You may have heard people say that they would never buy chicks in the fall because they don’t want chicks spending the entire winter in the house. But, fall chick brooding has some important advantages over spring.
If you purchase in the fall, your chicks will be the right age to begin laying in the spring. They will lay wonderfully once they begin since its typical for them to lay more eggs in the springtime as the days are growing longer. Even breeds such as silkies will be laying at their best and you will be getting plenty of eggs before those who purchase later in the spring.
Another important advantage is that if you start them early in the fall, their laying is delayed until your birds reach a larger size. They will lay generally larger eggs throughout their lives and they will lay with more consistency.
If you do decide to raise chicks in the fall remember to be prepared to provide adequate heat to help your young birds transition to cold outside weather. The goal for them is to be fully feathered and able to deal with temps down to 32 degrees at 5 weeks and down to zero degrees at eight weeks. Whether they can handle lower temps depends on how well they have feathered and how much they are used to being in cooler temperatures.
The garage is a great place to get them acclimated to lower temps. Start taking them down in temperature as soon as they appear able to handle it. Playtime outside can help with this. More chicks will generate more warmth as they huddle together. You might try increasing the number of chicks in your brooder. If you need more space, you could move them out to the coop with a heat lamp at night.
One way to think of it, is to image how the chick would be doing if it were being raised by a mother hen. At four weeks the chick would not be under its mama hardly at all. They would be out and about looking for tidbits of food.
Exposure to the cold encourages them to feather out faster. Broody hen chicks are much faster at feathering out than brooder raised chicks.
Staggering the ages in your flock by purchasing chicks at different times in the year, works well. It is not always a good idea to have all of your birds at the same age. If you buy some in the fall and more in the spring, you can escape the issue of them all molting at the same time or all going out of lay at the same time. You will have a steadier amount of eggs if you include different ages in your flock.
If you are interested in open class poultry showing, fall chicks will be more fully grown than springtime chicks. They will show better in competition . These shows are usually held in the late summer and fall, right when the fall chicks would be at the one year old mark. Silkies are a slow maturing breed, so buying in the fall would be a real advantage.
Chicks are truly resilient and you can easily raise them anytime of the year. At VJP Poultry we hatch out all year long. What is nice for you, as a customer, is that you have more availability in the fall months. There is more choice because there is less demand. You have a better chance of buying a splash or other fancy color when everyone else isn’t trying to buy one. You will probably get a better price for it too.
Baby chicks are tougher than than most people give them credit for. Our garage and chick room are not heated and the doors are opened and shut many times a day. They stay under heat lamps until around 2 weeks old. I use 130 watt red heat lamp bulbs. The red helps with them not pecking at each other and lets them have a sense of night time. The chicks stay in the brooder room until they are around six weeks old. Then they are moved to the garage. At seven to eight weeks old, they move out to a coop with a room just for them. If a chick is too cold, it will let you know by crying and huddling up together. If it’s too extreme for them, I just move them back to the garage.
Fall is a time of year that I raise and keep back some for myself. I know that by June these birds will be laying, productive members of my backyard silkie flock.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson