What better Easter project can there be than hatching a few chicks? I have been wanting to do this for ages, and the moment we got permanent electricity I was on it! This is only our second hatch and I am very much still learning the ropes, but feel free to join the hatching journey over the next 21 days (and beyond!). Comments and advice welcome!
Sourcing the eggs
Using hatching eggs (on this scale at least) is not the most economic way of rearing chickens since an egg costs roughly the same as a day old chick and your chances of successfully hatching every egg you buy is nil. You also at least have a chance of sexing day old chicks, with a hatching egg it’s a complete mystery. Last time I got a 50% hatch (with one chick born with problems) which is pretty typical of posted eggs and so far I have only ever bought hatching eggs online and received them through the post. Still, I do love the hatching process so the jeopardy is worth it, and part of it for me. The next batch of eggs I will probably collect so I will compare hatching stats then. I have been pleased on the whole with the condition of the eggs on arrival, they have been packaged well and arrived very quickly so I could set them whilst still fresh. This time I bought 24 eggs from 3 different sources, thankfully they all arrived on the same day in time for the weekend. As they will hatch in 21 days time, the hatch day falls conveniently on a Saturday/Sunday.
I do love the rarer breeds. They can be harder to come by (like the New Hampshire Reds we hatched last time) and they often seem to be the most beautiful. This time I ordered 18 Vorwerk eggs from 2 different sources, they are the smaller creamy ones above. I also bought 6 White Leghorns for my Dad, the large white eggs, naturally.
There is something really striking about the gold and black combination of these beautiful birds. They were originally bread to be hardy birds that incur low food costs for their owners and dual purpose like our New Hampshires – good for laying and tasty for the table! They will actually be black with yellow heads when they hatch, the reverse of their feather patterns when they mature. Quirky! I’d really like to breed some of these eventually, part of the reason why I ordered birds from two unrelated sources (although how I will mark and separate these on hatching during “lockdown” I don’t know, perhaps an oversight there…!).
A simple and traditional breed, entirely white with bright red combs. They are adaptable and are very good layers, producing large white eggs. Really hoping for majority girlies as they are intended to be layers for Dad. If I get too many boys I might find myself buying some day olds…. And they really are the cutest! Your proper typical Easter chick.
At first I thought I had made a grave error and bought 24 eggs to fit in a 12 egg bator! It didn’t help that the manual that came with our incubator is for the 12 egg model. Panic stations! Turned out I was just being daft and so, thankfully, it was crisis over. Firstly I sanitized everything I am going to be using over the next few weeks using a purpose made sanitizer. When the eggs arrived I checked there were no breakages. Some had some smudges of dirt so I did a bit of research and stumbled into the great debate between “DON’T WAAAAAASH!!!!!!” and “STERILIZE WHATEVER YOU DO!” As far as I can tell, it basically boils down to the fact that washing disturbs the protective bloom on the outside of the egg, but if you don’t wash you may be incubating bacteria from dirt and poo which can penetrate the egg and cause it to go bad. So, I weighed it up and decided to go for gently sponging off any obvious dirt marks with paper towel and warm water, making sure my hands were clean first. Do your own research as I am only experimenting myself. I left the eggs to settle after their journey, I think I managed about 19 hours or so (rather than the recommended 24 hours) before I got too impatient, and so…
Time for setting! I allowed the eggs to reach room temperature and set up my incubator. We have a 24 egg P & I model with auto turning function. I switched it on to let it reach the right temperature and humidity inside. Temperature should be 37.5 celsius, and humidity? Well, there is a lot of debate, but somewhere between 45%-55% is the general consensus. I think I’m going to try and stick to around 50% for days 1-18. We are borrowing a friend’s humidity monitor since out incubator doesn’t come with one.
Here they are, cozily tucked away for the next 21 days. My 3 year old friend seemed to struggle with the concept of time on this one. On seeing the eggs in the incubator, he informed me that…
Small boy: I’m waiting here for the eggs to hatch.
Me: How long are they going to take to hatch? Do you remember what I said…?
Small boy: 20 minutes?
Me: 21 days. Is that a long time or a short time do you think?
Small boy: Short?
Me: No, it’s quite a long time.
Small boy: Well I will just wait here until the chicks come out….
And so the conversation continued. We did a couple of laps before I distracted him with some pictures of chicks on my computer.
So from now on it is a patient waiting game. I will candle them for signs of life in a week’s time. I’m going to limit myself to days 7, 14 and 18 for candling so as to disturb the hatch as little as possible. In the meantime I’ll be doing my homework and keeping everything crossed!
Some great online resources…
If you are hatching chicks of your own or thinking about keeping chickens I highly recommend these sites, if you haven’t come across them already. I have learned so much form them and have found them really useful for troubleshooting quickly.
The Chicken Chick – This lady knows a lot about chickens, a great site with tons of useful information and great photos.
Back Yard Chickens – This forum has the answers to any chicken related question you could ever wish to know. A huge online community of chicken owners all contributing their knowledge and experience.