Friday, October 7, 2011

Hatching Chicks

It's a day early, but already my incubator is full of peeping.  My latest batch of chicks are hatching, which is good, because I've needed to replace my current layers.  Despite everything I've read about chickens living 8 to 15 years, I've come to the conclusion that most chickens don't live that long due to the fact that they're birds.  The slowdown in egg production starts at a year and continues in a downward spiral until they're pretty much just eating feed and not providing anything.

I saw a graph that shows most chickens' laying decreases 40% after two years.  That's huge.  That means, if you were used to getting 5-6 eggs a week, you can expect to get only 3-4.  And that number continues to drop.  I lost a number of birds due to odd problems such as congenital problems and injury, so I've been forced to hatch out a number of chicks.  Right now, I have 7 six week olds and 5 three week olds.  If all chicks hatch that I expect will hatch (I have one egg that I'm sure is a dud), I'll have 6 new chicks.

These chicks will make the bulk of my flock for next year.  Already I can see two chicks in the six week olds are roosters (sigh), and that will affect the total number I keep.  I have plenty of roosters, so unless I'm attached to them, they'll end up in freezer camp.

The chicks are mutts, being mixed breeds of my chickens.  I have a Buff Orpington, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Easter Eggers (EE) (I have 5 total, but 4 are in another pen), 1 Blue Marans, and 1 Black Sex Link.  The roosters in that pen are 1 Barred Rock, 1 Cuckoo Marans, and 1 EE.  It's pretty funny, but one of the non-Easter Egger eggs hatched a chick that had characteristic EE muffs on its cheeks.  That means my EE rooster, who runs away from everyone, has been busy with the ladies.

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