well enough and can choose to hatch earlier or later than recommended.
The bottom line is you should know your climate, have all the gear you need and do your best. We all love to spoil our chickens (especially chicks) but sometimes they surprise us in how resilient they can be.
Remember the more time you spend with them the friendlier they will be with you.
My absolute favorite is having a broody do the work for you. It takes the guesswork out of the whole process and she will happily carry on in her new role of Mother.