I have eggs in the incubator, due to hatch this Saturday. I started with 32 eggs; when I candled at 10 days I took six eggs out, leaving 26 in the incubator. Last night I went to take them out of the automatic egg turner, because you are supposed to remove that about 3 days before hatching, so that the chicks can orient themselves for hatching, and because the turner could hurt them if they hatched in it.
As I was moving the eggs, I heard “Cheep Cheep!” I thought that was a little early, but I was excited to hear that at least someone was on their way.
This morning, I heard a really loud peep from the next room, and went to check. I found a chick had hatched! On day 19! Here is a really bad picture (the flash went off and shined on the top of the incubator):
I’ve never had chicks hatch early – I’ve only hatched chicks a few times, and it’s been awhile, but I didn’t realize they could come that early. I came home and found that the one had brought a friend; we now have two chicks. They are both comfortable in the brooder, waiting for more friends to arrive.
I haven’t heard any other pips yet, but they aren’t actually due for two more days. So we’ll see what happens. I’m glad that two hatched so the chicks aren’t lonely. There are still 24 eggs in the incubator, so we should get some more soon.
We made maple syrup this year. We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap. The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again. Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.
I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain. I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.
I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters. So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6. I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either. I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer. We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky. I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.
Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:
We are now getting tons of eggs. With winter we are somewhat over-run. We are currently getting at least 15-20 chicken eggs a day from our 35 hens. That doesn’t count the 5-6 duck eggs per day we get from the 6 ducks. In the fall we started selling the eggs at the local farmers’ market, but that only runs June-October. So for now, I sell what I can but we still have a LOT. So we eat a lot of eggs. The chickens are possibly laying less because it’s wintertime – in the spring their production may even go up. But the eggs are very pretty – we get all sorts of shades of browns, some almost pinks, some white eggs, and varying shades of greens. Here are some cool pictures of the eggs:
We’ve had a lot happening in the chicken/duck coop lately. The ducks are doing well in there with the chickens. It has been a little more humid when I open the coop in the morning, but some of that could be the fact that we are constantly getting rain – this summer was abnormally wet, and it has continued into September. Luckily the temps are more autumn-like. We started with straw bedding a couple years ago, which turned into cob on the floor – thanks to the ducks, the humidity moistened that cob layer so I was able to finally get it all off the floor today. They now have a super-clean freshly cleaned coop floor. (We switched to pine shavings and it’s been really nice – it doesn’t turn solid on the floor and it smells nice when you lay it down).
We have been getting eggs from the 2nd batch-hatch hens, and are up to about a dozen-plus a day. My third batch chickens are only 2 months old, so they will start laying later.
We have a whole lot of roosters, and more coming up. I gave one of our youngest, from the third batch, away to a friend who needed a rooster. With some of the youngest chickens it’s still hard to tell which gender they are, so we’ll have to see. We will have to cull some roosters, and I was planning on doing that a couple weeks ago, but I ended up waiting – they are still with us for the time being. We’ll probably start culling some when it gets a little cooler. I sold our lone bantam hen to someone who had other bantams. One of our large roosters mounted her and I was afraid he was going to kill her, so I rehomed her quickly.
Yesterday, my plan was to harvest all 10 ducks. Their pen was a big muddy mess, and we’ve been planning on doing it for months but things get in the way. Early yesterday, I got everything ready. I culled the three males first, and then one of the seven females. We decided to skin them because it’s (supposedly) easier than dealing with duck wax and everything to get the feathers out, and then you don’t have all the duck fat to deal with. As the day wore on, and I was working on the fourth duck, my husband thought maybe we should stop at the four we’d done. He said “why don’t we try putting the rest of them in with the chickens?” I agreed to that – doing all 10 was a daunting task – just the four we did wore us out and took a big chunk of the day. The big reason I wanted to harvest them all was their horribly messy pen – they make lots of mud, and slogging through that each day to feed and water them, and to get their eggs, was really hard. The house we built was really low also, and they loved to lay eggs way at the back, so we’d sometimes have to crawl in there to get the eggs. We would put new bedding in each night and by morning it would be sopping wet, so you’d be kneeling on sloppy old mucky bedding to get the eggs. The remaining ducks, now in the chicken coop, are not getting a pool. I may fill a small one (not in the pen) and let them play here and there, but they are not getting one in the run.
The ducks when we first put them into the coop.
They are getting used to being with the chickens.
The chickens are curious but not trying to add the ducks into their pecking order.
So far, the ducks are doing well with the chickens. Their pens were always right next to each other; they’ve been neighbors all summer, so they were somewhat used to each other already. We were worried the chickens may pick on them, but the ducks are larger than even our largest rooster, so the chickens are mostly keeping their distance.
Tonight, the ducks were starting to get the hang of the bedtime routine, and it was easier to get them to go in the coop with everyone else. We collected the chicken eggs and found that one of the Black Copper Marans is now laying eggs! We got a small, chocolate colored egg.
The old duck pen is going to be reclaimed back into the yard. It’s a soppy mess right now, since we drained the pool and then it rained last night, but I piled up all the “furniture” on the duck house, and then seeded it with a “chicken forage blend” which has clover and other stuff that will do nicely in our yard. Our yard is a little bit of grass, and a whole lot of other stuff anyway, so this should work fine.
We’ll see how this works with the ducks and chickens together. So far it’s going ok. If it doesn’t we’ll start talking about taking out the rest of the ducks. For now, they lay a lot of eggs, so they are “earning their keep.”
We have been very busy. Last week I went camping. While I was away, it seems that my garden has exploded. (It tends to do that when you don’t see it every day). I hatched hatch# 3 of chicks a couple days ago, and we found our first duck egg today! Here are some pictures of the latest happenings:
I was out collecting eggs tonight found the smallest egg in one of the nesting boxes. It’s smaller than any starter egg I’ve ever found. My hens shouldn’t be laying starter eggs now anyway; they should all have been laying somewhat regularly by now. My youngest hens are just over a year old. The shell is normal, the egg is a little oblong, but otherwise it seems like a normal egg. Just very tiny. We don’t have any bantam hens. I hope it’s a one-time thing, but it is pretty interesting. My son asked if he can eat it (once it’s clean, if I crack it and determine it’s edible, then I told him yes, he could have it). Here are some pictures of the strange tiny egg:
What an interesting find. I’ll update you on what happens when I open it.
*** 5/3 Update! My son wanted me to hard boil the egg, instead of just cracking it into a pan. We hard boiled it, and then cut it in half lengthwise. Here is what we found:
We have not had any more small eggs, but we’ve found a couple that were the same color and are somewhat lopsided – normal sized eggs, but flatter on one side, like they were squished while forming. So we may have a hen who is either starting to lay, starting to re-lay (maybe stopped over winter?) or getting ready to stop. My oldest hens are only 2 so that shouldn’t be happening yet.