The adventure of breeding and hatching chickens is super exciting! Especially for homesteaders that are looking for ways to expand their flock or make little extra money selling fertile eggs or very young chicks. But when is the best time to even breed chickens and incubate their eggs?
Spring is the best time to breed, incubate and hatch chicken eggs because hens are more likely to become broody and the temperature outside makes for ideal incubation.
If you’re looking to incubate and hatch a clutch of eggs, spring is a wonderful time to do it. Not to say that you can’t also do the same thing during warmer or colder times of the year. In this article, we will go over the best time to breed chickens and what the pros and cons of each season are.
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Why Is Spring The Best Time To Breed Chickens?
The reason that the beautiful spring season is the best for breeding chickens is how easily hens become broody, the temperature outside makes for better hatch rates, and they can transition more easily from brooder to coop.
Not only is the “brood factor” an important aspect of the season, but the not-too-hot and not-too-cold temperatures are perfect for incubating chicken eggs. Whether or not you are going au naturale with broody hens or you’re using a Brinsea incubator, spring is the time of year when there are fewer hatch failures and better success rates.
The temperature outside is perfect for the incubation process, but it also allows for a smoother and faster transition from the brooder to the coop. That is, once the little chicks are big enough to handle it!
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Can You Breed Chickens Any Time Of Year?
You can certainly breed your chickens and obtain fertile eggs during any time of year. Especially if you live in a climate that is warm all year round. However, there are a few pros and cons to each season that you should know about beforehand!
Hands down, the consensus among farmers and backyard flock raisers is that spring is the ideal time for breeding chickens, incubating and hatching eggs. It’s the season of blossoming plants and young animals everywhere!
- Hens become broody easily
- Ideal temperatures
- Easier to transition chicks from brooder to coop
- The strongest and healthiest chicks are born in the Spring
- Very early spring can be a little chilly still
Spring is also a perfect time for purchasing chicks, as the hatcheries and farm stores are usually overflowing with young chickens of multiple breed varieties.
Summer is another egg-cellent season to breed and hatch chicks. The warm weather can make for easy incubation, as long as the temperatures don’t become too hot! The humidity and temperature levels are key to having successful hatches, so be sure to keep an eye on things.
- Hens should become broody easily
- Warm temperatures are better than cold when incubating eggs
- Easy transition from brooder to coop
- Power outages in summer are less common (no incubator interference)
- Easy for chicks to overheat during the hotter summer temperatures
- Summer brings unwanted pests like flies
- Chicks need plenty of access to shade and water
- Vacations can interfere with hatching schedules and caring for new chicks
There should still be an abundant selection of chick breed varieties at the farm stores and hatcheries.
Autumn, or fall, is also a very manageable time of year to breed, incubate and hatch chicks. Areas that have a warmer autumn season will have minimal issues incubating eggs. Just watch that humidity level once the air starts to dry out as winter approaches!
- Hens should still be broody
- Incubating should have few issues as long as you are mindful of humidity and temp
- Chicks hatched in autumn will be mature by spring and ready to lay eggs
- No danger of chicks overheating
- As days shorten, hens lay fewer eggs
- After hatching you have to worry about the cold winter months approaching
- The more difficult transition from brooder to coop if the hen house is drafty or cold
As summer ends, the farm stores and hatcheries will have fewer breed and chick selections. Same as for you, if you are trying to sell chicks, you will have a harder time doing so in the autumn and winter months.
Winter brings holidays, cheer and bitter cold weather. However, it’s not to say that it’s impossible to breed and raise chicks in the wintertime. It’s actually quite possible and by the time Spring rolls around, they should be more than ready to head outside to the coop!
- Some breeds of chicken will continue to lay eggs all winter long
- A great opportunity to learn about incubation and brooders with kids and family
- Hens are less broody, fertile and will lay fewer eggs
- You will most likely have to keep your chicks indoors in a brooder for longer than normal in the winter
- Cold temperatures put chicks at a big risk of frostbite and mortality
- Chicks born in the winter are generally in poorer health than those born in spring
Pro tip: If you live in a climate where you see long winters, consider looking for breeds of chicken that do the best in colder weather, such as the Australorp, Silkie and Plymouth Rock (more about these breeds here).
The selection of chicks at the hatcheries and farm stores will be very minimal. It’s likely you won’t see any new stock selections until spring.
Where Should You Keep An Incubator For Every Season?
The short and fast answer is to keep the egg incubator somewhere with consistent temperature and humidity with minimal to no drafts.
Some people recommend the basement or a room that has no windows. Never put your incubator near a window or an area that sees a lot of sunlight, as this will cause the temperature and humidity to change too frequently, causing hatch failures.
For more detailed information on where to keep your incubator, take a look at this post on Where To Place Your Chicken Egg Incubator!
Why Is Spring The Best Season For Breeding Chickens?
Spring is a season of melting snow, blossoming flowers, and you guessed it – babies! And I’m not just referring to chickens, but our feathered friends are who we’re really here to talk about.
Overall, if you’re looking to breed a few hens, you should always consider starting in the spring because:
- The hens’ willingness to be broody
- Ideal temperatures interfere less with incubation
- An easier transition to the outdoor chicken coop
A Broody Hen Is A Fertile Hen
Spring is such an ideal time for breeding chickens because it’s when hens become the most broody, making finding fertile eggs a daily occurrence. If you have a rooster running around in the spring, most likely all eggs that your chickens produce will be fertilized.
Ideal Temperatures Outside Make For More Successful Hatches
Low humidity with warmer temperatures means a more successful environment for incubating eggs, no matter if you’re using a broody hen or a man-made incubator. Therefore, you will have a higher success rate with your hatches. Oh, and maintaining the incubator temp and humidity levels will be much easier!
From Brooder Box To Chicken Coop
Lastly, once the chicks are born and feathered out, they will have a much smoother transition from the indoor brooder box to the outdoor hen house. After all, the chicken coop is where we want them to be anyway! Even mother hens get tired of their young being in the coop all day and will eventually force them to “fly the nest” so to speak.
When Is The Best Time To Breed Chickens?
Breeding chickens can be a blast, as long as you set yourself up for success! Choosing the best season to breed our feathered friends and incubate their eggs can seem complicated and dependent on where you live, however, most climates will have the most success when breeding chickens in the spring.