Farm Babies: Chicks Are Hatching!

Hatching Chicks

We’re always excited when it’s hatching day…it’s really amazing that fully-formed chicks, ready to scratch and find food, emerge from eggs that seem much too small to contain them. They work so hard to hatch, too; sometimes, they’re exhausted after hours of struggle and they simply crash out on the incubator floor. That rest is well-deserved.

This round, we set French Black Copper Marans (purebred) and American Bresse x French Black Copper Marans eggs. The FBCM eggs are dark brown, sometimes speckled, and highly sought after by chicken enthusiasts. The chicks are very cute, black with little white bottoms and feathered feet. The Bresse/FBCM eggs are from our handsome FBCM rooster over our friendliest white Bresse hen. Continue reading “Farm Babies: Chicks Are Hatching!”

Test Yourself: What Kind Of Bird Is Hatching Here?

We have some unusual eggs hatching right now at the farm. They’ve been in the incubator for 27 days, and several have pipped externally. Hatching is extremely hard work, especially for birds that have shells as hard as these do.

Here are your hints:

  • The eggs are speckled, light tan, and about 2/3 the size of a chicken egg
  • They’re native to Africa
  • While the hatchlings look similar to chicks, they’re smaller, and when they grow up, they look nothing like a chicken
  • These birds are called “tick assassins” and will decimate populations of ticks, ants, and other bugs…and are also known to eat snakes and small rodents
  • They have a reputation for being good “guard” animals because they’ll create a racket when alarmed

So do you know what kind of bird this is? Bonus question: what are the young of this species called?

The Incubator’s Fired Up: Spring Ducklings Will Be Here Soon!

Spring Ducklings

Last year’s spring and summer hatches of ducklings are now laying their own eggs, enthusiastically. With Spring upon us, it’s time to hatch some of those eggs. Chicken eggs, generally speaking, are very easy to hatch; Muscovy eggs require more maintenance and monitoring, but are worth the effort.

While it’s tempting to candle the eggs earlier, we begin candling to check Muscovy egg development at day 10. At this point, the viability of the egg can be determined with reasonable confidence: you should see the network of blood vessels and the embryo, and the embryo will probably react to the light by moving around. Any obvious “clears” – infertile or non-developing – are removed now, as are any where development has stopped (like a blood ring). It’s early enough in incubation that bad eggs shouldn’t have reached the point of exploding, but far enough along to allow you to see real development. Candling is fun and nerve-wracking at the same time: it’s easy to fumble an egg and even drop it as you’re trying to candle – and a dropped egg is most likely going to mean the end for that developing embryo. So far, we haven’t dropped any eggs, but the risk is ever-present. Continue reading “The Incubator’s Fired Up: Spring Ducklings Will Be Here Soon!”

Duck Tales: Co-Broodies and a Poopy Shirt

Co-Broodies - 2 Muscovy Ducks on Nest

When you spend time with ducks, you learn not only about their behavior, but also when their coop needs cleaning. A large coop like ours can go weeks between cleanings, but wet weather (and wet ducks) can shorten that timeline. Maintaining a clean and dry coop helps ensure that the ducks stay healthy, so yesterday was cleaning day.

In anticipation of upcoming wet weather, I decided to forego the grass hay we’d been using in the coop. It forms a nice, easily-removed mat from the damp and the poop, but it’s not the most absorbent material. Pine shavings not only absorb moisture really well, they smell nice…a real added bonus. I’m primarily concerned about keeping things relatively dry and clean, especially with regard to the nest boxes. Dirty eggs are no fun. We had, earlier, replaced the jumbo hooded litter pans with shallower, uncovered pans because the ducks were sleeping (and pooping) in the big nest boxes; in retrospect, that may have been because we put the nest boxes in too early – since they weren’t laying, they used them as litter boxes. Betting that they were now ready to utilize the nest boxes for their proper function, I filled them up with a layer of straw, topped with grass hay. There was only one way to find out if they’d use them to lay eggs in: put them back in the coop. Continue reading “Duck Tales: Co-Broodies and a Poopy Shirt”

Hello Vernal Equinox: Longer Days Mean More Eggs

Basket of eggs

Today is the first official day of Spring, even though it’s felt springlike for several weeks (well, except for the recent cold snap). The days are growing longer, meaning there will be more time for the animals to forage. It also means that the chickens and ducks are laying up a storm!

Winter is difficult for farmers in many ways. One of the challenges for those who raise poultry and waterfowl for eggs is the lack of daylight, which can cause egg production to drop dramatically. There are ways to stimulate egg production (like using lights to extend “daylight” hours), but we lean toward letting the animals do what they naturally do, even if that means fewer eggs during the winter.

As you can imagine, it is a joyous occasion when you get that first duck egg after months of no eggs, and it’s also fantastic when chicken egg production doubles or even triples. Our newest layers have also begun laying consistently, so we’re getting lots of pullet eggs, too. In short, it’s an egg extravaganza around here. We even had to buy a much larger egg collection basket to hold all the eggs we’re getting! Continue reading “Hello Vernal Equinox: Longer Days Mean More Eggs”