Chicks!

I haven’t really mentioned chickens much thus far on the blog. I guess not much chicken-y happens in May and June – the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. I mean, all of the “chicks”, now pullets, have started laying two or three months ago, and I didn’t really have any intention to hatch out more chicks until September or October – that is, spring.

And then one of the local grain and fodder shops contacted my father about a month ago, and asked for a batch of chicks. Now, just to clarify, this wasn’t a completely random thing. They’re regular customers of my father’s, and I already supplied them with a batch of chicks in January or February. They’re further out from the city than where I live, so I guess they’ve pretty much got a corner on the market – they buy and sell the chicks at what I would consider a slightly excessive price. They’re particularly eager to buy purebreds, particularly since their previous supplier moved interstate at the end of last year, but unfortunately for them, I don’t even own any purebred adult birds from which to breed, let alone have two of the same breed. But they’ll still pay $5 apiece for mixed-breed, unsexed layers. I’m not going to say no to that!

2013.06.18 - One Tree Hill Hatch 01

There are few things cuter than a half-hatched chick.

So, naturally, after being told of the order, I started collecting and turning eggs to put in the incubator. And, I mean, it’s winter. It’s raining. The hens aren’t laying well. I only put one incubator on – it takes 4 dozen. It took far longer than I’d have liked to collect enough eggs (especially considering I have regular customers for eggs). And I may never know why on earth the grain and fodder shop wants day-old chicks in the middle of winter. I mean, who would want to keep these chicks under heat, indoors, for weeks on end? But still, it’s good money, and it’s their problem.

2013.06.18 - One Tree Hill Hatch 02

Here they are on Friday, which was Hatch Day.  The brooder they’re in is actually the other incubator. I have two incubators, both 48-egg auto-tilt boxes in an ugly yellow colour, which beep obnoxiously when the humidity gets below 45 or the temperature gets more the .5 of a degree off the optimal 37.6. Normally, in spring, I have both incubators set to hatch at the same time, and I have a third, smaller (I think it fits 12 eggs), manual-turn incubator, which I use as a “fluff-a-bator” before putting the chick in the brooder, which is a large bird or rabbit cage, lined with sawdust, with an overhead lamp (although, in summer, the lamp isn’t necessary, and I in fact sometimes use fans!). But since I had a spare incubator this time, and I was only keeping the chicks a few days, I figured there was no point in getting out an actual brooder. So they stayed in the spare incubator, with the egg-racks removed, of course.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All up, twelve chicks hatched. It’s a nice round number, but only a 25% hatch rate, which isn’t particularly good, as you might imagine. But then again, I knew I was dealing with a number of very new layers, so I didn’t expect the hatch rate to be particularly spectacular. I usually get about a 75% hatch rate.

I sent the chicks off with my father this morning. The grain and fodder shop is about 45-50 minutes away, so it’s not exactly somewhere I’m keen to be traipsing off to regularly, and he had to head off in that direction anyway.

It was sort of sad to see them go. But then again, I didn’t really want to have to deal with a dozen chicks in a brooder indoors for the next eight weeks. At least in summer they can go outside at about ten to fourteen days.

So there you have it: a dozen chicks.

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