Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Hatch

Yeah, the first hatch is done. Out of 35 eggs, 33 hatched. With 2 eggs not fertile, and one chick hatching two days late, too weak to survive. In with the other chicks it was being trampled in since it couldn't walk decent. I had to quietly eliminate it in the garage out of sight from the wee ones. The oldest grandchild and I discussed what had to be done and she wasn't upset being very logically minded like myself but the middle grandchild, umm... to avoid the theatrics with incomprehensible livestock rules, I didn't even mention it figuring she wouldn't miss 1 chick amongst the crowded cage.

By the number of dark little heads and puffy black bodies it was clear that the 2 Barred Rock, 2 Wyadottes, and the Australorps were the ones doing most of the contributing.

I love my incubator as it keeps a steady temperature of 98.5 which not only insures a good hatch but means I won't have straddled legs and crooked toes which is a sign of too high a temperature. Too high a temperature also means the chick will stick to the shell because of evaporation of moisture and the chicks will hatch too soon and soon die. Too slow and the chicks don't mature quickly enough also causing weakness and death. That is why it is important to check your incubator's temperature often throughout the 21 days before the 1st day of hatching. I keep a thermometer inside that I can see through the viewing window.
Today, I'm going to take out the Buff Orpington rooster and insert a Austrolorp male. When introducing a rooster into a coop, it takes 48 to 96 hours after he has inseminated the hens for the eggs to be fertile and up to 3 weeks after some of the eggs may still be fertile. But, and here is the clincher, after 5 to 7 days the percentage of fertilized eggs will drop and 10 days later it will be unsatisfactory. The plan is to leave him in for 2 weeks and begin collecting eggs. A few eggs may have the semen from the 1st rooster but not real likely. If I was worried about a pure-bred line I'd wait the 3 weeks but then it may work out that way anyway. My life lately is definitely not going according to my plans. Of this second hatch I will save a few replacement hens.

With our daughter came an upright freezer and those of you who have been reading this blog know how I love freezer room. If there's room I have to fill it. So far I've added bread, cookies, and butter to hers. Only because I've little time left from watching the kids, doing laundry, cleaning house, etc.

Now I'm thinking strongly of ordering some chicks from the local feed store. Then I can get a few Auracanas and such that I wanted. Kirk and I agree the kids need colored eggs. The Buff Orpingtons just have to go since they don't lay in our winters though right now they are laying heavily.
When so many chicks hatched I had to set up another cage so they are presently in two rabbit cages in the basement. Why rabbit cages? They were free, cast off offered by the neighbors. I have been blessed because three times now a set of cages has appeared from various friends when ours wore out. These are wired together a bit but still in good shape. Underneath is plastic garbage bags and inside the cages I lay down old newspaper I've saved and haven't used to start the fire in the wood, coal stove. If I run short I just go to the neighbors and beg for their old newspapers. My newspaper is just the Midweek that has all the advertising for our area in it and comes free delivered to our door. Each day or as the chicks grow larger, twice a day, I lay down another layer and after a few days I clean all the newspaper out and haul it to the garden. It makes great mulch since it keeps weeds from growing, breaks down fairly quickly, and is fertilized. The old sheets around the cages block the heat from escaping.

What I'm not happy with is the pasties I'm seeing on my baby chicks. I'm wondering about the feed. What are pasties. You know the chicks with the butts pasted with feces. It sticks to the feathers, dries, and blocks further exit of excrement. The chick then dies. This dictates that I hold a very disgruntled chick's hind end under the faucet softening the mess until I can clean it off. Not a pleasant task for either one of us. I've had to clean 5 chicks so far, all of them yellow ones. Last year I had only one chick I had to clean and the year before none. I didn't hatch for a few years before that but going back all the years with my first incubator I didn't have much trouble either unless I used wood shavings and then that stuck to the hind ends and did the same thing, blocking the exit. That is why I'm thinking it might be the feed. Any of you have experience in this area and can enlighten me? My daughter picked up a bag at a store I don't normally shop for livestock feed at. It's close by and at the time I couldn't be picky being the upheaval going on in our home.

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