Saturday, 23 July 2016

Broody hen v incubator

Our last brood at three weeks old
Mr J and I are preparing for an exciting week ahead. By this time next week we should have a good idea of how many new chicks and ducklings we have. And we will then be able to compare how well the incubator and brooder do in comparison to the broody hen.

On 1st July I put ten duck eggs into the incubator. They were gathered over a period of twelve days and are the eggs from Frederick and Mrs Warne, who are Aylesbury ducks (a commercial strain rather than exhibition birds). When I candled them on day six there were three that were obviously unfertilised. Now I'm not quite sure how on earth she has managed to lay unfertilised eggs. His 'attention' to her is relentless and we have thought that we should get a couple more Aylesbury ducks, just to give her a bit of a break.

On the 5th July one of the Cream Legbar chickens became broody and because we had the space and some potentially fertile eggs, we moved her to an isolation house where she has been sitting on her clutch of at least six eggs. There may be more eggs if she laid a couple more after being moved. I haven't disturbed her to find out how many are under her, although I know that she has been lovingly attending to a rubber fake egg.

Then, on 6th July I put eleven Australorp eggs and four from our own girls into the incubator, which should mean (I hope) that the chickens will hatch just before or around the same time as the ducklings.

Last night, we had to remove one of the duck eggs. It had gone bad in the incubator and was smelling dreadfully, so that leaves us with six fertile duck eggs and fifteen hen eggs. Late on Sunday night I will take the supports out of the incubator, top up the water reservoirs and remove the turning cradle in readiness for the hatch in the next couple of days.

I did notice that the incubator was running a little cool during the first week, so the ducks may be slower to hatch, but it has been so warm for the last week that I think the incubator has been running a tad warmer than 37.5 degrees that it should be, so maybe that will bring them back on time. Having said all of that, I don't mind when they come just as long as they hatch safely and are healthy.

So, at some point next week, the grand hatch should start. I will try to video some of the chicks and ducklings hatching, but I also aim to spend quite a chunk of the hatching time either outside or away from the smallholding. For the last two hatches I haven't managed to get anything done. I have sat in the snug staring at the incubator, willing the eggs to break open and stupidly I have got quite stressed at watching little chicks try to break out of their shells and then fail, so thought that if I was out of the way, I wouldn't get upset.  I can almost hear Mr J's snort as I type this, he knows me well enough that my good intention of staying away from the incubator is unlikely to come to fruition. Although, if there is also activity in the broody hen's house, I will be torn between sitting inside or outside!

We are once again heading into unknown territory, ever eager to learn new skills and absorb new information, I feel a little worried about doing the right thing for the ducklings, but also know that instinct will tell me when it's the right time to take them from the incubator and put them into their pen in the stable under a heat lamp. And, I'm not sure when we are supposed to integrate the broody hen and her chicks back into the flock. So, to help me work out when I start to integrate the broody and her chicks, I am taking a webinar chicken raising course on Sunday evening.
Big Red and Little White enjoying a dust bath in their sand pit

I am comfortable that we are getting the process right for the chicks. Big Red and Little White are now eleven weeks old and live with Jack and Diesel on their side of the chicken field. Red is becoming a more handsome chap with each day and has been practising his crowing skills (he has a surprisingly deep voice for a young chap). Little White can't really be described as little any more as she is almost as big as Diesel, eventually she will be more than twice the size of Diesel. Of the four that hatched last time, I am increasingly convinced that we have one Jersey Giant cockerel and one hen, that the Australorp is a hen and the hybrid, well, I still can't work that one out!

So over the next month we will get to see whether the broody hen or incubator and electric brooder are less work, less complicated, more efficient and more productive. Even though it was purely coincidental that a hen went broody at the same time as we were ready to put the next eggs into the incubator, I am really pleased to be able to watch the differences in person.

1 comment:

  1. We shall be coming to distract you with my own brood of small people! H is very excited about seeing ducklings (as am I)


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