Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Eggs are Waiting....

Today, I borrowed a friend's egg incubator.

Another "new" thing for us in this family farm experience- hatching out our own chicks. We are planning on adding 12 new hens to our flock. We will gift 12 chicks to the same friend. And, we plan to sell the rest for $2 per chick straight run or $4 per pullet (around 8 weeks of age). Any unsold roosters, poor lads, are earmarked for some one's Sunday dinner table. Its hard to think of the sweet peeping fluffy chicks being raised up for food, but the reality is that we already have 4 roosters and can't add any more to our flock without adding stress to the hens whose care we are responsible for. Our lads are sweet, but they take their job of procreation seriously and can run the poor hens ragged when kept in quarters with disproportionate numbers. So, we'll try to sell them to others who WANT to add a rooster to their flock, first. If they don't all sell, we understand well our limitations in regards to housing our healthy flock. If anyone is interested in reserving any number of healthy, day old, straight run chicks, feel free to leave me a comment or email me with your contact information.

To prepare, I read up on the basic "How To's" of the hatching process for the last couple weeks via the Internet and in books and I talked with (read that questioned mercilessly) any friends who have successfully hatched eggs, themselves. The incubator did not come with its instruction manual, but I looked up the model number online and downloaded that, too. Sean helped me wash and dry the incubator parts and we decided to place it in the living room upstairs where it would be away from drafts and direct sunlight and the ambient room temperature does not fluctuate much. Originally, the plan was to start out with a full batch of 36 eggs, but having read over the manual, we decided to hatch out a smaller "test" run first. (In case, there were any problems with our hatch mortality rate.)
Fenn watching Sean put the incubator together.
After the incubator was cleaned, filled with water to the appropriate marks, and turned on, it was excruciatingly difficult to not run outside, gather the eggs in the nest boxes and get started. Like setting up a new fish tank, however, the temperature has to be stabilized and checked over night to make sure the environment will be suitable for our new guests. I am so excited about little chicks hatching in 3 weeks, I want to get started tonight! But, Sean's cooler mind prevailed and wait we will, though not patiently! To make myself feel productive, I started to mark out the calendar I made, so I can track the chick development within the eggs and I discovered another impediment to our beginning immediately... our District Convention in Portland the first weekend in June- just the exact time the chicks would begin hatching! So... plan B: we are ready and now we wait. We are going to start the eggs on Monday, instead. This should give us a nice window for hatch time. We are not strictly needed for the hatching, but that is one of the highlights to this project.
We are going to incubate an assortment of eggs which will produce an assortment of chicks. I am hopeful to get some "true to breed" stock. We could with either the Rhode Island Reds or Americaunas- since, we have both male and females of these. But, it is most likely the chicks will be "Barn Yard Beauties".  These have interesting coloring and the added benefit of producing a nice, hearty, dual purpose meat/egg cross-breed hen.  The cross-breed possibilities for this hatching are Americaunas (these lay blue eggs), Buff Orpingtons, Buff Cochins (these have feathered feets), Rhode Island Reds, Black Rocks, Barred Rocks, and Wyandottes.

 As an aside: One of our projects later this summer is the building of a usable "chicken tractor". This allows our ladies and lads to enjoy fresh green grass and bugs in a movable contraption that offers them protection from both predators and weather and their proclivity for wandering into the woods or neighbors' lawns. Tractors can be a simple construction project like the one to the left or a more elaborate undertaking like the one pictured below. We will probably design something somewhere in the middle.

Our chickens enjoy a large outside yard already, but the benefits of employing a chicken tractor are many. First, we can split the breeds making a greater chance of producing eggs from a specific breed for incubation. Second, the chickens enjoy the addition of fresh green grass, bugs, and slugs to their diets. We enjoy the lack of bugs and slugs and the assistance with maintaining our lawn at a decent height. Third, it gives the birds still hosted in their main yard more room for themselves. We will rotate who gets to be where so that everyone is happy.
After all, happy birds make delicious eggs!

So, for tonight, Sean and I have done what we can and soon, I will have pictures of the incubator set up with (hopefully fertile) eggs inside! Until then, goodnight!

Sonja ♥

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of a chicken tractor, but that is an awesome idea. I am looking forward to seeing the babies!