Dad finally decided that it would be ok to get an incubator and try hatching out some chicks this spring. Well, actually, Mom wanted it to be a project for the younger three because they were studying birds for science.
However, somehow along the way it morphed into my project. Which I am just fine with, I've been wanting to rebuild my flock since that ill-fated morning of the dog massacre. I say the flock is mine, because I've been the one taking care of them. Dad just provides the finances and facility. I take care of them morning and night. I go and retrieve the food. I collect the eggs. I clean everything out. I make the decisions about how I take care of them. The only real requirement is that they all stay in the pasture.
I've got fourteen chicken eggs and one duck egg in the incubator, and when I candled them a couple days ago, they all seemed to be thriving.
Of course, if they all end up hatching and surviving the first few weeks or month, we will not be keeping all fifteen birds. I'm pretty sure the grown up birds would be quite overwhelmed with the sudden increase. I think the flock could probably do with about six to eight new birds, and the rest will be passed on to whoever wants them. From those six to eight, I'm really hoping I get at least one rooster, two would be better. Mostly because the current rooster is really getting on my nerves.
He's a pure Buff Orpington (basically he's a medium-sized to large yellow bird). But that's about the only praise I can give him.
His crow is downright annoying. It sounds like he's dying. All of my other roosters have ended up with beautiful, clear crows, but his almost sounds like he's trying too hard and choking.
Since he was raised apart from a flock and by hand, he is clumsy around the hens. He didn't take charge of the hens at first, and instead of leading them, he chose to follow them, so now he does a terrible job being the head of the pecking order. He is greedy.
He hates one of the hens so much that I have to keep them separated for fear of her life. I even saw the two boy ducks trying to get the rooster away from that poor hen. And the ducks only like themselves. Like dude, if a duck decides to protect a hen, then whatever you're doing must be pretty messed up. at least he hasn't started to fight me yet. So hopefully I can pass him along to someone else after confirming which chicks are roosters, and he will behave much better. But at this point, he's just being disruptive.
But of course, now that I actually want a few roosters, this batch of chicks will all be hens.
I am curious to see how the chicks come out looking though.
I have one pure ameraucana, one pure black sexlink (or australorp, I forget which), one part ameraucana part red(?) sexlink, one part ameraucana part red sexlink part black australorp, three barred rocks, one silver laced wyandotte, and one I have no idea what it is, but it's mostly white with a few black feathers around its neck.
I did some research, and the Buff x Barred is supposed to be a good cross. The hens should lay well, and any roosters will grow quickly, plus they should look nice.
I'm hoping that Grey's (my part ameraucana, part red) chicks will come out looking like last year's. Since most of her's came out grey, and a few had red on them, I'm really curious to see if any interesting colors will come from her this time around. I also want to experiment with isolating her and the rooster and incubating a batch of eggs that I know are from her to see how they turn out. I really, really want to get another grey and red rooster from her again.
I didn't find anything on Buff x Wyandotte, or Buff x Ameraucana, but I'm curious to see how they come out too.
The duck egg is just an experiment to see if it would even work to incubate them at the same time. It seems to be growing, just maybe a touch slower than the rest. If we get a female, then great we'll probably keep her. But if we get a male, we'll probably pass him along. I can think of one family who would probably take him and keep him with a flock, one person who would probably take him and just put him out with his other ducks to free range on his pond, and one family who would probably take him and butcher him.
The eggs are about two weeks into incubation, so we should see them hatch in about a week.
I got the incubator at Tractor Supply. The cheapest I could find was somewhere around $40, and that did not include the device to turn the eggs (which is completely unnecessary if at least one person is going to be home to turn the eggs). It was pretty easy to get up and running. I did run it overnight without eggs in it so it could get the temperature stabilized, the instructions recommended running it for eight hours.
The ideal temp for incubation is about 99.8-101 degrees fahrenheit, and humidity should be between 60 and 80 percent. To make the incubator more humid inside, there are troughs in the bottom to fill with water, though I found that was not enough all the time, so I ended up soaking two wads of tissues with warm water and placing them at opposite corners, and that seemed to do the trick.
Since we didn't buy the egg turner, I marked each egg with an x, in pencil (pen or marker will go through the egg shell and be potentially harmful to the chick). The eggs have to be turned at least three times each day, five is probably better, but since I'm not home every day three is easier. it has to be an odd number of turns, otherwise the chick will end up on the same side every night, and eventually get stuck to that side.
Candling the eggs is simple. We don't even use a candle. Just a small, but powerful, flashlight, an empty toilet paper roll, and a dark room (like a bathroom or closet). I put the egg up on one end of the toilet paper roll, making sure to keep the big end of the egg higher than the small end (because that's where the air bubble is, and if I turn it so that the small side is up, I run the risk of rupturing that bubble, and killing the chick) and shine the flashlight from the other side of the roll so that the light went through the egg, revealing the chick growing inside. At nine days, I could definitely see the masses of veins and each little chick moving. The duck egg was easiest to see, as the shell is white, while the two ameraucana eggs were the hardest to see through, even though they were a light blue color. It took a minute for me to be able to tell if what I was seeing was a chick, or just a rotten mess inside waiting to explode.
Here's hoping we get some chicks!
Any of y'all have chickens?
Aren't chicks the most adorable little fuzzballs ever?