Spring is typically when people start going gaga over baby chicks, but it isn’t the only season for starting a new flock. Fall is also a great time to invite chickens to your backyard or to add new members to an existing flock—and with some exciting benefits.
1. Early Eggs
Getting a jump on next year’s flock this fall means chickens will start producing eggs when everyone else is just getting their chicks. Female chicks reach point-of-lay around 20 weeks of age, on average, depending on the breed. Chicks hatched in October should begin to lay eggs very early in spring, ensuring that you and your family have fresh eggs all summer long.
2. Molting Is Delayed
Chickens molt annually, shedding their old feathers for a fresh set before winter, but the timing of the molt is determined by breed, season and age. Some chicken breeds molt early in the summer and others late in the fall—but not until their biology determines they’ve laid a sufficient amount of eggs. Because female chickens divert protein energy away from egg production in order to produce new feathers, each will stop laying until she’s finished molting.
Starting a flock in the fall will ramp them up for their first eggs in spring, with their first set of feathers still fresh and healthy. Usually chickens don’t molt until after they’re a year old, so in fall chicks, molting is until the following year, especially if it’s an early molter, because the first feathers are already new. This means there won’t be pause in egg laying that summer.
3. Less Stressful Winters
Because of the unpredictability in the weather in fall (and spring) chicks should always be fully feathered before they’re put outside without supplemental heat. The impending winter season is less of a shock to fall chickens because they grow up as the days get shorter and colder—a sudden snowfall isn’t as doom-inducing to rebellious teenage chickens as it is to full-grown pullets that hatched in the spring. A fall flock is more likely to venture out in snowy weather that can keep spring-hatched chickens cooped up and waiting for spring.
4. Spring Pest Control
Starting a fall flock ensures an unfailing pest control force just in time for spring’s insect explosion. Chickens are known to greatly reduce and nearly eliminate ticks, mosquitos, spiders, grubs and other pests from your yard and garden, ensuring a more enjoyable summer outside.
5. Merchandise Sales for a Fall Flock
If you’re starting your first flock, take advantage of end-of-season sales on chicken-care products, like coops, brooders, heaters, feeders, waterers and even heated bowls for winter—all the necessities you need to keep your fall flock alive and thriving. Pick up some extras for spring while you’re at it, like egg cartons, egg baskets and protein-packed chicken treats.
6. Limited Availability at Hatcheries
For beginning chicken keepers, limited availability is a great thing because too many breed choices can be overwhelming. It’s easy to end up with a beautiful breed that is actually inappropriate for a backyard or for a family with kids.
The trendy, rare breeds sell out quickly and very early in the season (think February), but the tried-and-true family favorites are usually available into fall, like Orpingtons, Australorps, Rocks and Wyandottes. Plus, these breeds, once feathered out, are cold hardy. These birds are not the unwanted leftovers of the year; they’re sturdy, trusted breeds with interesting histories, egg-laying reliability and friendly dispositions. For beginning chicken keepers, these end-of-season breeds are also known to be gentle around children.