Fall brooding is at least as easy as spring brooding, and maybe easier. The weather is usually drier. The season is winding down, so there are fewer demands on your time. And there’s plenty of time for the chickens to become fully feathered and completely winter-hardy before the nasty weather sets in.
Pullet chicks brooded in October will be in full lay by April.
Mostly, fall brooding is just like spring brooding. If you’ve been brooding all summer long, you’ll need to drop your warm-weather habits and remember how you did things in early spring.
- Many hatcheries hatch year-round, but the off-season selection is smaller: mostly commercial strains. That’s okay. Buy your high-producing hybrids in the fall, and your exotic breeds in the spring.
- When in doubt, buy from Privett Hatchery in Portales, NM. I buy all my chicks there. Mostly Red Sex-Links, but their Barred Rocks are very nice birds.
- Take a good look at your brooder before the chicks arrive. If you’re using heat lamps, always use two or more, never just one. You can get heat lamps as small as 100W, or you can use floodlight bulbs instead of heat lamps, so you can use more bulbs without using more electricity. (I’ve stopped using 250w bulbs. Too hot. Two 125w heat lamps or 150w floodlights are better.)
- Remember to use a brooder guard this time, even if it was too hot in the summer.
- Beware of rats. Fall is a good time to replenish your bait stations (I like the big weatherproof Eaton Rat Fortress bait stations). Yes, I know poison isn’t nice, but having rats eat your baby chicks is far worse.
- Have a plan for dealing with the chicks when they get big. Don’t assume that you’ll magically come up with a winter henhouse for a group of chicks once they outgrow the brooder house. Winter construction projects need advance planning. At a minimum, plan to keep the chicks in the brooder house, and allow two square feet per chick.
- If you need to bould a new henhouse for your new flock, read Fresh-Air Poultry Houses, the only book that gets the basics of chicken-house construction right.
- If the chicks are going to be confined most of the winter, buy a non-cannibalistic strain of chicken. Crowding tends to bring on outbreaks of cannibalism, while free range tends to cure them — but range often isn’t available in the winter unless you’re in a mild or hot climate.
- Last but not least, buy a copy of my book, Success With Baby Chicks, which goes into all the considerations very thoroughly.
All of which makes a long and slightly intimidating list, but when you do things by the numbers, your fall brooding will go like clockwork. Try it and see!