It’s December and it’s cold outside; however, now is the best time to order baby chicks for next year! Hatcheries have more customers now than they used to and baby chicks can only hatch in spring so fast. Go ahead and investigate what’s available if you know you want to raise your own chickens next year so that you don’t miss out!
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There’s no doubt about it. Baby chickens are one of the most adorable baby animals God created. They’re like alive cotton balls! One of the many reasons my family moved to a farm at the end of 2020 was to give the kids access to good, well-rounded childhood experiences. Such as raising baby chickens! I firmly believe that responsibilities for children and caring for other living creatures develops work ethic, initiative, empathy, and other amazing character qualities.
So if you find yourself on the fence about jumping into chicken ownership, let me share some tips with you.
November and December are the best months to order baby chicks.
Whether you’re looking for a rare or exotic breed of chicken or something that’s popular and widely available, now is the best time to place your order for spring delivery.
I placed my order for baby turkeys recently and happened to notice that some of the chicken and turkey breeds were already selling out! Winter has always been a popular time to order poultry and garden seeds but it seems like seed companies and hatcheries are selling out earlier than they used to.
The reason for this trend is because keeping backyard chickens has exploded in popularity in recent years. That’s exciting!
Availability is not the only reason to place your order now, though.
Baby chicks are cheaper if you order them online.
You could always pick up some baby chicks in the spring from your local feed store. However, you’ll likely have to pay more for them unless they are on sale because they didn’t sell within their first week. Also, you’re limited to the varieties that they have available. Those are the reasons that we don’t typically buy baby chicks from a feed store in spring. However, if we have to go shopping for something unrelated and come across baby chicks for sale, we haven’t been able to turn them down yet. It is what it is.
Buying chicks online requires some advanced planning but it’s cheaper in the long run. You’ll also be able to ensure getting the breeds you want in the quantities that you want. Also, if you’re in the market for meat birds and laying birds, hatcheries will generally offer a discount for orders of more than 25.
Below are some additional tips to keep in mind as you consider whether to order your chicks online.
Decide where you will brood your baby chicks.
Many homesteaders start their baby chicks in a brooder indoors after they are delivered. They are really easy to keep an eye on if they’re right inside your house. But there are also some complications with brooding your baby chicks indoors.
For example, baby animals can be a little bit noisy during the night when you are trying to sleep. I remember hearing our baby chicks chirping during the night when they woke up and it was loud enough to be an irritation for an already sleep-deprived mom of four.
Here’s another reason. We used big plastic bins as a brooder our first year on the farm and kept baby chicks inside our house. The kids loved seeing them and playing with them. But a couple of baby chicks didn’t make it after they were loved/squeezed to death. For this reason, my sweet husband built a really nice brooder for me for our second year on the farm so that we could keep the baby chicks outside.
Another reason to brood your baby chicks outside has to do with the amount of dust and small feathers they kick around. We used deep pine shavings in the plastic bins we brooded the baby chicks in during our first year. This deep-litter method definitely helped with the cleanliness of the brooder and there wasn’t any smell. However, baby chicks lose a lot of little feathers and somehow create a lot of dust. We had to constantly clean up the room that they were in.
Schedule your baby chicks to be delivered after your last frost date in the spring.
Baby chicks will need a heat lamp for the first few weeks until their feathers grow in. It doesn’t matter if you brood them inside or outside…they need extra heat. They will ultimately be outside after their feathers grow in and you don’t want the weather to be too cold.
I like to schedule our baby chicks and poults (baby turkeys) to be delivered after our last frost date. That way they arrive as the weather is warming up and they’re less likely to freeze during the night. Hatcheries usually start hatching baby chicks beginning in April anyway.
Make sure you have all the equipment you need before the babies arrive.
As mentioned above, you’ll need to get a heat lamp or two depending on how many babies you will be brooding. Heat, clean water, small grit or sand, and chick starter food are extremely important. So get what you need before the babies get delivered to your local post office.
I like to put pine shavings or hay in our brooder along with a heat lamp, water container, food container, and grit container a few days before I expect our baby chicks to arrive. Hatcheries are very good at telling you when to expect your babies. So keep track and check your emails and text messages as your delivery date gets closer. I will also call my local post office in advance to let them know when I’m expecting my baby chicks to arrive. And I make sure they have my cell phone number handy.
Here’s what our brooder setup looks like (see picture below). I like to add some fresh garlic cloves, thyme, and homemade apple scrap vinegar to the water container. It helps get the baby chicks off to the right start after their delivery. I will also dig up some sand and tiny rocks out of our yard for their grit. Then I add some green grass, clover, and whatever weeds are growing near the brooder.
I hope this post encourages you to get some backyard chickens if you’re allowed to keep them where you live!
Other Posts You May Enjoy
Why Living in the Country is Cheaper
It’s a Homestead Chicken Harvest Day! (Part 1-Why and What)
Homestead Chicken Harvest Day! (Part 2)
The Secret to Raising Livestock for Cheap!
Even though I’m just in the beginning of my homesteading journey and still living in an apartment, I learn everything I can about chickens. I simply love them and hope I can have some of my own one day. Your post gave me some good tips and insides. I especially love the brooder your husband built. It looks so cute.
I was soaking up all the knowledge I could, too, back when we lived in town. The dream eventually became a reality for us and I’ve never been happier! Now that I know what country living is all about, I never want to give it up!! Thanks for the brooder compliment! I’ll let my sweet other half know.
Ohhhhhhh! I was supposed to be on a new homestead in NC right now, and life took an unexpected turn. BUT I’m going to keep this post in mind for when I get myself in a living situation that supports my need for baby chicks 😉 Thanks for posting!
There should be a warning label on every hatchery website: Baby chicks are addictive! Good luck on your hunt for your homestead!!
We got a late frost last year and scrambled a bit. Best laid plans!
So true! But then I jump into the deep end anyway and DO whatever it is that I intended to DO!! Good luck!
This is so helpful! We just moved to a house where we can have chickens. I’ll start looking to order them now!
Yay! I’m so excited for you!
Thank you so much for sharing! We were just talking about hatching more chicks as our chickens are getting older, we ordered the ones we have now! But I agree it may be best to wait until it warms up a bit.
Entering our 2nd year as first time chicken parents. Sooo much to learn and we have space for two more so good to know even more about how to plan. I had not idea that there was a right time.