April 8th, 2012
I have some friends close by who keep chicken in their back garden. Since cockerels make a lot of noise and would disturb the neighbours, they don’t have any. Therefore, in order to maintain their flock they buy fertilised eggs for about £2 – £3 each and hatch them in an incubator.
Mandel (the chicken farmer) bought a batch of eggs recently and 5 of them were successfully fertilised. The eggs need to be kept warm in an incubator for roughly 20 – 21 days in order to hatch them – you can make or buy and incubator, depending on your budget.
The incubator temperature should be about 37.7º C and the eggs should be rotated by 1/4 to 1/2 turn 3 times per day for 18 days – for the last couple of days they should not be turned. When the chicks are ready to hatch, they make a pip hole in the egg – it takes up to 24 hours for a chick to break open the egg and hatch. These pictures, inside the incubator, show 2 chicks which have hatched a couple of hours previously. The other 3 took a little while longer.
Once hatched the chicks should be kept inside the incubator for a further 48 hours, before transferring to a brooding box – this can be a cardboard box with sawdust in the bottom. They’ll need a heating lamp for 2 -3 weeks to keep them warm, a bowl of water and food (chick crumb and boiled egg is good). The heat can be reduced gradually, the chicks will develop feathers and eventually they will become accustomed to ambient temperatures.
These chicks will be fully grown from between 6 – 8 months and will start laying anywhere from 2 – 8 months. Above, I believe Mandel is holding a Lavender Pekin, a Golden Laced Wyandotte and a Silver Laced Wyandotte.