When to start incubating chicks

Chickens eating rye

It’s tricky to decide
when to start
for spring
chickens.  Last year, we waited and waited, hoping our broody hen
would get with the picture, which meant we missed some of the lushest
spring growth and our new pullets were barely old enough to start
laying before the days got short.

Chicken and chickweedOn the other hand, you don’t
want to start your chicks too early.  They’re very sensitive to
temperature extremes for their first month of life, and you want them
to be able to go out on pasture as soon as possible.  In addition,
you’ll get a much better hatch rate if the parent birds are in peak
health, and no chicken will be laying great eggs on storebought feed
alone without some fresh greenery and bugs.

I may be jumping the
gun, but I decided to start saving eggs last weekend for an early March
hatch.  A week or so ago, I turned the parent flock into a pasture
that had been closed off all winter, and they’ve been gorging on
chickweed and tender young rye plants ever since.

We’ll be raising at
least two sets of meat birds this year, so it won’t be the end of the
world if this hatch isn’t perfect.  Maybe by the time I’m ready to
hatch the second set, one of our hens will have decided to go broody
and do my work for me.  Meanwhile, my biggest concern is how we’ll
live without those delicious eggs on our plates as I save them for the

Our chicken waterer prevents chicks from
drowning and gets them off to a healthy start.

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