Chick update: chicks are two months old today

young chicks

Chicks after 8 weeks

It was only when I looked at photos of when the chicks had hatched that I realised that they were born exactly 2 months ago today (27th May 2013).

I have now taken the rooster back to the neighbour and the three older chickens keep the young ones in check.

A couple of the young male chickens have already started play-fighting but it’s not serious and they soon get bored.

The total count is 4 females and 5 males so I’m really pleased: the whole point of increasing the flock of laying hens has been achieved.

8-week-old chicks

Chicks at 8 weeks: female on the left, males in the centre and on the right

Because I was going to be getting some more eating chickens we cleaned out and disinfected the greenhouse in preparation. However, the shop won’t be getting eating chickens in until the middle of August.

I’ve closed the door to the greenhouse and yesterday the chicks ventured inside for the first time.

Rearing the chicks

recently hatched chick

28th May 2013: recently hatched chick

 Although one chick hatched on the 20th day of incubation (28th May 2013), by the morning of the 21st day another seven had hatched. One was still chipping through and followed shortly after. 

After hatching, I left the chicks in the incubator to dry out. I then moved them to a box with paper shreddings and some food and water, putting them back in the heated incubator at night.

recenytly hatched chicks

28th May 2013: chicks had hatched during the night

I then transferred them to a larger box with a sprinkling of sawdust on the floor. The feeder was an upturned plastic lid with a smaller glass to stop them walking through the food. I put some water in a flan mould filled with clay baking beans so that they wouldn’t drown in the water.

1st June 2013: chicks are four days old

1st June 2013: chicks are four days old

 For more about the incubation process, see this: incubating the eggs

Hatching eggs in an incubator

eggs in incubator

Eggs in incubator

We put the 14 eggs in the incubator on 7th May 2013. I’m not sure how many had been fertilised but we should be able to see after 7 days.

The incubator has a rotating mechanism so it is not necessary to turn the eggs manually.

Every two days, we need to put some more water into the tray beneath so as to maintain the humidity level necessary for the eggs to hatch.

Last night, we put more water in and I took a couple of eggs out to candle them.

It was really exciting to see blood vessels developing inside some of the eggs and you could clearly see the outline of a minute chick.

I’m going to leave them for another 4 days and look again so that I can get rid of any that aren’t fertilised.

Apparently, it is easier to look at white eggs than brown ones and as the days went by, all I could see was some blood vessels and the air sac getting bigger. I couldn’t see any signs of life as some people on Internet were able to.

UPDATE 18th May 2013 (11th day)
When I looked at the eggs after 8 days it is not clear whether they are alive or not. I was expecting to see a heart beating but all I saw was a dark shadow and a larger air pocket at one end. I’ve no idea whether any will hatch or not, but here’s hoping.

Anyway, here is what I have learned so far about hatching and incubating eggs:
1. The eggs take 21 days to hatch
2. The ideal temperature for the incubator is 37.5ÂșC

On the 18th day, Saturday 25th May 2013, I took the incubator off the rocking cradle. For the last three days of their incubation, the eggs will not be moved. The separators of the incubator are also removed. It is also necessary to increase the humidity level just before they hatch.

On Sunday evening, one of the eggs had a hole in it and chirping could be heard. Throughout the next day the chick broke through and emerged:

  For more about the chicks progress after incubation, see this: rearing the chicks

Rooster update

roosterSo far, the rooster has shown absolutely no interest sexually in any of the hens. One of the tell-tale signs is missing feathers and all three hens have a full set.

Last night (30th April 2013), however, we spotted the rooster mounting one of the hens.

This morning, there were two eggs in the nest but I’ve got no way of knowing whether one of them belonged to that hen or not. I think I’ll keep a note of the number of eggs per day and see what happens.

Rooster sperm apparently stays in the female for up to three weeks so that should hopefully be enough for her clutch of 12 eggs. Fingers crossed he was successful.