As spring weather begins to warm in March and April, a lot of people start thinking about ordering chicks. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea, and hatcheries rapidly sell out of many breeds during those months. If you place your order in March or April, you may end up waiting a month or more before the breed you want becomes available.
If you want to receive your chicks in March or April, you’ll have to think ahead. To jog your memory, many hatcheries, including Cackle Hatchery, will mail you a free catalog the first of the year. If you want to be sure your chicks arrive in March or April, place your order in January or February and request your desired ship date.
Aside from the psychological effects on us humans of warming weather, budding plants and blooming flowers, March and April are ideal chick-raising months for many reasons:
- Some breeds lay only in spring, so that’s when chicks are available.
- Breeder flocks produce the healthiest chicks in spring.
- Chicks thrive best in spring’s warming weather.
- Hens lay best when they reach maturity during decreasing day length.
- Bantam breeds will feather out in time for fall exhibition.
During March and April, the weather is still cool enough to discourage coccidiosis and other chickhood diseases. The gradually warming weather allows brooder heat to be more rapidly reduced, which helps chicks feather out faster, so they’ll have a full coat of plumage by the time winter brings cold weather. Furthermore, pullets hatched in spring usually begin laying in the fall and continue to lay throughout their first winter.
Starting Cornish-cross broilers in spring avoids the stressful heat of summer, since these fast-growing chickens don’t do well in hot weather. They take only 6 to 8 weeks to reach harvest weight, so by starting them in March or April you can have them in the freezer before hot weather hits. An alternative is to start your broilers in late summer and grow them out during cooler fall weather. Raising one batch in spring and another in fall is a good way to spread out the workload of managing and harvesting broilers for the family freezer.
In any case, reserving your chicks ahead of time helps to ensure you will get the breeds you want, when you want them. “Chicks can’t be put on a shelf, waiting for someone to order them,” points out Jeff Smith of Cackle Hatchery, “which is why we ask customers to reserve them well in advance.” However, Jeff advises that if you aren’t set on getting your chicks in March or April, you can order many of the common breeds in February, July or August and have them shipped within 3 to 14 days.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens