Meyer Hatchery Help Desk

Raising Chicks/Chickens During Autumn

Raising Chicks/Chickens during Autumn
Fall is in the air, from leaves turning, and all things pumpkin spice: this time of year always inspires change. You may have been thinking about getting chicks for a while now or have raised them in the past but always ordered during the spring but, maybe, starting chicks in the fall has crossed your mind? Maybe you also have some apprehensions which, let us say: that is completely understandable. We've written this article just for you to help in that deliberation.  There was too great amount of information to stay solely focused on chicks alone, so we gave some information on grown birds as well and threw in a comparison chart of raising chicks during Autumn and Spring (in case you would prefer a quick read). Still we invite you to read on as it may help you decide and you may find some new things that you didn't know before!

The great thing about raising chicks now in the fall, is that they will mature to size during the colder months, then begin laying eggs in the spring regularly once daylight time and temperatures increase. Raising chicks in the spring you would expect your birds to mature and start laying eggs toward the late summer - early fall. Once mature, hens take a natural break from laying eggs during the colder months when temperatures and day light time decreases. To stimulate egg production in hens, they need at least 14 hours of daylight.

While debated it is a debated subject, it is said that allowing hen's to take their natural break can also result a longer laying life for your hen. Whereas, if you create an environment for the hen to lay eggs throughout the winter, they will go through their lifetime egg reserve more quickly. Then again, it is also said that hens will simply decrease/stop laying due to old age.

Did you know?: When a female chick hatches she will have a fully formed ovary which holds thousands of ova (potential eggs), but most will never develop and be laid once she is mature, though she may lay 150-300 a year depending on what breed she is. Also, "The maximum number of eggs a hen can lay is determined when it hatches because no new ova form after the chick hatches." (Avian Reproduction System - Female

If you choose to start chicks in the fall you would still need to select a brooding area where you can control both the ambient temperature around the brooder as well as within the brooder, just as you would for chicks you would start in the spring. Once they are about 8 weeks of age you can introduce them to the coop, however, be sure that your coop is winter ready especially with younger birds. Once fully feathered chickens can handle temperatures of 55F, which if you are in a state known for cold winters 55F doesn't seem all that cold. You can simply add a heating element to the coop, such as a flat panel radiant heater (placed with your chicken's safety considered) then decrease the temperature gradually for about a week or so to transition the coop temperature to the natural temperature they would experience in the coop without it, then remove it. We have a great article about Chickens in the Winter linked below if you want to know more about your flock and winter as well.

Comparison Chart
Autumn Spring
Start laying in Mid-Spring. Start laying in Late-Summer/Early Fall.
In consideration of colder temperatures some additional heat may be needed temporarily for coop. Will transition to coop with out extra steps taken due to weather.
Can begin ranging in the Spring* Can begin ranging in Summer or begin in the Fall*
*Keep in mind that the breed type, nutrition, and environment can effect when chicks mature fully, which will also determine when your hens will lay eggs and reach their full growth.

In the end, chicks are truly resilient and you can easily raise them any time of the year. We do hatch all year round. While some breeds may not be available during the fall and winter, we make sure that our best production breeds and some rare breeds are still available to order. We also start getting ready for the new year in late summer! What that means for you, is that we'll be posting availability more frequently during October-Decemeber for this year, and then we are planning in mid-November to announce 2016's availability for customers to place their pre-orders both the beginning of the year and spring. Remember, if you would have questions, please feel free to ask and our knowledgeable staff would be more than happy to help.

Recommended Articles:

Brooding Chicks

Winter & Chickens Article (Coming Soon)

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