WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GET CHICKS? SPRING OR FALL?
Are you thinking of raising chickens and wondering when is the best time to buy chicks and get started? Although the most popular time is in the spring, you can buy and raise chicks at any time during the year. Keep reading to learn some of the pros and cons for buying chickens in the spring or fall.
Pros and Cons of Getting Chicks in the Spring
Pros of Spring:
1. One of the biggest issues when raising chicks is keeping them warm. Chicks will die if they get too cold. For the first 6 weeks or so, they must be kept at a temperature of about 90 degrees. You then drop the temperature down weekly until you reach about 60 degrees. Only when they are fully feathered out at about 8 to 12 weeks can chickens regulate their temperature without supplemental heat. Thus, one of the pros of getting chicks in the spring months is that it has warmed up and therefore it is a bit easier to keep them warm.
2. Chicks are easier to find for sale and there are more available breeds to choose from in the spring. While mail-order hatcheries generally have chicks all year long, if you want to buy in person, local farm stores and breeders often only have chicks in the spring.
3. By the time the chicks are ready to live outside at around 10-12 weeks, it should be warm enough to put them into a coop outside, but not too hot that you have to worry about the chicks could overheating or dehydrating.
Cons of Spring:
1. Being the busiest time of the year, it may be difficult to find all the equipment you need such as coops, brooders, etc. You need to make sure to plan ahead and order before the spring rush.
2. If you get chicks too late in the spring or early summer the chicks will start laying at about 20 weeks which is the time of year when the days get shorter and chickens molt. This could impact the new chickens' egg production.
Pros and Cons of Getting Chicks in the Fall
Pros of Fall:
1. In the early Fall, you don't have to worry as much about chicks dying during
shipping since it is not as cold as if they are shipped in winter or early spring.
2. Spring is a very busy time of year for homesteaders and gardeners so it is nice to not add an additional chore during springtime. Fall is when things are quieter so you will have more time to devote to taking care of chicks.
3. The chickens will start laying in February or so after the days become longer and they will not be as affected by the shorter days.
4. It is extra exciting when the chicks start laying because you are coming off of the quiet time when your other chickens are not laying and thus you will have a bumper crop of eggs.
Cons of Fall:
1. Since it is not prime chick time, you may have less choice of breeds or some breeds may be sold out.
2. Being the end of chick season means that equipment and coops could be sold out.
3. It may take a bit more care to make sure the chicks stay warm until they have their adult feathers. Fall is the most common time for power outages (at least here in New Jersey) which can kill the chicks if they don't have the required supplemental heat.
4. When the chicks are feathered out and ready to be put outside, it could be very cold or snowy so you need to be more careful snd be sure they can handle the temperatures and conditions.
What Do We Do?
In the past, we have ordered and raised chicks and ducks at various times of the year. As a gardener, I love the excitement of spring and adding chicks goes along with that "can't wait to get outside and start anew feeling". However, I do think I prefer ordering chicks in the Fall. Our most recent batch of chicks we received in late September via mail and we had great success. Our chores slow down a lot in the Fall so I found more pleasure in taking care of and watching the chicks because I had time to do so. We also tend to vacation less in the Fall which means we were home to take care of them. I also liked the fact it was not very hot, as might be the case in late spring, so I did not have to worry about the chicks overheating. In addition, the new chicks started laying around late December and thus we had a very short window of not getting eggs from our ch.
However, honestly, I do not think there is a better time. Do what feels right for you and your schedule and when you think you can take the best care of your chicks. Anytime of the year can work and the idea that spring is the only time to get chicks is absolutely not true.