Monday, January 26, 2015

Hatching Out Chicks

Justin and I are very excited to get chickens again. We had two laying hens when we lived in town but we gave them to my SIL and BIL during our move just over a year ago. We have been slowly getting things at the new house sorted out, but it seems like once we get one thing fixed, something else pops up that needs to be seen about.
Justin has been working on plans for our new chicken coop and he hopes to get it built over the next month.With that in mind, we found a family that was selling fertilized black copper maran and blue copper maran eggs on Facebook. We decided with a ton of help from my SIL and BIL (they’ve hatched out hundreds of chicks) and borrowing their incubator and egg turner, we would take a chance and hatch our own chicks.
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I have wanted copper marans for their beautiful dark eggs for a while now. I freely admit I picked these chickens for their egg color and I picked the last chickens we had because they looked like they were zebra striped (Dominique breed). I also want a few Ameraucanas because of the beautiful blue eggs they lay and some other Easter Eggers. I know egg color doesn’t affect taste but they sure are pretty!
We placed the eggs in the incubator three weeks ago and had to (im)patiently wait 21 days to see any action. I swear I was like a mama feeling her baby kick for the first time when I heard the first faint sounds of cheeps from the eggs last Friday night. I felt even more like a mama when labor—waiting for the chicks to emerge—lasted for more than 24 hours!
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Just after supper on Saturday night, Justin yelled at me to come look because one was hatching RIGHT NOW! I was just about as excited, if not more, than Wyatt was!
By bedtime Saturday night, we had three freshly-hatched chicks still drying in the incubator. It didn’t seem as if the 30 eggs were making much progress, but we went to bed hopeful that we would wake up to an incubator full.
Unfortunately, when chicks hatch, they heat up the incubator. Justin woke up Sunday morning to go to work and found 9 more hatched out overnight but the incubator temperature soared to 110 degrees—10 degrees higher than what is ideal.
We had two more chicks hatch out on Sunday, but sadly many of the eggs didn’t hatch. One of the chicks that hatched Sunday didn’t make it either. The spike in temperature could be the reason. Some didn’t even pip (crack) the shell so they might not have been fertilized. We had less than a 50% hatch rate. First time lessons learned are hard. Justin is already working on a cabinet incubator that will have an electronic thermostat that will adjust itself automatically for us.
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All said, we have 13 fuzzy adorable chicks that will keep us well stocked in fresh eggs, and eventually fresh meat. Yes, it will be hard to eat these chickens when they’re grown but I think if everyone had to go through this process, we would be more aware of the circle of life.
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