Welcome to my blog!
Why am I now blogging? What do I have to say that is all that important? Well, whether you think my thoughts are important or not is up to you. I decided to start blogging because I needed to start journaling about my most recent egg incubation project. Since I’m on my computer quite often, I figured I’d just journal online.
So… chickens. Why do I raise chickens?
It started last year. Ron and I went to a local farmers market. They offered 2 chicks and a little bag of feed for$5 that you could take home for Easter. We could return the chicks after Easter if we wanted to. It sounded like something the kids would like, and besides, Sarah was hatching chicks in her 3rd grade class. We did a little research, and decided to keep those 2 chicks. Ron “gave up” the lower part of the garage to turn in to a chicken coop. Fresh eggs sounded like a great idea! Then, I went to Tractor Supply and saw corrals of sweet little chicks for sale… After the second (or third?) trip to Tractor Supply, Ron forbid me to walk in that store again. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the two cute little chicks that we got at the farmers market were MEAT birds… They grow super fast, and they were HUGE.
So, to make a long story really short – here I am a year later. I didn’t mention that I bought TWO egg incubators last year and tried several times to hatch eggs. I had a few successes, but mostly failures. The last year was very interesting, and I learned a lot. So, now I’ve fired up one incubator to get started for this year. I have two batches of eggs in the ‘bator (more on that later). [Note: Try looking up “hatching eggs” on Ebay… You will find out quickly that there are many people who are interested in raising chickens, so I’m not totally alone! Another great website to look at is backyardchickens.com.]
One more thing I forgot to mention is that I live in town. Well, roosters can be loud. Really loud. Apparently one of my neighbors didn’t think the crowing was cutesy anymore, and complained. The zoning officer came around, and apparently he didn’t even know the code (which states you may have poultry in our town, as long as they don’t disturb the peace and are kept clean). So, to keep the peace, my husband knew a guy that owns a farm (and if anyone knows Ron – Ron knows a lot of people!)… The farmer was looking for chickens, so I tearfully said goodbye to several of my beautiful roosters…
Obviously, I’m hoping that most of my hatches this time around are pullets (young female chickens) and not cockerels (young male chickens). And, if I do have a good hatch, I’m going to have to sell some of the chicks. I won’t be able to keep all of them living in town. I’d love to own a small hobby farm, but that isn’t in the cards for us right now.
So. Back to the incubating business. Incubating is definitely a science. The temperature of the incubator MUST stay no lower than 99.5 degrees to approximately no more than 101 degrees (at least that’s the range I’m shooting for). The humidity should stay around 30-35% during the incubation period, and raise up to approximately 60% during the hatch. The eggs need to be turned 3 times a day for the first 18 days. After day 18, you DO NOT open up the incubator for anything (lovingly called “lockdown”), and that is when you increase the humidity to 60-65%. If those conditions are not met, your chicks will either not hatch, or if they do hatch they could be deformed and/or sick and die shortly after. And the incubators I’m using are small styrofoam jobs. Definitely NOT high-tech incubators, all the controls are being done manually – by me. If you raise or lower the temperature in the house, you need to closely watch your incubator and make the necessary adjustments quickly! To raise the humidity, you need to add water to little reservoirs in the floor of the incubator. The best way I found to do this without taking the lid off (and thus losing heat) is to use a straw. You can put the straw through little holes in the top of the incubator (not very scientific, but hey, it works). So, as you can see this whole thing can get complicated.
Last week I bought 2 batches of eggs off of Ebay. One batch I bought off of an Ebay-er in Maryland, the other batch in from an Ebay-er in Virginia. I forgot that Monday was a holiday, and my eggs had to sit at the post office all weekend, ugh! I am worried because you can’t let the temperature drop below 40 degrees and it is a gamble buying eggs this time of year AND having them shipped. But, I have read online where many people have refrigerated their fertilized eggs and have had success hatching. Well, yesterday morning 3 boxes arrived from the post office! Ron had no idea how many eggs I bought. I made him smile for this picture, but right before I snapped this picture, he said, “How many eggs DID you buy?” I don’t think he liked my non-reply, but smiled anyway (sarcastically, I might add).
My thanks go out to my cousin Lisa, who sent the kids a surprise package! That box did NOT include eggs, much to Ron’s relief! 😉 But, two boxes did contain eggs!
(Did I mention that I “secretly” have one rooster? He is a young Transylvanian Naked Neck/aka “Turken”, he is on the picture on the top of this page. He is still learning how to “mate”, poor guy is practicing but I don’t know how lucky he has been… I am hoping to have fertilized eggs this spring.)
We had to let the eggs come up to room temperature before adding them to our little incubator, which can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. My “chicken partner-in-crime” is Sarah. I was going to wait until this morning to put them into the incubator, which would’ve been 24 hours. However, Sarah wanted to put them in last night. I was nervous putting them in at night because obviously the temperature drops in the incubator when you take off the lid and add room temperature eggs, and I wanted to make sure the temperature came back up before I went to sleep. I want this incubation period to go perfectly. So much for that. She won out. I made Ron wake me up at 1 AM to tell me what the temperature was before he went to bed (he is a night owl).
One more thing I should mention is that the incubators need to be kept in a draft-free area. The best place I can think of in my house is upstairs. Julie and Sarah’s room is drafty. Tyler’s room is not drafty, but what 15 year-old teenager wants his step-mom walking in and out of his room constantly to check on her chicken eggs? That left our bedroom. Ron loves it. “How romantic, sharing our bedroom with chickens!” 😉 I tried putting the incubator on our kitchen counter last year once, but we definitely had a better hatch rate when the ‘bator was in our bedroom! That’s my argument, and I’m sticking to it! (But I do have to admit, it’s hard sleeping when they’re hatching and you hear the eggs rolling around all night and hearing “peep peep”!)
Well, I have to stop blogging here. We have our tax appointment in 45 minutes. I just checked the temp on the ‘bator. It’s holding now at 99.9! Perfect!