Yes! It is that time of year again, where chicken enthusiasts all over, awaken in the middle of the night to the sound of peeping from the incubator.
And no matter how much, how very, very, very much you do NOT need any more chickens, the moment the warm incubator becomes empty, you feel COMPELLED by an unknown force to search out fertile eggs and fill it again.
All kidding aside (...so,,, I'm not kidding, but we CAN pretend here, right!?!), spring is that time of renewal on a farm. You raise some biddies in order to have fresh young laying hens, and fresh young fryers. They add immeasurable to that early spring feeling in way that words simply can't describe.
I prefer the incubator method. I have a Hovabator with a turner and forced air. It works well, is easy and wasn't very expensive. I purchased it last year, after using a still air Hovabator for the last 25 years. I've really enjoyed not having to hand turn the eggs several times a day and have gotten excellent hatches from it.
I set these eggs late at night, and true to form, 21 days later, I heard the first one about 3 am.
This is what they look like coming out of the incubator. They're in various stages of 'drying'. I remove mine when I get a batch about this size, as the bator was FULL of eggs and I wanted to free up some room. They're not the cute little fuzzballs in the first few hours that they will become later!I move them to my brooder, which is cleaned and waiting and set at right at 100 degrees F.
My brooder was used when I bought it 26 years ago. It's very effective at maintaining temperature and keeping them safe that first couple of weeks. It has thermostatically controlled lightbulbs for heat and a ventilation window. The first week or so, I put the foam type shelf liner down to keep them from developing spraddled legs. When it gets dirty, or when I get tired of cleaning and drying it, I use recycled large pizza boxes, which fit the brooder bottom perfectly when opened.
On the right you see 6 'newbies', drying under the lights and on the left you see three curious fluffballs who were probably 4 or 5 hours earlier to hatch. Hatching usually continues for about 24 hours.
Note the difference. Cute little furballs versus passed out pathetic little creatures. You get to the point, though that you like the 'wet' phase. You examine them closely for deformities and defects and then wait for the amazing transformation to happen.
These two are snuggly, cuddly warm! The one on the right is still drying a bit. Getting hatched is such hard work!
This little one already has personality galore. It is more curious and chases my hand around. It's super soft. I like being able to see personality early.
These ladies and gents are 3 weeks old. They're in a junior outdoor pen, with a tarp and a light due to low nighttime temperatures. Note their feathers and size. Pretty amazing in three short weeks!
I really enjoy keeping chickens!