Sunday 6 May 2012

The Power of Population

Now the farm can't help but get more interesting.
As promised, a proper incubator.
It took some time, but it's a long term solution.
This unit will set and hatch as many chicks as we want.
All we need is breeding stock and electricity.

This is a proven and common model.
The newest ones have digitally controlled functions.
The turning racks are automated.
Once it is set up, you just need to put eggs in and take chicks out.
Our chick supplier has been great with us, but we need more control of our flock.
We will be able to produce more chicks than we could handle.

The first eggs to go in will be the duck eggs that we picked up from Mason Heaton.
There are Rouen ducks and Khaki Campbell ducks.
We aren't really prepared for ducks, but we'll be able to manage them once they're hatched.
It's unlikely that each egg will turn out a duckling.
A good hatch rate is 85%.  If all goes well, there will be enough to breed our own ducks.

When we ordered our first chicks, we weren't prepared for them; at least not when the order was placed.
We chose to order on the high side because I expected losses.
It turned out that we had no losses at all, and so we ended up with a full forty chickens.
If we stayed within our comfort zone, then our pace of learning would be much slower.
Now, I don't plan on burying us with chickens, but we now have that choice.
There is one less constraint on our ability to expand and maintain our flock.

We are in our fourth year of keeping chickens.
There has been enough experience to help us get serious about future plans.
The chicken coop that I built was a worthwhile endeavor and it is extremely useful, but it isn't the best design for the purpose. I have a much better idea of what we will need to care for larger numbers of birds.
And yes, we will be keeping more poultry.
Chicken has a wide variety of sales opportunities.
Also, chickens need less land than other livestock.
Ingenuity is more relative to carrying capacity than just area.

Of course, I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch.
But, this is a proven way to generate chicks.
There are definitely some variables, and so attention to detail will contribute to the success of the hatches.
Once those details are worked out, I could easily hatch ninety chicks per week.
This machine is designed to run continuously.
Each rack holds two trays.  There are three racks.
Each tray holds forty-eight eggs.
In the bottom is a drawer for hatching.  At full capacity, this cabinet could contain three-hundred and eighty-four souls. 
With a good hatch rate, that's three hundred chickens. 
I feel intoxicated with poultry power.
If you see Gold-Laced Wyandottes taking over the world, then you'll know that I lost control.

We are limited by the number of eggs that can go into the incubator.
Our current hens only give us a dozen a day, on average.
The short term goal is really to expand our laying flock, provide the family with chicken to eat, and to mitigate the loss of our birds to predators.
Allowing our birds to range freely puts them at risk, but then so does confinement.
I won't mind some loss as long as we can replace the birds.

We have always given our chickens more than enough room to live.
I plan on keeping that feature built into our plans.
It does, however, allow us some room for expansion without creating a disaster.
There is also the option of selling chicks and older birds, so they needn't all stay here.
Besides, the great thing about chickens is that if they become too numerous,
we may simply eat them.

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