Sunday, May 12, 2013

Baby Chicks

    Over the past three weeks one of my Domenique hens has been setting on a clutch of ten duck eggs and two of her own eggs.   Yesterday morning I was greeted with some very loud "peeps" as I went out to feed the chickens.  It was obvious something had hatched.  Sure enough, there were two little chicks inside the chicken coop. Sadly, all of the duck eggs were still in the nest, which the hen had appeared to have abandoned. Duck eggs take about four weeks while chicken eggs will incubate in just three weeks. When I checked the duck eggs they were stone cold so there was no option to transfer them to my incubator.
Our new chicks.
     The chicks look really cute in my chicken pen, but its not a very good environment for them.  First of all, they can easily pass through the fencing and wander back and forth in and out of the pen throughout the day.  This means they have the option of becoming cat food whenever they choose to leave the safety of the chicken pen.  The second problem became apparent as evening fell. The hen wanted the chicks to return to the safety of the chicken coop. That seemed to be beyond their present skill set. They managed to descend the ramp, but seemed unable to climb back up.  The two little chicks were under the chicken coop peeping their loudest while the mother hen was set up to brood them inside the coop several feet above them.  In order to give them a safer environment I transferred both hen and chicks to the Parrot house where Cassie is supervising their welfare in the chicken tractor I made several years back.

     I later broke open the unhatched duck eggs in an effort to figure out what went wrong. The hen had abandoned them for good reason. It appears that none of them had developed and most were infertile. That means I probably don't have a slacker hen, but I probably do have a slacker drake. That is very unfortunate as I was planning to hatch out more ducklings. For the information of those who are curious about such things, if you break an incubated egg that didn't hatch and it looks like a normal egg, the egg was infertile.  If the insides of the incubated egg look really nasty, then it was fertile but didn't develop properly for some reason. This is according to a book on incubation I have borrowed from a  friend.
Antique Montgomery Ward incubator

Battery Brooder

     A friend had just loaned me his old Montgomery Ward wooden chicken incubator along with a battery brooder.  The large forced air cabinet incubator has the capacity to do about 300 chicken eggs at a time.  The battery brooder will brood 32 chicks at a time and is stacked on top of two cages that will accommodate 16 pullets each after they reach four weeks and no longer need brooding.  I wasn't planning on hatching 300 chicks, but I was hoping to hatch out several dozen ducks and chickens.  I figured I could sell the extra ducklings on Craig's List while I was hoping to supply family members with pullets and raise the roosters to eat.  The chicken portion of the plan is still on, but I may have to look elsewhere for fertile duck eggs.  

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