If you are thinking about hatching out chicks, I have this advice for you. Get a GOOD incubator. The one that costs more money. Or, get a GOOD broody hen. What you don’t want, is to spend a bunch of time and energy trying to compensate for an incubator that doesn’t hold temperature or humidity steady and causes you a lot of worry and
fuss and maybe even unhealthy chicks and poor hatch rates, if they hatch at all. Ask around, to see what other people are using and what they are happy with, to get some ideas. I am thrilled with Brinsea we chose, from the first hatch to the last, we hatched out healthy vigorous babies and never lost a single one! 50 babies this season!
High: Candling eggs for the first time and spotting the baby embryos developing!
Low: Going through the two month infertility patch with our rooster as he recovered from mild frostbite.
High: First batch of babies hatching!
Low: Realizing that only one (of 4) hens that shared housing with our rooster was interested in laying during the winter. This resulted in my mini-batch hatch method where I would set about 7 eggs at a time and hatch out an average of 5 per week.
High: Selling chicks and meeting new families interested in raising Barred Holland chickens.
Low: Incubating 3 different sets of duck eggs, waiting through the month long process each time and having only one baby hatch out.
High: Baby duck! :)
The challenge with all of this was in having the appropriate housing for each age group. The brooder part was easy, but having outdoor housing ready and waiting was often a scramble. Farmer Tom built 3 new mini-coops with runs to help keep the chicken situation under control and we have settled into a rhythm with the process. Chicks graduate from the incubator to the house brooder, to the garage brooder, to the grow out pens, where they are either raised for meat or sold. A few hens and one rooster were added to our permanent flock which will end up being about a dozen birds total.
Part of my Master Plan is to participate in the Barred Holland breeders program which is attempting to bring this breed out of near extinction and back to its former glory. Since there are so few breeding pairs left, the breed has evolved from the original breed standard to a more watered down version. This has resulted in smaller birds laying light brown eggs. Not a biggie for the most part, but since we are “in it”, we’d like to help. I did order some high quality private stock hatching eggs this Spring and hatched out a rooster and hen that will go to work next year as we work to improve our breed lines and flock. Wish us luck! :)
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