Hatching!

I can hear chickies peeping from the incubator. I just put another tub of water in to increase the humidity. Upon lifting the lid Kael and I saw that a second egg had started to break – this time it is an Araucana. Yay!

I was starting to get concerned that nothing had really happened with our 9am egg, so I’ve just been on the web finding out how long it takes for chickies to break free of their shell once they start pipping it. Twenty-four hours plus! So no need to panic, thankfully.

I also found out that most people don’t help chickies out of the egg, but if they do, they won’t help until it’s been 48 hours. Hopefully that won’t be an issue.

Xav still likes the idea of raising two or three chickies himself, so we’d better get to work on that brooder box for inside.

On another note, I’ve done the second coat on the brooder. Looking good. However I’ve decided that I won’t be painting any other designs on it today. Instead I’ll be doing things like a final clean out of the brooder, disinfecting feed and water containers and mowing the lawn! Oh, and making lunch for the starving hoarde 🙂

Okay, the Araucana chickie has hatched! From it’s colour I’m guessing it’s one of the wheatens. It’s so tiny!

Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty-One

The incubator day counter ticked over to day 21 at about 9pm tonight. Nothing’s happening yet… Everybody tells me they should hatch fine. Me, I’m not so sure. If there’s no sign of hatching in the morning I’ll be disappointed, even though I’ve been telling myself it will be a terrible failure and they won’t hatch coz I don’t want to get my hopes up.

Went to the Benalla craft/farmers market today and spoke to Tony the chook man. He had a couple of wheaten Faverolle girls with cute little ear muffs and I was sorely tempted. But with the imminent arrival of a bunch of chickies I’ve nowhere to quarantine them. Oh well, maybe next time. I told Tony that when my next hen goes broody I’ll get some Plymouth Rock eggs off him, hopefully he’ll have some by then.

Started painting the brooder this arvo – the first coat is done. I’ll do the second coat in the morning tomorrow, and if I’ve got time I’ll see if I can paint something intresting on it too. Maybe a mother hen and some chickies. Right now I’m trying to think of a cool name to give it but at the moment all I can think of is “The Chickiebator” or “The Broody Hen”.

Just starting the first coat

Just starting the first coat

Xav doing his bit

Xav doing his bit

While I was painting Kathy phoned to say that two eggs had hatched! An Araucana and one of her bitzers! Whoohoo!! Meanwhile nothing was happening in the incubator. And still nothing was happening at 5:30am when I staggered out of bed to help Xav. However, at 9am this morning, one of the Light Sussex eggs has started to crack! Still, as the saying goes, ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’

Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty

Well it’s day 20 now and these eggs should be hatching over the next four days. I’m really nervous. What if none of my $50 eggs hatch??? I’m hoping for an 80% hatch rate as I think it’s pretty unlikely to get a 100%, although that would be pretty awesome, but really I’d be happy with 50%.

Spoke to Kathy last night about what we’re going to do once the eggs hatch. We’ve decided that we’ll let each other know when the eggs start hatching and I’ll bring over any chicks on Sunday and Monday nights (if they’re hatching on time) to put under the broody.

After two days Kathy will bring the broody and chicks to my place and we’ll house them in the chickie house (need to paint it this arvo then and give it a good clean out). I think I’ll put it under the olives out the back near the kids’ sandpit.

If after two days we still have some unhatched eggs we’ll put them in the incubator for a couple mored days and see if we get any more chicks hatching. I’d better have a brooder ready just in case. I’ve got the box, just need to figure out how to do the light.

Fertilised Eggs – Day Eighteen!

Well it’s day 18 now for our fertilised eggs. If all goes according to plan we should get some little chickies hatching in the incubator in the next few days.

Of course my experience with chickens of late has shown me that rarely do things go to plan and it really is “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” because the chances of all twelve eggs hatching are very slim. Not that I’ve got twelve eggs – seven are in the incubator while the other five are under Kathy’s broody hen.

Not sure what happens once the ones at Kathy’s hatch. Do we leave them with her broody? Bring chicks here after they hatch and put them all together? Leave the broody with one chick? Or just leave them with Kathy and I’ll get some fertilised eggs off her later? Guess we’d better sort it out pretty soon.

Tim and I tried candling the eggs last night, but obviously we have absolutely no idea as it was a complete failure. I’ll have to look it up for the next time we do it so we know how to do it. But what I did do was take the eggs out of the turny thingy and place them on a tea towel on the tray and refill the water so the humidity is high for the next few days.

Apparently I should hear pipping from the eggs on about day twenty, although the incubator is quite noisy so maybe we won’t… I’m just hoping we get a decent hatch rate and I didn’t waste my money. Guess I’ll know in a few days.

The Fertilised Eggs Drama!

Scales went broody again, so after umming and ahhing for a while I ordered some fertilised eggs. This time of year finding eggs is a little tricky as all chooks everywhere are going into moult and their laying drops right off. So my order of Araucana and Light Sussex eggs arrive on the same day I notice that Scales doesn’t seem quite so broody!

Sure enough, after letting the eggs rest for 24 hours (important to do after receiving eggs via the post) Scales is most definitely NOT broody! To be sure I locked her in the nesting box with a couple of unfertilised eggs. She was hanging to get out the next day. Needless to say her lack of said broodiness sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I’d paid $50 for these eggs and now I was without nature’s perfect chick raising machine, meaning I was going to have to do it myself. Problem, I don’t have an incubator! Aaaah!!!

I’ve heard tales of people incubating eggs in an electric frying pan, but when push came to shove it was very hard to find reliable information out there as to how to do it, yet an awful lot of people believed it to be possible or had heard of someone doing it. In fact one of my friends hatched some guinea fowl eggs in one, although they only had three days to go and just needed some extra help. Anyways, it’s got me more than a little curious, I’m so curious I’m going to try it later, but with some less expensive eggs! When I do I’ll blog about my experiences.

After checking out the frying pan option I finally remembered there were people I could call who are a wealth of information when it comes to chooks. Only took me a couple of days to remember, and the first one I called had a broody hen! I went over the next day (which happened to be a Saturday) with my precious eggs and Xav. Upon arrival I was told there was someone else with another broody hen or duck and an incubator! So after a cuppa and some very yummy Anzac slice (the biscuits had all run together) we went off to meet my potential saviour.

They had ducks, chooks, geese and turkeys, two dogs, a cat (with which Xav was extremely taken) and numerous other animals including a cow and some sheep. Anyway, after much talking and getting to know each other I was presented with an incubator and shown how to use it. It’s now sitting on the fooseball table lid merrily humming away with four Araucana eggs and three Light Sussex. The other five I left for the broody. Sixteen days later the broody is still sitting and the machine is still humming away. It is well and truly time to candle the eggs to see if any of them are fertile. Not that I’ve ever done it before and I have to admit that I’ve been putting it off – I’m a teensy bit scared that I may have wasted my money. Maybe tomorrow…

Still more about Chooks

Chooks! Chooks! Chooks! Whoever knew that choosing a breed of chook was going to be so hard!!!

In researching chooks, the only thing I haven’t been swayed on was the fact that I didn’t want commercial hybrids. Right from the beginning I’ve said I don’t want Isa Browns or Hylines, even though they lay lots and lots. Although, only for about 18 months, maybe 24. That’s why commercial egg producers get rid of them after a year. I still don’t want them!

Looking back over my notes I realise that actually, it’s two things that I haven’t been swayed upon. The other was colour. I wanted some pretty chooks, something with a bit of colour.

My research has led me through so many different possibilities over the last couple of months, that I thought we’d do this and I thought we’d do that, and I’ve uhmmed and ahhed about which breed so many times too. I’ve wavered between ‘Dual Purpose’ birds and ‘Layers’ on a regular basis. The primary purpose of chooks was eggs, but we also wanted to eat our chooks too! And originally my thinking was such that we would get  only one breed, so which one to choose?

Barnevelders or Wyandottes? Light Sussex or Plymouth Rock? Australorp? Ancona? Faverolle? Welsummer? Adulusian, Leghorn or Minorca? Dorking or Orpington? Hamburg or Houdan? Langshan? Naked Neck? Araucana? New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red?

In the end, I couldn’t decide upon only one breed, so now we are getting a variety 🙂 It wasn’t such an anguishing issue for anybody else – I’d had only one request, and that was for the Araucana, because Brydon wanted blue eggs. Of all the different breeds out there, the Araucana, Barnevelder, Wyandotte and Ancona, have been serious contenders from the beginning. But I oscillated quite a lot between the breeds.

Also In the beginning, I was liking the idea of getting some fertile eggs and hatching our own, but after much research I decided against it. Too complicated and time involving for me and my special needs family! Then I was liking the idea of getting 4 week old chicks already sexed – 1 rooster and 12 girls – so we could handle them and get them used to us and get the boys used to them…

What I eventually decided upon was getting at least one chook from a breed known to go broody and also be good sitters and good mothers. When she does go broody I can get a clutch of fertilised eggs from a local breeder and stick them underneath her. She can do all the hard work – it also removes us a few steps so that when the chicks are old enough for us to know the difference between the girls and the boys, it won’t be so hard to kill and eat the boys.

We decided that at this stage we won’t be breeding them, so we don’t need a rooster. I’ve located three local suppliers from whom I can get fertilised eggs of a variety of different breeds, so I am definitely not in too much of a rush. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to breed with a mixed flock, but I’ve since found out you just have to take the girls out of the flock and isolate them for a while with their rooster. After about two weeks, the eggs they are producing will be the purebred variety. Sounds easy enough for when the time comes.

Okay, I’ve ordered our chooks, nine in total. One from a broody line and the rest, decent layers. We’ll get them at the end of this month, so now I have to make sure the coop is ready!

Below is my revised and shortlisted table of birds I was seriously considering, ones that would probably do well in our climate zone, sorted in eggs per year (a rough estimation) because the primary aim of our first flock is to produce eggs for the eating. Breeds with Egg under the Bird or Fertile Egg category means I want these breeds and hope to get them by putting fertilised eggs under the broody hen.

Any roosters we get from the hatching of fertilised eggs will be used for the table, although it’s been suggested that as I will be using purebreeds, to get an expert in to check the roos over, because there may be one or two roos worth saving for breeding purposes. The girls will be kept on as layers or we’ll sell them if we have too many.

 

Breed Purpose Eggs p/year (Av) Buy Bird or Fertile Egg
Ancona Layer 225 Y Bird
Leghorn Layer & Show 225
Andalusian  Layer 210
Hamburg Light 210 Y Egg
Langshan Dual purpose 205 Y Bird
Minorca Dual Purpose 200 Y Egg
Sussex  Dual Purpose 195 Y Egg
Araucana  Layer & Novelty 185 Y Bird
Rhode Island Red Dual Purpose 180
Barnevelder  Dual Purpose 175 Y Bird
Welsummer Dual Purpose 175 Y Egg
Australorp Dual Purpose 170
Campine Dual Purpose 170 Y Egg
Faverolle Dual Purpose & Show 170 Y Egg
New Hampshire Dual Purpose 170
Wyandotte Dual Purpose 165 Y  Bird
Plymouth Rock Dual Purpose 160 Y Egg
Dorking Dual Purpose 130

In the end I chose the Ancona because, even though a little flighty, it is a good forager, good layer, does well in the heat and is a striking looking bird with a reverse dalmation affect. The Langshan is another good laying breed, good forager and does well in the heat and cold. The Araucana was chosen for its blue coloured eggs and good foraging skills. The Barnevelder because it’s adaptable and does well in most climates, is a decent layer and forager and a good looking bird. And the Wyandotte was chosen because I always wanted one – they are the prettiest of the lot (I’ve ordered a gold laced one) – and they go broody easily, so are not recommended if you want lots of eggs. She will, hopefully, be the one we use to hatch our fertilised eggs. All these breeds are being sourced locally, less than 2 hours drive away, so they should be okay with our climate – I hope.