Chick season™ for most birds is in the spring. Poultry, like other birds, gear up for laying eggs and hatching them as the days start growing longer in spring. Also like other birds, most poultry are seasonal breeders.
The length of the breeding season depends largely on the type of poultry.
Chickens and other poultry that are selectively bred for egg production lay nearly year around, and therefore their chicks may be hatched year around, if not by hens, then in an incubator. Likewise, poultry housed in a controlled environment can be induced to lay nearly all year long, making their chicks available for most of the year.
However, most poultry, especially the more exotic types, are seasonal layers, and some have shorter breeding seasons than others. Since chick season™ for many breeds and species is in spring and early summer, that’s when the greatest selection is available, making it the best time to order chicks. Further, chicks hatched early in the year are strongest and healthiest, especially when hens enjoy some off time during winter to take a rest from laying.
“A key point with our operation is that we raise everything naturally,” says Jeff Smith of Cackle Hatchery. “We do not put any of our flocks on artificial light to keep the hens laying year around. Sometimes that works against us and upsets customers. For example, last year we had a cloudy, cold, rainy spring, and both our guineas and our heritage turkeys started laying four weeks later than usual.
“So we pay a price for being natural and going with mother nature. All winter and spring we book orders based on the previous year’s average numbers and dates. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, we may end up getting overbooked and overextended. Besides being a lot of work and trouble for us, rescheduling orders makes customers unhappy, especially those who order different breeds or species to be shipped at the same time.”
According to Cackle Hatchery’s poultry availability schedule, chick season™ starts earliest for chickens, bantams, and ducks. Chickens have the longest chick season™, primarily because many breeds have for centuries been selectively bred for egg production. In an average year, chick seasons for various poultry breeds and species are as follows:
- Chickens — February through October
- Bantams — February through August
- Ducks — February through July
- Turkeys — March through July
- Geese — March through June
- Quail (bobwhite) — May through August
- Pheasants (ringneck) — May through August
- Pheasants (ornamental) — May through July
- Chukars — May through July
- Quail (conturnix) — June through August
- Peafowl — June through August
- Guinea fowl — June through August
“The greatest demand for baby chicks is in the spring and summer, which is chick season™ at Cackle Hatchery,” says Jeff Smith. “With little demand for chicks from October through January, we can devote time to cleaning and disinfecting our hatchery and all our breeder farms, and doing any necessary repairs on our buildings, incubators, and hatchers. We also spend time training personnel, developing our catalog and website, and networking with others in the poultry industry. The off season also lets us focus on blood testing our breeder flocks and getting them ready for the start of a new chick season™ in the new year.”
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, Hatching and Brooding Your Own Chicks — Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Guinea Fowl