Hatching Plans on the Homestead

      8 Comments on Hatching Plans on the Homestead

Hatching Plans

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 published my article Hatching Plans for Baby Poultry: A Hatching How-to.

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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 Fall or 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!

Do you have a preferred time of year for hatching baby poultry?


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Lisa Lombardo

Freelance Writer at Tohoca, LLC
Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady.

In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.

The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.
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8 comments on “Hatching Plans on the Homestead

  1. Aryn @ The Frugal Virginia Farmhouse

    I stumbled across your blog at the EXACT right time for me! We keep a flock of chickens (22 as of today) and I’ve been questioning adding more to the flock. However, I’d really like to go the natural route as we have 2 roosters who seem like they’re doing a great job “doing their thing” and I’d love to rely on a broody hen to do what nature designed her to do and hatch out her own babies. We recently found one of our girls broody and sitting on a clutch of eggs and I wasn’t sure if letting her hatch them out now would even be safe for chicks as we don’t want to bring them into the house to care for them if we let one of our hens care for them to the point of hatch. After reading this post, I think we’ll hold off and let a broody hen do her thing later down the line closer to Spring.

  2. Becky

    Do you have any issues with your birds having weird toes when they hatch early in the year? I had about half of a Feb 2 hatch start out OK, but then their middle toes bent strangely. It was like the knuckle wasn’t straight to the ground, so every step they took that toe curled sideways instead of staying long and flat on the ground. They otherwise seemed fine and the ones that are hens I still have and they’re doing well. I chalked it up to a nutrient deficiency at the time, but now I’m wondering if it was a Vitamin D deficiency, due to short daylight.

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Becky,
      If the hens are eating a balanced chicken feed, they shouldn’t have a nutrient deficiency…unless the feed is old and the vitamin D has broken down. If there is, indeed, a vitamin D deficiency it can cause deformities in the legs and feet. Here is a link to some info that may help… http://www.poultrydvm.com/condition/vitamin-d-deficiency

      Other things that might have caused the deformed toes could be a genetic trait or improper turning of the eggs in an incubator. You should always turn the eggs at least 3 times a day, and always an odd number of times so that the same side of the egg is not facing up overnight. Improper turning can also cause leg and foot deformities.

      I have read about (but haven’t had luck trying this with my own chicks) some people using homemade splints to hold the toes in the proper position so that they grew out correctly.

      I hope this helps!

      1. Becky

        Fascinating! Thank you! All these chicks hatched out with straight toes, the curling happened at about 3-4 weeks of age, and not all at once. Kind of past the splinting size. My guess is the feed, as it happened with all the birds I grew last year – even ones I’d purchased as chicks.

        I’ve purchased a vitamin powder that you add to water (makes it like gatorade), I’m going to make sure that that’s available to my birds, along with plain water, when they’re growing.

  3. Emma @ Misfit Gardening

    I would love to hatch chicks myself but any males would be a problem with the city ordinances. So we picked up chicks to raise over winter for meat and to have the layers ready for spring. I found that butchering in summer was a problem with flies and the cold winter will see that those are not so much of an issue.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Emma,
      Yes, living in an area with ordinances that determine how many chickens and what gender certainly adds some complications to your poultry plans. I’m fortunate to be just outside of the village limits on a property zoned agricultural…so I haven’t had to deal with those restrictions.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with planning your flock according to the ordinances in your area!

  4. nancy

    I need to get some new pullets next year, for late spring/early summer. They can go outside sooner that way. Since I do a small flock (3 chicks) that works great for me. What varieties do you like for egg layers?

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Nancy,
      Some of the most productive and healthiest layers I’ve had were Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. Production Reds and some of the other hybrids are more productive, but I’ve had some issues with egg yolk peritonitis with them. Best wishes!


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