I live in Montana with sub-zero temperatures and snow, so why would I ever consider hatching chicks at this time of year?Oddly enough, my chickens decided to lay quite a few eggs in late October and early November, so I decided to have a New Year’s hatch. But winter in Montana can mean weeks of below zero temperatures – it can be so cold it will kill any youngster trying to survive. I’ve seen chickens with frozen feet and wattles. Frostbite can be quite common.
Setting Up Your Incubator
One of the difficulties in my house is that my main heat is a wood stove, and thus it’s very common to have fluctuating temperatures and drafts. Incubators require a constant ambient temperature and areas that are free from drafts. Putting the incubator too close to the wood stove or too close to windows would ensure a poor hatch.I solved that problem by putting my incubator in an interior room without windows. The room stayed relatively warm and didn’t have too much temperature fluctuations. Should you decide to incubate in the winter, you will want to have your incubator inside a room that is heated.A room that has too much fluctuation in temperature can cause a poor hatch.
Planning the Brooder
Once your chicks hatch, you’re going to need a safe place for them to grow. If you live in southern states, you can probably get by with heat lamps or even a Brinsea brooder if your temperatures don’t drop below 50°F. However, if they do, you may have to use multiple heat lamps or even constructive brooder inside. Some people including myself have had “bathtub chicks.” This has more than one pitfall, being that you cannot use your bathtub, and after a while, the chicks stink.But that is minor if you wish to have fluffy chicks on Christmas or New Year’s Day.
You can skip the brooder altogether if you choose to sell your chicks after they hatch. You can keep them in the incubator, or if you have a hatcher you can keep them in there until the buyers come to pick up their chicks. It helps to take deposits and have buyers ready for your hatch.
Why Bother Hatching in Winter?
So why should you even bother hatching chicks in winter? There are several good reasons. The first, is that it is fun despite all the problems associated with winter. Imagine how fun it would be to have “Santa” deliver baby chicks on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Second, if your poultry is getting old or if you’ve lost several hens, these chicks will be ready to lay around May or June. Lastly, chicks just aren’t available in the winter months, so you can command a higher price for chicks available in the middle of winter.
Regardless of your reasons, hatching chicks in the middle of winter can be fun and profitable, and you might just find a new hobby during those dark and dreary months.