Three ways to get chicks

Cute chickMy original goal for 2011 was
to hatch out four batches of ten chicks apiece using our
broody hen.  When she fell down on
the job, I moved on to plan B — hatch out five batches of seven
chicks apiece using our
Mini Advance Incubator

In both cases, I hoped to come up with five good layers with prime
foraging genes to replace our aging hens this fall and put the rest of
the chickens in the freezer at broiler age.

Unfortunately, there
seems to be a steep learning curve involved in hatching our own chicks,
and we only came up with one homegrown chick during our first
trial.  I was starting to feel pressed for time, worried that any
pullets we hatched wouldn’t start laying this fall, so we went out and
bought 16 locally hatched Black Australorps.  I’ve heard very good
things about Black Australorps’ abilities as foragers, so I figure it
won’t hurt to give a few hens a try in our flock.

Brinsea octagon incubatorBut we don’t want to give up
on hatching our own, so we decided to sink some more money into the
project and buy a Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance Incubator.  This
larger incubator will hold up to 24 chicken eggs, hedging my bets so
that even if I continue to have abysmal hatch rates, I’ll at least end
up with multiple living chicks.  The incubator also has a humidity
reading on the digital display and a vent to allow me to adjust the
internal air flow, which should help fix one of the major causes of our
hatch rate
round 1.

Cuckoo MaranWe saved up our best
foragers’ eggs for our second round of incubation, but also ordered a
dozen Cuckoo Maran eggs from
Golden Willow Farm
and Hatchery

One of my role models,
, uses Cuckoo
Marans to hatch all of his chicks since this heritage breed is a great
brooder and mother, so I’m hoping we’ll get at least two broody hens
out of the deal.  Maybe in 2012, the incubators will just be a
backup to natural hatching under a broody hen.

All seventeen of our current
chicks are off to a healthy start with their POOP-free
chicken waterer.

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