Teaching about raising chickens has so many chapters. Those of us who are (were) Residential Backyard Farmers (RBF) can only have a few chickens. So it is easier to buy chicks or pullets.
Now that I have my very own home on property- I can do the things that farmers have done for centuries. I can raise my own chickens.
Sadly, chicks that are purchased from hatcheries were hatched by an incubator and raised by a brooder box. Because of this, they have not imprinted on a mother hen and most likely will not have the instinct to hatch and brood their own. Yes there are some breeds that will still occasionally go broody, but that is hit or miss and cannot be counted on.
So I bought myself an incubator and asked some friends for some “fertile” eggs. That experience was a bust. I envisioned 24 chicks and 6 ducklings in my brooder box. On hatching day (day 21) only 4 chicks hatched. One died during the process. On day 28; I cracked open all the chick eggs. Out of 24 chicken eggs there were only 5 fertile eggs. The 4 that hatched and one that did not completely form in the egg.
Ducks take longer (28) days. So on day 35, I cracked open the eggs and found only one that was fertile but not completely.
Well that was a big fat disappointment! The expense of the incubator, the electricity and the time wasted by sitting and looking at my beautiful soon to be babies.
So I asked a friend who raises chickens. She told me that there were several factors when raising chickens. The first one of coarse is the rooster. She never keeps more than 6 hens with each rooster. She told me that 10 days after the rooster mates with the hen, the egg that she lays will be fertile. So if the 24 eggs that I received were to be fertile, that would mean that 10 days ago that rooster had to mate with 24 hens. He may be too young to know what he is doing, or too old to complete the task. He may also have a favorite. It was her humble opinion, that one rooster to 6 hens was the perfect ratio for a good fertilization rate.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend gifted me some silky eggs. She told me that silkies are extremely broody and even when raised in an incubator/brooder set up, a hen would most likely hatch the eggs from my main flock, and raise the chicks for me. She gifted me a dozen eggs from her Blue Cream trio. A trio is one boy and two girls, so fertilization should not be a problem.
I will try this route for now and see how it goes.
Stay tuned for the next post in the series about keeping chickens.