Beware of raising winter chicks


10 Years
Jun 8, 2009
Pliny, West Virgina
Before you get too excited about new chicks and place your order in the winter be sure you have thought it through carefully. Here are a few points I overlooked a few years back.

#1 Finding someone to ship baby chick in the winter is not to hard. There are a few that will send them as long as you keep paying for them. You cannot count on the post office to be warm when your chicks arrive. In fact it is often very cold in the back of a post office at least in a rural area like I live in.

#2 If it is gonna be cold be prepare with an appropriate environment. We bought 25 and used a box in our den. This was plenty warm with a light BUT 25 will start to produce unbearable smells and dust after just a few weeks.

#3 Be prepared with and appropriately sized coop equipped for at least two sources of heat. Unlike the summer time if you have a bulb blow you will like have dead chicks if you don’t figure this out until morning. We had a large 4’ x 7’ coop weather proofed with two heat lamps but with 25... again they grew out of this quickly and that’s where my planning really began to fail me.

#4 Once you move these outside you can bet they will continue to out grow a small coop very quickly but you still have to maintain some heat while they are young. I was almost prepared until I got to this step. As my birds started to become 6-7 week old pullets they out grew the coop they were in before I could get a third area set up for them. Mine were overcrowded for a while till I tossed something together that was halfway decent.

#5 Without the chicks going outside you can expect there living quarters will need to be cleaned MUCH more often. Often times I was down on my knees in the snow trying o shovel our the coop and replace sawdust shavings.

Raising these 25 pullets through winter was a mistake for me and I think I have learned my lesson. These pullets raised during the winter required so much extra care and in the end they were deprived from all the other benefits of spring and summer such as fresh green grass and bugs. I was not pleased with the amount of eggs I was getting and rightly so since I was not prepared to raise this flock during the winter.

If you take on winter chicks I wish you luck and know that you will have a lot of work ahead of you. I know it can be done but it does take a lot more work.
I agree if you have a smallish coop. I raise mine inside in the basement until 4 weeks. They then go in the transition area of the coop (the coop though is a converted 10x20 shed) that little 6x10 area has a heat lamp on one side. They venture over to the food and water and to play, then go back under the lamp when they get chilly. They have this set up for a week in warm weather and two weeks in cold weather. I would not do this in temps below freezing but have with night time temps in the high 30's.
If you dont have a coop you can walk into though i would not recommend doing this, as you say. Also would not recommend this to anyone that has not brooded chicks at least a couple times and know what to expect.
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I agree that the cold weather can cause a lot of extra work and stress. But I think it's important to recognize that late spring and through the summer are pretty awful times to have chicks, too. First, it's so hot that it is possible to lose chicks to the heat. Illnesses like cocci and botulism are more of a problem during the heat of summer, as are worms, which seem to thrive in warmth and humidity. If you get laying breeds anytime after March you run the risk of them going into a molt just in time for the colder temps the next winter or later during the longer hours of spring, when they should be laying. But hindsight is 20/20, right? I'll never hatch out chicks past April again, and I'll probably never order chicks in January. Now, if I have a hen that decides to go broody on New Year's Eve (like last year), who am I to argue? Let her take on all that:lol: worry and responsibility!! LOL
Great advice! I'm keeping my hatches around 10 chicks at a time, and you're right, it is a big commitment. You put valid points in there that need to be considered.
. I agree Mikeee!!!!! I'm a very first time chicken/guinea raiser and I will never ever ever ever raise them in the wintertime again!!! Ever!!! The chickens and myself kicked each other out of the house at week 4!!!! It is week 5 now and we both are much happier!!

Everything you pointed out.... I wished was written 8 weeks ago and that I had read it!!!! Very nice posting!!!!!! It's just not worth it to rise in the wintertime to me!
Like I said... I know there are exceptions but even after all the work I was not happy with the end results which turned into about 50% good layers in a sex link breed. Aside from being prepared I'd suggest some kind of supplement to account for all the lost green grass. Buying cabbage or some other green veggies may produce a more favorable result from winter hatches.
I can imagine it would be very tough. I am a first time chicken owner and mine were hatched on Sept 26th. This has been ideal for us so far and I am thankful that we have had a very mild November and december. They stayed in the house for 5 weeks and have been out in the coop since. My chickens are now feathered really well and the bitter cold is just now starting to arrive and they seem fine. If I had to do all I did when I first put them out and it were below freezing that would be awful. I dont have a walk in coop and it is a challenge, in retrospect I would want a walk in coop. I am hoping for eggs come spring
that they are all ready for the temps that are to come in Jan/Feb- I dont have heat or light on them...
I agree with thinking things through and that winter is tougher. Slogging through the snow and all.

It's important to have a coop at least large enough to hold the number of birds you're getting as adults beforehand.
Chicks become adult size faster than you can build a coop most of the time and building in winter is no fun.

That said, I raise chicks in an unheated building most of the year (except the dead of summer). I can make them warm with heat lamps but I can't make them cooler.
Multiple heat lamps is vital in cold weather. I built 2 hover type brooders. Each one will brood 50 to 100 chicks.
For smaller numbers I just use heat lamps without the brooder.
I think it's extremely important they have access to cool space to avoid overheating and help them feather better.
If you watch chicks with a broody, they hang out under her a little and warm up and then run around in the cold most of the time.

Here's the brooder building


These were 1 week old Freedom Rangers. Notice how most of them are avoiding the warmest area under the hover?


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