Keeping Chickens: Preparing for Spring


A photo of Andy G. Schneider, the Chicken WhispererI was quite surprised to find my first seed catalog and my first poultry products catalog of the season in the mail this week. This reminded me that even though its just mid-January, it’s time to prepare for spring. Hatcheries around the country are gearing up for another busy season. After seeing their chick orders get backlogged for six to eight weeks, and their rare breed chicks selling out by March of last year, they want to make sure that they are as prepared as possible for this year. Many hatcheries are requesting that their customers pre-order the chicks they want to ensure that they will be able to fulfill their orders. In fact, Mt. Healthy Hatchery is offering a 5-cent discount per chick if you pre-order before February 13th. Many magazine publishers are making room for all of the backyard poultry articles that will soon be written, and feed and seed stores are increasing their orders to meet the demands of this year’s backyard chicken frenzy.

Not unlike the hatcheries, magazine publishers, and feed and seed stores, we too need to get ready for spring. If you already have backyard poultry or are just getting started, there are a few things we all need to think about to make sure we are prepared. If you are getting started with chickens for the first time or want to expand your existing backyard flock, you first need to decide what breeds you would like. Many people choose the same breeds that their grandparents had on the family farm. Others might do extensive research on what chickens are cold hardy, lay the best, or lay the longest. Some may just choose based on which breed they think looks the prettiest. Whatever method you choose there are many resources available that can help you pick out your new breeds. Many hatcheries have their own color catalogs loaded with information about the breeds they carry. Online websites like,, and, can also be very helpful. Remember that rare breeds sell out quickly so you may want to go ahead and place your order as soon as possible.

Once you have your breeds chosen, you need to determine what method you are going to use to get your chicks or chickens. Some of you may choose to incubate fertile eggs while others may choose to order chicks or started birds from a local or national hatchery. Either way, you need to be prepared. Here is a short list of things to think about.

1. Are you practicing correct biosecurity? You can get a lot of free information about practicing correct biosecurity here: 

2. Is your incubator working properly? I recommend running your incubator for at least 24 hours before setting your fertile eggs.

3. Is your brooder working properly? Make sure there is enough room for the baby chicks to move closer to and further away from the heat source based on their comfort level and never use cedar shavings.

Mountain Woman
2/18/2010 12:05:53 PM

Andy, this article was meant for me. I just finished ordering my chicks and turkeys and guinea hens and I'm anxiously awaiting their arrival in May. They are my first and I have lots to learn so thanks for the great information!

1/27/2010 12:45:19 PM

Andy, Such good information -I'll be coming back to it often. (I hope) Thanks vickie

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