As a farmer, a wanna-be farmer, a homesteader, a lover of animals or a lover of eggs: now, mid winter, is the time many start thinking about purchasing baby chicks. Others won’t start thinking about it, until they bring home a box of them from their local feed store. Don’t get me started! That’s a whole other blog in itself. But what truly is “The Best Time To Get Baby Chicks?”
Timing is Everything
There is a good time to get baby chicks and there are definitely many bad times to get chicks. But there is some flexibility in the good time. Let me start by saying; there are more books, videos, farmers, neighbors and other chicken tenders (hehehe) then you would ever be able to gain knowledge or advice from. Every one a bit different, but most will guide in a similar direction.
We on the other hand, will tell you what we do and why. Which is pretty much, the exact opposite of what everyone else would tell you. Keep in mind, we did not get the Farmer of the Year Award last year and we have no published books. Our youtube channel? Well, we have one; we’ll leave it at that. And, we are first generation farmers. We surely don’t know everything there is to know about any given farm topic. But what I will tell you, is we have tried different timing; and for us, and we believe for anyone raising chickens in a northern climate, this timing works!
Purchase Chicks in the Fall
I know…I know…hear us out! The best time to get baby chicks for us, is in the fall. And yes, that is contrary to what most would tell you. As you begin to see hundreds of pictures on Instagram an other social media sites, sharing all of those little nuggets of fluff in the spring, the beautiful catalogs come in the mail, and the local farm supply stores start to fill up with delicate little “peep-peep-peep-peeps”, one would think that spring is the best time to get baby chicks. Heck!! Even people that don’t want to raise chickens are tempted at the sight of all that fluff and new life. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting baby chicks in the spring. But…we feel, you get more bang for your buck if you wait until fall.
When you get baby chicks of any sort, at any time and you live in the northern climates; you will need to supply a heat lamp for a few weeks. Yes, even in the summer. You don’t have to, you can wing it in the summer, and you might have healthy, happy, chicks or… you might have a lesson in livestock management. We all have them and they are generally not fun. But as day old, baby chicks arriving at your home, they are fragile. They need to have a space that they remain at 95 degrees. This is the first week. The next, down to 90 degrees. The next 85. The next 80. At this point, they should be feathered out and able to take on the world. Well…so to speak.
For us, it makes more sense to have a heat lamp to tend to in cooler months. We generally have less to do and babysitting the temperature of baby chicks just seems to be better suited for when we have more time.
Cost vs Gain
Baby chicks need a special diet. And by special diet, I mean you generally will be feeding them a commercial starter crumble. Medicated, Non-Medicated, Organic, Vegetarian (yes, really) the options are endless, but you will need to supply them with food. As far as baby chicks without a mother hen are concerned, you are their mother! You can not just set them free into the great outdoors and expect them to forage and survive. You will be feeding them for months. Even if you already have other laying hens, you can’t just put your new chicks in with them and expect the old hens to show the newbies how it works. Have you ever heard of a pecking order? It won’t go well. You will have to keep the new chicks separated from the older flock for months.
If you purchase in the fall, your new chicks will be eating less as they are small. The cost of feed will be less. By the time they start to mature, spring will be here and their food will be supplemented with bugs, grass, weeds and seeds. At least that’s what we would hope for any chicken. You will feed them in the season that they are eating less; and then, as they start to mature, eat more and lay eggs, you let them eat on pasture and only supplement them with grain if you care to. It is a financial strategy that works for us. And, if you get chicks in the fall…by spring, they are big enough to go out on pasture with your current flock and fit in nicely.
Everyone sells eggs! Okay, obviously not everyone. However, there is a growing number of homes with chickens in the back yard. And we encourage that! We wish every home could have 3 or 4 chickens. World hunger…I think not! But the reality is, in the winter, most people that have more than a dozen hens, probably are backed up with eggs from time to time, and trying to come up with creative ways to use them. With at times 100+ hens, I can tell you: egg sales in the winter do not even come close to paying for feed. So, if you get your baby chicks in the spring; by fall going into winter, they will start laying.
More eggs! We don’t need a backup of eggs. We want and want our customers to have fresh eggs. We don’t want waste. And we don’t want to waste the energy of a hen during this season.
But…if you get your baby chicks in the fall as we do; they will mature and start laying eggs, just as spring and summer roll around. When egg sales pick up and you have a way, a profitable way, to get rid of them. It just makes sense.
Any season. If, you are ready. After, you have thought about it. When, you are prepared. And, are ready for a commitment. When you are ready to care for life. This, is the best time to get baby chicks.
When you run into the hardware store and you notice a tub of baby chicks. If you don’t have time, spare time. The times you see people posting all of those pictures of the cutest little fuzzy chicks and you just have to have some! Or, when you are not set up, prepared, or know anything about chicks. Bad timing.
We are talking here specifically about laying hen chicks. Meat bird chicks or turkey chicks; obviously if you want pasture raised, need to be purchased in the spring. Different breeds, different birds, different purpose, different timing.
Think About It
Really. Just think about it. Especially and specifically, if baby chicks will be your first homestead animal. It is life. They are a commitment. They are a cost. And they are extra work. Beyond that…they are wonderful! So if spring is your right time, or fall is your right time: know that we are here to help, encourage and offer any support that we can. And maybe…just maybe…next year, we will get the farmer of the year award!