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Chicken incubation experiment, round 2

Hatching eggsWe've started on phase two of our chick-raising plan.  I know, I know, we've already got two heaping handfuls of chicks out in the coop, but they're only going to put a small dent in my chicken goals for the year, which include:

  • About five new hens to replace our old birds
  • Two hens of a broody variety to make incubation easier in 2012
  • 25 broilers to go in the freezer

Brinsea octagon 20 incubatorFor round two, we splurged and bought a Brinsea Octagon 20 incubator.  I'm hoping the larger capacity (it holds 24 hen eggs) will result in multiple living chicks even if my hatch rate continues to be terrible.  The new incubator monitors humidity as well as temperature, which will make it more likely that chicks will survive (I hope.)

In addition to saving up enough of our eggs to pop in the incubator, we ordered hatching eggs online.  The eggs were pricey --- I could have gotten chicks for nearly the same cost! --- but I want to learn incubation and am excited to be adding Cuckoo Marans to our flock since this variety is what Harvey Ussery uses as mother hens.  My goal for hatch two is to double my previous hatching rate and end up with at least seven living chicks, which just might be enough to give us the two broody hens I crave.

Sunny chick brooderMeanwhile, we had one small setback in the coop this past weekend --- a rat broke in and hauled off two chicks, leaving behind one dead and fourteen alive.  I'd read that rats are a huge problem with young chicks, but had previously kept our youngsters in the house until week three, which prevented predation problems.  Although the losses were preventable, I consider the current system better than the alternative.  Yes, we could keep the chicks inside longer or we could turn their outside home into a rat-proof cage, but I really like the way the chicks' current living arrangement has them foraging from day one and allows them to bask in the sun.  My hope is that the surviving chicks will be more wilely and better pasture animals.  Can you tell that I'm working on emotional detachment from the farm animals?

Our chicken waterer is the flock's favorite toy, keeping them busy between feedings.


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