The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Becoming a chick expert

Outdoor chick brooder

Last year, I faced a lot of growing pains when it came to hatching our own chicks and keeping them alive, but now I feel like an expert.  Hatch rates this year ranged from 80% to Choosing eggs for the incubator95%, and survival rates (how many chicks lasted through their first month of life) were always right at 95%.

To get there, I perfected my
choice of eggs to go in the incubator, tweaked my dry incubation technique, and learned how to leverage my specific incubator.  I also prevented a lot of second-guessing by figuring out how to tell if eggs left in the incubator on day 22 were late-hatchers or duds.  More basically, I started taping my incubator and turner plugs to the wall socket to prevent accidental unplugging.

Ecoglow BrooderOutdoor brooder

Once the chicks made it out of the egg, we continued to have good results with an Ecoglow Brooder instead of a heat lamp.  Mark built me an outdoor brooder that did a great job to keep the chickens happy outside as early as week 1, which saved my sanity and also let them enjoy free ranging much earlier in life.  Turning the plexiglass toward the sun helped heat up the brooder in the early spring, then flipping the window side to face north (and Three day old chickputting the brooder in the shade) prevented overheating for our summer flocks.

I feel like I've finally got chick care figured out, which is why I wrote Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook to jumpstart others' journeys.  If you want to see more cute chick photos without spending 99 cents, you  might also want to check out this post.

We use our chicken waterer with chicks from day 1, which prevents diseases and drowning while also saving us lots of work changing wet bedding.

This post is part of our 2012 Chicken Experiments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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