Can You Raise Chicks in the Fall?

Chick season is prominent in the spring, but can you raise chicks in the fall? Yes. In many parts of the country, fall weather is mild and raising chicks is easy. But even in the North, raising chicks in the fall is possible and even preferable by many. If you'd like to start a flock or expand your existing flock, fall is a great time to take the plunge!

Plan Ahead

Temperatures are crucial, as in the spring, with raising chicks in the fall. If you live in an area where late fall temperatures plummet, it's a good idea to plan backward. Start with knowing your likely first frost date. This will vary by location and the chances of frost will increase as time passes. Once you know your first frost date, then lace that with some basic information about raising baby chicks. Baby chicks in the brooder start with a temperature of 90 degrees with the temperature being backed off by five degrees each week. At week four, the babies are at 70 degrees. By week six, the babies are fully feathered but still should not be outside full time, without supplemental heat, when the temperature dips below 55 degrees. With these facts in mind, you should get your baby chicks at least six weeks prior to your likely first frost date.

In my neck of the woods, my first frost date is around the 15th of October. That's when the percentage for frost is medium-high. I usually plan to get my fall chicks about eight weeks before that, maybe even a little earlier, so I can have some wiggle room. My local feed stores know this and start offering fall chicks at the end of July.

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Advantages for Raising Chicks in the Fall

On a personal note, my mother was a bit skeptical when I got fall chicks. She had grown up always getting chicks in the spring. After watching my experience, she said she'd never get chicks in the spring. She couldn't believe how much better it all came together with fall chicks.

Kids & Vacation — I list this advantage first because many of the other advantages are technical, but this one really impacts a family. When you get chicks in the spring, you've got to plan around spring break, end-of-school chaos and summer vacation.

Let's say you grab some chicks from the feed store at the beginning of March. Unless spring break is late, then you're not going to be able to take spring break because you've got chicks in a brooder or you'll have to find someone to watch your chicks while you're gone. That's hard because baby chicks need lots of supervision, not just a quick once-a-day look over. And, your kids won't want to leave their new cuties. You miss a week with baby chicks, you miss a lot.

The same is true for summer vacation. Get your chicks too late in the spring and all of a sudden you can't take a vacation when school lets out or through June. This is especially true if you're adding to your flock. Your newbies have to basically be full-grown before they can join your existing flock. This takes a while, and until then, you have to maintain two coops. That's a lot to put on a house sitter.

With fall chicks, all these worries go away. Your kids are either at the end of their summer break or back in school when you get your new birds. Vacation plans are far in the future and your schedule is clear to raise your new chickens.

Easy Coop Construction — If you start your chicks in the spring, then you're likely dealing with coop construction and set up in warm to hot or even scorching weather. Fall temperatures are mild and it's pleasant to go outside and work on your coop.

Warm Weather — Taking your babies home is easy. Once they're secure in their box, you can just walk outside into the warm weather and not worry about keeping those babies warm as you walk to the car or from the car into your home.

Getting your babies outside is easier in the fall too. Many times early fall is warm, so the babies can go outside quicker. In fact, many people brood their fall chicks in a protected space outside since Mother Nature's day and night temperatures can be exactly what is required. (If you decide to do this, make sure the babies do have supplemental heat because temperatures can swing. I provide my chicks with a heat plate that they can use if needed.)

On a personal note, I like to keep fall chicks inside for the first few weeks even though they could be in a brooder in my garage. This is because we can interact with the chicks more when they're inside and I find them to be more personable this way.

Increased & Consistent Egg Laying — Spring chicks reach their point of lay around five to six months of age. This is usually during the summer months but can be inconsistent and result in lots of small eggs as their bodies adjust to a laying cycle. They can have issues with laying in summer's heat, then, just as they are getting into the swing of things, fall and winter roll in with shorter daylight hours. Yes, spring chicks will lay through their first winter, but it won't be at peak production.

Contrast this with fall chicks. They will mature and gain size throughout the winter. They will reach their point of lay as the days are getting longer in spring. At this point, fall chicks are ready to go! Their eggs will be larger when they begin laying and they will be more consistent throughout the peak months of spring and summer.

Better Breed Selection — Whether you're picking New Hampshires, Brahmas or Leghorns, you're chance of getting what you want when you want it is low in the spring. That's because everyone else is shopping at the same time and ordering ahead. You've got a better shot at getting what you want, especially rare and popular breeds, by ordering in the fall.

Consider fall as open season for starting or adding to a flock. It's a great time to raise chicks!

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