Fall brooding is one of the best things you can do to improve your poultrykeeping experience. It works at least as well as spring brooding, maybe better. The weather is generally favorable for shipping chicks by mail, being not to hot, not too cold, and no more changeable than in the springtime. The weather is drier, so dampness-related problems like coccidiosis aren’t so bad. And most of us are far too busy in the spring — planting a garden, doing livestock projects, and generally ramping up for the season. Fall is less busy for most of us.
September and October are good brooding months. Chicks obtained then will be fully feathered and cold-resistant by the time any really nasty winter weather sets in (or in the case of broilers, they will be butchered before then).
Chicks brooded in the fall start laying in the spring, but may undergo a partial molt the following fall. Having both spring- and fall-hatched chickens will do a lot to even out your egg production. And of course, by brooding in two seasons, you can double the size of your flock without investing in any new brooder houses or equipment.
Enough people do fall brooding that most hatcheries have chicks in September, but it’s more dicey in October. Hatcheries that cater to small- to medium-size commercial farms (like Privett Hatchery) have chicks year-round. Often you are restricted to commercial strains rather than standard breeds. (I suppose this is because the commercial strains actually keep laying year-round.) So it’s a good idea to brood replacement pullets in the fall and do your fancy-breed brooding in the spring.
Tips on Fall Brooding:
- Go over your brooder house carefully. If you’ve been doing warm-weather brooding, you tend to go blind to the changes needed for cold-weather brooding. You need to be ready to button things up if the weather turns cold.
- Insulated brooders really help with fall brooding.
- Get a copy of my book, Success With Baby Chicks, which goes over all the issues in detail.