Tuesday 10 April 2012

Gold-Laced Wyandottes

The hatch is done now, such that it is.
It ended up to be about twenty-five percent.
That's nothing to brag about.
I had originally planned to keep putting eggs under the birds as the older ones hatched.
I've changed my mind about doing that.  I need to end this chapter.

I removed all of the remaining eggs.
They are all dead.  There is no doubt.
The hens will remain....until I decide what is going to happen to them.
I had previously vowed that the soup pot would be their next move.
I am not so sure now.

The three hens are still confined to the broody coop.
They each have a nest available to them.
I would like to see if they are going to start laying soon.
It has been a long time since they went broody.
They are getting lots of feed without any competition.
But they have been eating well all along.

The big question is whether or not to return them to the flock.
As disappointed as I am with their poor hatching skills, the issue is complex.
When keeping a purebred heritage breed bird, the integrity of the strain is very important.
That means culling non-conforming birds.
It must also mean the opposite.
Wyandottes are supposed to tend towards broodiness, whereas in most laying strains, broodiness has been intentionally bred out.
If I remove these three birds, which were the only ones to go broody, then I am removing a trait that is recognized to conform to the breed.

I must also consider what a good hatch is.
After doing some research I found that although Wyandottes go broody and make good mothers, they are also known for low hatch rates.
A good hatch rate for a farmer is between eighty-five and ninety-five percent.
That makes sense when you are trying to maximize productivity.
In the natural environment, birds don't have large clutches of eggs so that each of them become progeny.
They have large clutches to maximize quality.  
Many of the eggs won't hatch.  Many of the chicks won't survive.
The ones that do are the young with the vigor necessary for perpetuating the species.
Loons, for example, usually have two young.  Only the better of the two will survive.

When the hens kill or neglect their newly hatched chicks, I presume them to be bad mothers.
The hens, however, are responsible for the species.
Who am I to say that they aren't doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
After all, twenty-five percent is pretty good in the natural world.
Also, I must admit that in my haste to get the whole process going, I neglected to boost the hens' nutrition well before selecting the eggs to be incubated.

The three birds in the broody coop look like good birds.
They are healthy and conform to the breed standard.
If I release them back into the flock, their eggs will end up in the incubator.
The tendency to go broody will be retained.
Despite my current misgivings towards natural incubation, in the future I intend to try again using this method.
Allowing hens to hatch and rear chicks removes the necessity for equipment and electricity.
The options should be left open.

So, here are the baby chicks that we do have.
Let's not forget about them.
There are thirteen in all.
Perhaps even among them, not all should have made it.
There was some intervention.
I am excited to see how they turn out.
These are the first chicks from the current flock.
We have yet to find out if this flock will measure up to the Wyandotte standard.
If it does, then we have the opportunity to help keep the breed going.
In doing so, we add ourselves to the history of these birds.

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