The only thing hatching on my homestead right now are plans for the future! However, I have had experience hatching baby poultry in the past, and I’m always happy to share that with other homesteaders. I’ve posted instructions here on my blog, and Homestead.org just published my new article Hatching Plans for Baby Poultry: A Hatching How-to.
This may seem like a bad time of year to hatch eggs, with cold weather setting in. There are certainly challenges to overcome when hatching and caring for baby poultry in the late fall and winter. So why warm up the incubator now?
Reasons to Consider Hatching in Winter:
- Pullets hatched now should lay eggs in spring
- Cockerels hatched now may be butchered before summer’s heat
- Point-of-lay pullets command the best price in spring
- Many homesteaders have more time to care for chicks in the off season
Drawbacks to Hatching in Winter:
- Heat lamps are necessary to keep chicks warm, but are hazardous
- Power outages and burned out bulbs may spell disaster for young poultry
- Feed costs are generally higher in winter
- Chicks may need to stay in the house for several weeks
Wouldn’t It Be Better to Wait for Spring?
It all depends on what your plans are for the young poultry, and what conditions you can provide for the little puffballs. If you sell more eggs in the spring and summer, the extra pullets hatched now will help fill that need. However, if more customers are looking for eggs in the late fall and winter, plan to hatch in the early spring.
For homesteaders with no electricity in their chicken coop or barn, hatching now is not a great idea. You would need to provide heat for approximately 4 to 6 weeks and keeping chicks in the house for that long can get pretty stinky. If you are planning a vacation or won’t be able to tend to the incubator or chicks for more than a few hours, this is not a good time to hatch.
If you wish to get the best egg production from the new poultry, I suggest hatching in late winter or early spring. They should begin laying eggs in late summer and continue throughout the following winter. Poultry hatched in late fall and early winter should start to produce in spring, but they are more likely to stop production over the following winter.
Only you can decide what the best time to hatch will be for your homestead. For now, I have no plans to hatch any fluff balls in the near future. Maybe next year!