Winter Chicks, Good or Bad Idea?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by OSDad, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. OSDad

    OSDad In the Brooder

    Jun 28, 2016
    Nova Scotia, CANADA
    Hello again.

    I would to start by saying thanks for all the advice to date. It has been very useful.

    So here is my scenario or thought process. I may be putting the egg way ahead of the chicken at this point but I wanted to ask the question so I can do some planning.

    In 3 months or so, my existing flock will start laying. I plan on harvesting my additional roos in 2- 3 months from my flock as well.

    If I have a broody hen I was thinking of letting her hatch to continue a supply of meat as well as the eggs that will be produced.

    At this time we will be starting to experience winter here in the Canadian Maritimes with snow and temps that can dip to -20 degrees celcius.

    My question is, is it even feasible to consider hatching chicks at that time of year?

    Thanks again
  2. harmesonfarm

    harmesonfarm Songster

    Oct 7, 2015
    Nanaimo, BC
    Hello on the other side of Canada! [​IMG]

    Not sure with me being on the west coast if I'm going to be much help, but i'll give it a shot and hopefully someone with better experience with the winter your describing will answer!
    from what I'm thinking your hens won't go broody until the timing is right.
    Is your coop heated? Probably a silly question...but I would think if it was that would be help for them raising chicks in a more pleasantly warm area than outside, and could possibly help getting them earlier. What type of breed do you have? Some can be more winter hardy than others so that could factor in the option as well.

    The other thing too, is perhaps you could hatch them with an incubator and be sure to keep them inside and warm from the cold and drafts. The #1 killer to baby chicks is the cold. Maybe instead of a broody hen doing the hatching, its best you do it?
    Your broody should do a good job of keeping them warm too, but i'm sure a little help from you to keep them all in a warmer draft free place would be good?

    Do you have to cull your rooster in 2-3 months exactly? Perhaps your able to wait to cull him until after your sure you have a broody with a clutch that she will hatch?

    Hopefully some of this helps...
    Good luck!!
  3. OSDad

    OSDad In the Brooder

    Jun 28, 2016
    Nova Scotia, CANADA
    I have 7 Easter eggers, 5 Barred Rocks, 5 Chanteclers and a few production reds.

    I am just starting out, purchased day to week old chicks straight run, so I have some roos I need to cull from the flock. Our plan is to keep one but the rest will be harvested for the table.

    I am hoping to hatch and raise some for meat as well as rotate layers when the time comes.
  4. harmesonfarm

    harmesonfarm Songster

    Oct 7, 2015
    Nanaimo, BC
    I would think if any were to go broody earlier it would be the Chanteclers since they were bred specific for cold temperatures here in Canada...

    To be honest, this spring will be my first time with a rooster in our flock and the hope for a broody hen to hatch some chicks for us too, but here on Vancouver Island we have much more mild weather where we are...just lots and lots of rain!
    We were also going to use most of those chicks for meat birds as we have mixed dual-purpose breed hens and rooster as well (MaranX), and a few stay laying hens.

    I still think your hens will go broody when the timing is right, weather, temperature, etc. and hopefully stay broody for you and raise them little chicks. I know some people are starting hatches now, but you said your pullets are not laying yet, so I suppose a hatch yourself right now is not possible.

    I do hope someone with more experience will answer, perhaps trying the incubating forum / raising chicks one if no one answers here?

    It's nice to talk to someone from Canada though! LOL [​IMG]
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Since you're new with birds, I'd advise to wait until spring to attempt to add more.

    First, it's unlikely you'll get a broody until then, so that problem may solve itself [​IMG]. I've found second year birds are much more likely to go broody, just my experience.

    Keeping birds over a winter is a whole different dynamic than keeping birds in the summer. I'd say go through one winter with your first birds, then decide if you want to try chicks the next winter.

    Or, just have your hatches in the spring and summer. There's a reason that's why nature designed them raise babies those times of year.
    1 person likes this.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop

    I let a broody hatch in the middle of winter, but will never do it again, and strongly advise against it.
    She did just fine but she was separated from flock by wire, I was able to monitor her almost constantly, and hatch day fell during a 'thaw' of 36F.
    Chicks were bouncing around the coop in -5F...which amazed me...but only for very short periods of time before heading back to nest under mama.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    It can happen, I had an older, experienced broody hen go in October, by the time they hatched (I only gave her 4 eggs) it was November and in a week we were at -20. She raised them up fine.

    However, broody hens depend on the broody Gods, one cannot make a hen go broody. Different times of the year, the birds are much more apt to go broody, but some hens NEVER go broody. So using a broody hen, to raise some chicks for you to add to your flock is a great way to do it. Once I went this way, I have never gone back to brooding chicks myself. I love how the hen takes care of them, all of the fun, none of the work of baby chicks. Chicks raised in the flock have no transition issues into the flock. However, it is very chancy, and a lot of times the failure rate can be about 50% average, sometimes better, sometimes worse. My point is, if you are wishing to make enough birds for meat, you probably need an incubator.

    However, I strongly agree with the above posters, WAIT. Get some experience with the birds and winter, let your current birds mature and make full size eggs. Then next spring start praying for a broody hen, or get an incubator.

    MRs K
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    As an inexperienced chicken keeper, I bought fertile eggs for a pullet who went broody in October. Yep, pullet - she was only 8 months old. But she stuck and stuck firm, and nothing was going to stop her from setting. So I got her some fertilized eggs. She did great - shipped eggs didn't. We had one chick that hatched, Scout. Then in November our temps took a dramatic plunge, in two days going from the upper 60s to 17 below zero. Yeah. Inexperienced owner + inexperienced broody + wrong time of year = disaster. (You can read the full story of Scout and the efforts to save his horribly frostbitten feet by clicking this link)

    Never again. It wasn't my choice to have one of the girls go broody in October. It WAS, however, my choice to give her eggs and let her try to raise a family even knowing winter would soon be dead on us. My enthusiasm and excitement got the better of my common sense. We can't pick and choose the season or the time they go broody - they do that all on their own - and most wisely choose to wait until their internal clocks tell them that spring is just around the corner. Some didn't read the book. <sigh> Even now, after having done this for a few years, I won't risk the chicks, the broody, (imagine needing energy just to keep warm but not getting off the nest to eat and drink as often as is really necessary) or my own sanity by brooding late in the year. Same with hatching in the incubator. I have a good method of raising chicks under a heating pad, and I have had new chicks out there in temps in the teens and twenties, but that's our early spring. By the time they don't need the heat anymore it's warmer than that.

    Of course it's a judgement call. Wiser folks than me tried to discourage me from letting Agatha set eggs that late in the season, but I made my own decision. In my case it was the wrong one, but I have to be honest and say that I wouldn't have wanted to miss a minute of raising Scout. It may all work out great for you, as it has for some other people. It's kinda like taking a new prescription - you have to carefully weigh the benefits against the side effects!
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016

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