Peep! Peep!

Our next batch of baby chicks have just started hatching! Just a few minutes ago I started hearing peeping and saw that one chick is starting to make a small hole in it’s egg shell. The hatcher, an ice chest, is located in my office by my desk so I’ll remember to rotate the eggs three times a day. This also makes it easy to monitor the temperature.

In the end of August I had rennovated the hatcher so it is a little more polished and added an automatic humidity system (i.e., a bucket of water. :) ) to it. During previous batches I had measured how much water I used. Then I added that much water to start with on this batch. We’ll see how that worked. I have a lid on the water to slow the rate of evaporation. The humidity level stayed right at 55% to 60% relative humidity up until a couple of days ago so that is pretty good from what I’ve read. We’ll see how the chicks do. I did not do the weighing of the eggs to measure the rate of evaporation. Next time maybe. That will make a good homeschool science project combining biology, data collection, statistics and graphing.

One funny is that our chickens get so much calcium in their diet that their eggs are very strong and opaque so I am not able to candle them at all. We never have trouble with too thin eggs breaking. I periodically make oyster shell available for calcium and we feed them back their egg shells after drying and crushing the shells. I think they also get a lot of calcium from free ranging where they eat bugs. The guineas, who never show interest in the oyster or chicken shells but eat lots of bugs, have even harder egg shells which are totally opaque to candling. On the other hand, the duck eggs are thinner and more transparent and I can candle those but the chicken and guinea eggs block all the light. I just need to get a brighter light, maybe a 1-GigaWatt laser would do the trick?!?

After I do this batch I’m going to make some more small adjustments to the hatcher and then I’ll write up an article about the hatchery, do a circuit diagram for how to wire up the electronics, etc. Very low cost and simple – it seems to work right slick.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Peep! Peep!

  1. Evelyn says:

    Wondering why you hatch in September rather than the spring? We’re just firing up our farm and I’ve been thru your blog for selected themes. Now, I’m going thru reading all. We’ve been doing our hatching in as early Spring as we can manage. But, I’m really curious why you’re doing it at the begining of winter.
    Our winters in Missouri aren’t as sever as yours; so I’m figuring we’ll be able to overwinter our pigs without much issue. But, chickens? Why are you hatching chicks in September?
    And, thanks for such a great source of info for those of us just starting out!

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    It takes about five months to go from hatching to laying and then a bit longer to peak production for the new hens. If we hatch some hens in the fall they’ll be going great guns by spring. September’s actually a bit early for that but that is why I often have hatched some birds in the late fall or winter.



  3. lisa says:

    I have really enjoyed "getting to know you" and your blog! We are neighbors after all lol.
    I will hopefully be talking about baby chicks in a few days as Dave and I prepare for our very first hatch!

    Now that I have established the chicken and hatching, i have to convince Dave that he wants goats too.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi Walter,

    What breeds of chickens do you have (if you know)? Can you recommend certain breeds for self-sufficient foragers?



    • We have and like:
      Araucanas/Ameraucanas from McMurry Hatchery
      RI Red
      NH Red
      Buff Orpington
      White Orpington
      Speckled Sussex
      All of these hens thrive on our pastures without commercial feed and lay a lot of eggs. All of these are highly recommended.

      I like the look of the Barred Rock but they don’t seem to thrive here.

      I don’t like the Black Sex Link or Cornish Cross.

      I’ve tried a few others. The ones above are the most notable.

  5. Mike says:

    Have you thought about raising your own bugs so you don’t have to buy oyster shells? Self reliance and all that.

    • I actually haven’t bought oyster shells for several years as we now have bone and meat that the chickens eat in the winter to provide calcium. I’ve thought about raising crickets and such but they’re hard to herd. Worse than cats by far.

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