Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Chicks are Coming!

It has been nearly a month since we brought the new incubator home.
The duck eggs have been in since, and the chicken eggs went in a week after the ducks.
The duck incubation period is twenty-eight days, and the chickens go for twenty-one.
In a few days, the hatch will be well underway.

We are as ready as we can be.
The lights and brooders are set up.
There is a short term plan for separating the ducklings and chicks.
There are some buyers lined up.
The food is ready.
Now we just need some peeping babies to complete the scene.
The challenge of the overlapping duck and chicken hatch will be a good learning experience for using the incubator continuously.
In theory, you could have a constant flow of chicks coming out of that thing.
In practice, I think it's really intended to put out a setting of forty-eight chicks every week.
This unit is a setter/hatcher combo, which means that the eggs are incubated and hatched in the same unit.
There is a dedicated hatcher unit which can be used in conjunction with a setting model.
That would streamline the process and the birds would effortlessly flow.
I feel that intoxicating feeling of power come over me again.
I need to watch that.
The thirteen young birds that we already have are old enough now to go outside on their own.
That means they will need less indoor space since they'll likely only sleep inside.
The coop is too small for many indoor birds, but there is lots of room for sleeping birds.
I have separated the coop in order to arrange the new birds inside.
If I build a fenced outdoor run, I will be able to let the birds out when they're quite young, thus allowing everyone more space to do chicken things.
The ducks are still a bit of a mystery.
I don't know what I'll do with them in the long run.
I'll likely build them some shelter near the pond.
There won't be very many, and we will likely be giving some away and eating the rest.
Keeping ducks over the winter is an option, but I am not sure how that is done yet.

I am certainly apprehensive about the success of the hatch.
After all, I do have an audience as well as buyers counting on me.
We have had our share of failures when it come to incubating eggs.
Once they're hatched we are experts.
But, getting the humidity right in the incubator is a major challenge.
Candling eggs is the process of illuminating an egg in order to glimpse a view of what is going on inside.
I have candled all the duck eggs and removed the failures.
The Khaki Campbells didn't fare well and there are only three left from twelve.
The Rouens did much better and I still have over a dozen that look viable.
I didn't candle every chicken egg.
Every one I looked at was good so I stopped after candling several eggs.
One thing is for certain.
During the hatch, our focus will be on the chicks and little else.
Though you are not supposed to help chicks that are having trouble,
we have had good success in the past rescuing strugglers.

Now we wait.
Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tonight. Maybe the day after next.
There are some variables that can shorten or lengthen the wait time.
I will be checking the incubator periodically to watch for the first signs of emerging chicks.
I must admit that I'm pretty excited.
(As I am writing, Kira checked the incubator and there is one chick starting to pip.)

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