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Chicks are hatching.....

In the end, our new incubator has not lived up to expectations, with only 3 chicks hatched out of 48 eggs.  We suspect a combination of old roosters/hens, wet and not so fresh eggs and getting used to the new incubator (the instructions are in badly translated Chinese-English, so some parts we had to guess!).  Anyway, we will be putting in another batch of eggs in the next couple of weeks to try again, so rather than dwell on our lack of success, I’d like to share some observations of the chicks so far.   

eight acres: hatching chicks
First chick out!
The chicks were each moved from the incubator and into the brooder box about a day after they hatched, so that they could start eating and drinking.  The brooder box is a wooden box with a light bulb in it to keep the temperature around 38°C (unfortunately we can’t buy the old-style light bulbs any more and will have to buy a proper heat bulb soon when our supply of the old ones runs out).  In the box we put a small feeder full of “chicken raiser” crumbles and a small water dispenser.  We don’t know yet if they are hens of roosters, that should be apparent in a couple of weeks when they have more feathers (we’ve never mastered the method of looking at their behinds, but here's how you can work it out when they're older).
First chick into the brooder box and eating already.
It always amazes me how feisty and bold the chicks are when they first hatch, considering how tiny they are, they are certainly not helpless babies.  They are very attentive and quick to learn when we show them how to eat by tapping on crumbles on the floor of their box.  You can see them looking at your finger and copying the action.  One chick hatched a few days before the others and I was worried about putting the smaller chicks in the box in case they were picked on.  In fact the opposite was the case, with the larger chick scared in the corner of the box and the smaller two pecking him at first until they settled down and are now getting on ok.   The most alarming aspect of the chicks is their habit of falling asleep anywhere in their box and looking as if they have dropped dead!    

Sleeping chicks often look like they've just dropped dead!
We had a power cut for 10 minutes while the chicks were hatching and my husband and I ran around putting blankets on the incubator to try to keep them warm.  This has made us realise how important electricity is to keeping all our systems running and we will be looking at securing our electricity independence as we frequently have cuts for several hours during the summer storm season.  This will start with a generator and one day extend to something more sophisticated. 

I’ll keep updating the progress of the chicks.  We hope to have some roosters so that we can have roast chicken again (we hate buying the supermarket ones, just don’t trust the conditions they’ve been raised/processed in) and I’ll do a blog on how to dress a rooster.  And maybe also some decent pullets to replace some of our older hens.   Any advice/thoughts about chicks, hatching and incubating?   

Read more about what we've learnt about incubating chicken eggs here.


By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.


Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


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