Don’t count your chicks

Countdown to chicks!

A very soft, high-pitched hum, which changes from a major to minor key every few minutes, is what I have on for background music 24/7 for the next 20 days.  I’m so excited because the “white” noise means we’re in the chick hatching season part of the year here on Wing and a Prayer Farm!

loaded up and (soon to be) clucking!

She’s chock-full of eggs from the henhouse.  There are Red Star, Araucana, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Spitzhauben and some Heinz 57 chicks-in-the-making all settled in and developing away.  In a couple of days I will “candle” them which is how I tell if they are developing or not.  Sometimes they aren’t fertile or sometimes they are and just don’t develop.

Jim made me a “candler” a few years ago out of a coffee can and a lightbulb.  It works fabulously and we take the eggs into a room without windows so that it can be pitch dark surrounding the testing.  The candling reveals the miracle of life safely encased in the perfect mobile, the shell.  We see whether the veining has begun which spokes away from the tiny embryo.  We’re also able to monitor the size of the air space which is reduced as time goes on.  Usually the signs are obvious after a few days, but some shells are darker, more opaque than others and we have to guess at what we are seeing.  If the view is bright and empty, that usually indicates that nothing is happening and so we remove the egg.

After everyone has been checked for progress, they are carefully returned to the incubator where they tilt back and forth twice a day over 20 days.  On the 18th day, I remove the egg turner so that when they start to hatch, we don’t  lose any chicks to tangling up in the works.  That’s just too tragic to imagine.

We enjoy hatching out our own here because we trust they are from good stock.  We’re very prideful when it comes to our roosters and hens!  I have one Spitzhauben roo and two Araucana roos and they are good guys.  They care for the girls very well and are sweet to the people and pets that live here also.  Everyone is very healthy and has had a chemical-free life, free to run around with the protection of a fence when necessary or some body-guard Springer Spaniels that bark at the littlest intrusions.  We know their track record for laying, the health records, their temperament and hardiness.

successful hatches start with good stock!

This batch of eggs should be ready for laying somewhere around late June and that works well for the farmers’ market season.  By next fall, we’ll be sure of who is a rooster and who is not and who will be able to stay the winter, and who will not.  Every now and then I have a bumper crop of roosters and there’s just no keeping 12 roosters through the winter.  So, they go the way of the stew pot or to anyone who is interested in adopting them.  Which is usually no one.

Our success rate with our incubator has been pretty high.  Typically more than 80% of the eggs hatch on our farm and as we are a small operation, that is very good.  We’ll hope for 100%, but there is only so much we can do.

The following one minute, 43 second clip gives a good idea of the goings on from a 2008 spring hatching day and of course, I’ll be trying to chronicle the moments somewhere around February 18th this year as well.  Enjoy!

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