For complete instructions on hatching eggs, see my post How to Hatch Chicken Eggs in an Incubator
Hatching in Spring vs Fall
Most people think of cute little chicks hatching in the spring, right around Easter time. It’s the natural time of year for baby animals to start their lives, including chicks. There are advantages to hatching your baby poultry in spring. They have the whole summer to grow, eat bugs and grass, and get big enough to survive cold weather. It’s a little easier on the feed bill to grow out your chicks during the summer. You also have the cool weather in fall to butcher the extra cockerels.
However, there are advantages to starting a new batch of chicks in the late summer and fall. The temperatures are often a bit warmer than early spring, which makes it easier to keep the little fluffballs warm in their brooder. Also, since it usually takes 5-6 months for pullets to start laying eggs, they will be in their prime laying condition the following spring. For those of us who sell more eggs in the summer, this is a very good thing!
So How Does This Work?
Whether you order day old chicks from a hatchery, or incubate your own at home, you can time things so that your chicks have reached laying age around the time that you are Culling Your Old Laying Hens.
I know that my egg sales will drop off considerably in October. Most of my hens are winding down in their production. Since I don't want to feed the whole flock through the winter, I will process all of my old stewing hens in late October or early November, around the same time as our turkeys. I'll have enough hens to keep our family in eggs for the winter, but any hen that isn't laying well will not be 'asked' to stick around.
The young chicks cost less to feed for the first few months. As they get older and need more food the weather should start warming up enough to let them out to pasture during the day. The new green grass will help make those pullet eggs higher in nutritional content and everyone will be 'eggstatic' about the fresh spring eggs!
A Note About Ordering from Hatcheries
If you choose to order chicks in the fall, you may find a drastic reduction in the number of breeds available. Many hatcheries don't hatch certain breeds after July, due to the lower number of orders in fall. However, your chicks are less likely to get chilled when ordered in late summer or early fall, compared to ordering in late winter or early spring.
There are advantages to hatching or ordering baby poultry in both spring and autumn. Ordering in the fall gives you a flock of laying hens just in time to supply summer egg customers! Choose the best time for your needs and provide a warm brooder and fresh feed for the little fluff balls.
Do you hatch chicks or other poultry in the fall?