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Day 21 hatch rate

Cuckoo Marans chicksAll of the books and websites agree that you get your best chicks by the end of day 21, so even though I'll let the rest of the eggs sit in the incubator for another day or two, I want to do my hatching analysis with just the chicks hatched by Tuesday afternoon.  At that time, there were five happy chicks snuggled under the brooder, two aided and ailing chicks in the first aid incubator (more on them tomorrow), one chick just hatched in the big incubator, and two pipped eggs.

Of the six chicks that hatched on their own, five were Cuckoo Marans and only one was a homegrown egg.  Keep in mind that the Cuckoo Marans were jiggled around by the post office and had to wait a whole week from laying before going in the incubator, a combination of factors that often reduces hatch rates.  So why did they do so much better?

Bird in the handNine of the 24 eggs I started with were from our four year old hens because I was hoping to pass on their foraging genes, but I've since read that any hen older than two years is going to produce eggs with limited viability.  Even the eggs from our "young" Golden Comet are a bit suspect since she's three years old.  Of these geriatric eggs, one hatched unaided just at the end of day 21, I helped one out, and one is a late pipper.  For the sake of comparison, our mail order Cuckoo Marans self-hatched 42% of their eggs by the end of day 21, I helped one chick out of the shell, and one more is a late pipper.  Clearly, age of the hen matters.

As a side note, next time I'll be sure to plan my hatch for the weekend.  My ability to focus on work while chicks are struggling out of their shells over my right shoulder is pretty much nill.  Good thing my boss is nice!

Our oldest chick started exploring his domain and found our chicken waterer on Tuesday afternoon.


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Watching chicks hatch is work!
Comment by Sara Wed May 18 09:45:00 2011
I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. It's fascinating...but wears me out! Maybe in a few more hatches, I will be more laid back.
Comment by anna Wed May 18 17:29:06 2011
Hehe, I'm hopeless at timing egg hatching! Twice now we've had chicks hatch while we were away, and had to get friends to look after them.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Wed May 18 18:36:06 2011
Sounds restful to be out of town during hatch, but I don't think I could make the control freak in me leave the incubator....
Comment by anna Wed May 18 21:06:05 2011
I do not notice any decreased hatch rate with older birds. Its Heath related, I believe. I read in the chicken health book that although the fertility will be decreased from older hens, that the chick quality is better because the parents are more robust and disease resistant. If they have lower fertility it might be because the roosters like mating hens at the bottom of the pecking order and older hens are closer to the top. If you don't like hatching eggs, I suggest you get silkie hens. Mine go broody 2-3 times a year. I have to man handle them to get eggs from them because they hide the eggs under their wings, between their legs and under their chins. They will do all the hatching for you if you let them, and if you aren't diligent with them, they will hatch eggs without your permission. They like finding new places to hide the eggs where you don't expect. They share nesting boxes and being mamas. Even silkie Roos are good dads, they help raise their young. My other breeds that go broody aren't good mothers, but abandon or kill the chicks.
Comment by Liz Sun Mar 2 21:40:19 2014

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