Chick time is coming early

I got an incubator this year, so that I can hatch some new chickens.  I wanted one that I could hatch 50 eggs in.  I originally was planning on buying a Brinsea – they have a nice 50-egg model, but it’s like $500-$600.  That ended up being out of my budget. I went on the Backyard Chickens forums, and some people were recommending the Hova-bator Genesis 1588.  It ended up being a little over $200 – I bought an automatic egg turner with it.  It’s got digital settings for heat and it’s easy to set the humidity. With the egg turner we can just set it and not mess with it very often.

incubator
Here’s my new incubator. It has the automatic egg turner inside.
egg turner
Here’s the egg turner. You can get different ones for different kinds of birds. This was the one for chicken eggs.

My plan was to start hatching in mid-April, so that we would have warm enough outside temps by the time the chicks come that they wouldn’t be brooding in the house very long.  I opened up the incubator box last week to make sure the thing works, and to set it up.  The incubator comes preset to the correct temperatures, and for humidity you just put water into certain water channels inside it, depending on what humidity level you need. It came with very clear instructions. While reading, I found that they recommend you do a test hatch first, with a small number of eggs, to make sure you don’t need to tweak anything before you try hatching a bunch of eggs, or expensive eggs.  It turns out that we have time to do a test hatch.

I grabbed 8 eggs this week and they are sitting in the incubator. They should hatch April 12th.  Here they are in the incubator:

incubator with eggs
My test hatch – there are 7 varying shades of brown eggs, and one white egg from Escape Artist (my hen who likes to escape all the time).

So far the temp has been hovering in the 99.5-99.8 degree range, which I believe is a good level. We will see if we need to tweak it depending on how this hatch goes. If all goes well I will do my large hatch after April 12th.  I will be hatching eggs from our chickens, and I also found someone near here that has Black Copper Maran (chocolate shelled eggs) and Olive Egger eggs for sale – I spoke with them and they said they should have some in mid April that I can buy.  We also have a friend who has Easter Eggers (blue eggs), and he’s going to save some eggs for me for that week as well.  I’m excited to possibly get some hens that lay other colors of eggs.

I feel like we are a baby bird factory.  With the ducks we are brooding, and now chicks in the incubator, and another (larger) batch of chicks later, we are very busy.

Our ducks are growing very fast.  We’ve had them a week as of today. I believe they have doubled in size.  I have changed their brooder box 4 times – the first two times because they needed more room, and the last two because they are slobs.  We’ve been using cardboard boxes, two taped together, with plastic garbage bags taped around the bottom (to keep the floor dry).  Ducks love to play in their water.  A lot.  I was using a chick waterer at first, and then I devised a waterer using a disposable tupperware container – I cut holes in the lid so they can get their bills in, but not step in the water.  The waterer is sitting on a plastic tray in the brooder box.  The ducks still manage to get everything soaked.  They get water out with their bill, and then dibble it all over each other, and the plastic tray, and then they splash in the plastic tray.  So then their bedding (we’re using paper towels) gets soaked.  And they poop a lot just like chickens. So we are changing bedding a few times a day.  I think I will enjoy the chicks more this time because they are not as messy as the ducks.  Chicks poop a lot but they don’t play in their water nearly as much.

Here are some newer pictures of the ducks, I think they were upset I was taking pictures here, I woke them up from a nap and they were freaking out a little.

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Ducks!

We were at Tractor Supply today picking up animal food, and saw that they had chicks and ducklings in.  We are hatching our own chicks this year, but we saw the ducks and decided to get some.  My husband has talked about wanting ducks for a couple years, and I thought it would be fun to add some ducks to our farm. We got 12 Pekin ducks.  Pekins are supposed to be really good for both eggs and meat, but I’ve heard they are very tame and can follow you around the yard like a little cloud of dogs. I like the idea of that. Ducklings peep a lot just like chicks, and brooding them is very similar to brooding chicks. They also eat chick starter, and can be fed and housed with chickens. We’ll probably give them their own space, but time will tell. Below are some pictures of our new little fuzzy flock:

ducks 2

ducks 3

Ducks!
Little cuties.
sleeping but upset i disturbed them
They soaked their first brooder box (a cardboard box) with their water drinking, so they got a new plastic bin brooder box tonight. They seem happier, although they weren’t so happy when I came to take a picture. You can see a couple with open beaks complaining here.

 

St. Patty’s Day Pummelling

All of our snow was gone… I knew that we could still get snow, since it’s only March.  We got pummeled with snow last night.  This morning we woke up to a huge mess.  The weather people said that we were expecting 8-10 inches.  Today when I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens (who are NOT happy about this turn of events), the snow came over my boots. So I took a stick and measured it. At 8 am we had received 13.5 inches of snow.  And it was still coming down.  Luckily I don’t think we got much more.

treeline
This is what we woke up to.

In the night we knew we were getting some snow – we have a metal roof, and while we were in bed we kept waking up to strange noises. We realized that it was snow falling off the roof – snow that had piled up on the roof was falling off of the roof in little avalanches, since it wasn’t very cold outside.  We didn’t realize just how much snow we had gotten till we got up this morning.

Because there was so much snow, the trees were weighed down – which means that we lost power for most of today.  It’s back on now (which is why I can finally post this).  We dug the cars out and parked them across the street so my husband could plow the driveway. The problem is that under this snow, we had mud since it had been so warm. Our truck is currently stuck in the mud at the back of the driveway. So that’s another thing we have to do in the next few days – get someone to come pull the truck out of the mud. Here are some photos of our big St. Patty’s day snow.

buried cars
Here you can see our cars buried.  Yes, there are cars under that.
out front
Here is our street view this morning.
buried car
A view of our driveway from the front porch. The red bit is my car buried by snow.
fence
Our backyard dog run. It looks like the snow we got on Christmas, but I don’t think we got this much then.
snowy woods
Our driveway (and the rabbit hutches/wood shed) after our plowing attempt.
snow
Snow in the dog run. This comes up to my largest dog, Atat’s, belly. So the other dogs are buried when they go out in this.
cedar 2
Our garage and our spruce trees. You can see how the snow is weighing everything down. The rose bush in the middle is very saggy.
back yard
Our back yard/woods – covered in snow.

I hope it goes away soon. I was so excited by the spring weather we had.

 

  • Update – we got our truck unstuck. We just had to wait for the mud to freeze, and it was easy to get out.

March Melt

We have had a warmup lately, and most of our snow is now gone.  We still have some swaths of it in the yard, and the snowbanks are still there, but it’s mostly melted.  It is only March, so we could still get a huge snowstorm, but it feels like Spring.  Temps have been at least in the 30s during the day for the last week, and today it’s currently 63 degrees and sunny. Today was a good day to clean out animal housing. I cleaned out the rabbit cages and the chicken coop.  Here are some pictures of our melty, muddy yard, and of the chickens enjoying the warm weather.

yard 1
Our side yard. It’s hard to tell here but it’s very wet.  It will turn to mud for awhile as the ground thaws and we start getting rain.
yard 2
Some of our remaining snowbanks.
backyard
Our back yard. We are starting to see the garden here on the right.
scratching
The chickens out scratching in the yard.
scratching in the old dirt
Here they are scratching through their old bedding that I put out in the yard. They have to check out any piles to make sure they didn’t miss anything yummy.
dust bath
Here they are taking a dust bath in the old bedding pile. They were taking a dust bath in it when it was inside as well, before I could shovel it outside.
enjoying outside
I had most of their coop stuff outside here, while I was cleaning inside. The big stick is a perch, and the sawhorse is another one that is usually inside the coop.  They are enjoying hanging around outside.
splash 3
The rooster right in front here is Splash, my Splash Maran.
splash
Here is Splash crowing at me for taking pictures.
Dorko
Here is Dorko, my Dorking rooster. (You can tell I’m not the best at coming up with names for them).  He is now larger than the other two roosters. Very handsome.

I don’t know if this warm weather will stick around for good yet, but I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here.