We started with 40 eggs and 23 of them have hatched. This is a slightly better than 50% hatch rate. Some of the eggs were stored for more than two weeks which is a long time to store eggs for hatching. We might have gotten a better hatch rate if the eggs were stored for a week or less.
We were surprised that the eggs started hatching on the 19th day. The books I have read about chickens and artificail incubation say that chicks hatch early if the temperature is slightlytoo high and that these chicks usually have problems with their leggs and never walk correctly. We monitored the temperature closely and while it did rise to temperatures over 100 oC on occasion, for the most part the temperature hovered around 99.5 oC throughought the incubation process. Since our chicks appear to be doing fine I wunder if the hens started the development process on some of the eggs before I collected them for storage.
In any case we now have 23 chicks from a Bard Rock rooster and Rhode Island Red hens. Most of them are black. some have small patches of white on their heads like Bard Rock chicks and some are yellow/orange (lighter orange than Rhode Island Red chicks).
It will be interesting to see what their feathers are like when they develope.]]>
marked the siding where the opening to the nesting boxes will be,
cut out the opening for the nesting boxes,
On April 17th our Friend and neighbor Brad Meyer (Meyer Mountain Farms) came down to help with the construction. He has much more experience than we do and very nicely made some suggestions which resulted in some improvements to our coop plans. Instead of framing out two big openings for two nesting boxes, we decided that the openings to the individual boxes will be between the 2” x 4” studs in the walls. We will hang the nesting boxes off of the outside of the coop wall with the openings in the boxes lined up with the spaces between the studs. Brad says that the walls will be stronger this way and it will be easier to construct.
The next change is in the height of the coop. My original plan was for 4’ high walls on one side and 6’ high walls on the other expecting to have to crouch some when I step into the coop to clean it. Now the walls are going to be 6’ on the short side and 8’ on the tall side. No crouching and fewer cuts in the lumber.
Once the walls were framed up we stood them up and screwed them to the base. With all of the walls up we put siding on the walls and then the rafters for the roof.
It took 8 hours to get this far. The base built on the 14th, the walls built on the 16th and the siding and rafters put up today the 19th.
We plan to get together again after work on Tuesday the 21st to continue working on the project.
The basic box platform on which the rest of the structure will be built will be on top of the 4’ x 4’ s on the ground instead of on top of the ends of the 4″ x 4″ posts sticking out of the ground.
On top of this box platform the walls will be built. On the back wall of the coop we plan to frame in openings from which the laying boxes will be hung/attached.
Since we are buying some Bard Rock hens for our Bard Rock rooster and Rhode Island Red Rooster for our Rhode Island Red Hens we will essentially have two flocks. They will need to be kept separate in the coop so there will be a dividing wall inside the coop.
There will also have to be two doors one on each side of the coop to let the two flocks out into their separate yards.
I will need a way to get into each side of the coop to clean so there will have to be two human size doors hung one on each end of the coop.
The roof will be slanted not peaked. I did not draw the short wall that will raise the height of one side of the coop or the framing for the roof. We will cover the roof with ply wood and then metal roofing. Here is a side view of the plans for the coop showing the slanted roof and a cross section of the nesting boxes sticking out.
From these plans Gerald and I came up with a lumber order (we do not build many things so there isn’t a supply of scrap lumber to work with) which includes the following:
12 - 2″ x 4″ x 12′ boards
46 - 2″ x 4″ x 8′ boards
2 - 4″ x 4″ x 8′ boards
2 - 4″ x 4″ x 12′ boards
2 - 4′ x 8′ x 5/8″ sheets plywood
4 - 4′ x 8′ x 7/16″ sheets plywood
8 - 4′ x 8′ x 1/4″ sheet Lauan plywood
5 - sheet 12′ long galvanized steel roofing
40 - 1″ x 3″ x 8′ furring strips
200 - 1-1/2″ galvanized roofing screws
2 lbs 2 -1/2″ deck screws
3 lbs 1-1/4″ dry wall screws
20′ hardware clothe 48″ wide with 1/4″ openings (to cover vents and prevent predators from geting into coop)
Total cost = $667.78 (Oh Boy! this is not cheep!)
I am sure that we will find that we do not have enough of something or we will not measure something correctly and ruin some materials and have to go back to the lumber yard for more stuff but I think that is part of the adventure.
We bought the materials from a local lumber yard even though it is likely to be more expensive than going to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Our reasoning is that it saves us gas and wear and tear on our vehicle and it gives the business to our local community. With the current economy we want to resist the drive to save pennies if it means that jobs in our back yard would be a risk. Besides when we go into Bisbee’s Lumber in Hancock NY and tell them about our hair brained ideas they never laugh at us and they always give us good advice on how to do what we want better.
They will be delivering our materials on Wed. of next week and I can hardly wait to get started.]]>
Which eggs to collect?
I consulted several sources including “Chickens in Your Backyard” by Rick and Gail Luttmann and “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow and a few internet sites like Mississippi State University Extension Service , The Easy Chicken for Beginners , and University of Illinois Extension Incubation and Embryology . All sources agree that the best eggs to collect should come from healthy birds, be of normal size (not super huge and not small) and have a normal shape and come from the nest already clean. Since I do not trap the chickens when they lay I have no way of knowing which eggs come from which chickens but all of my birds look and act healthy to me so I am making the assumption that eggs from any of my birds will be fine.
Size I can do something about. My 10 hens are producing eggs of various sizes so I will collect only the eggs that fit the description “large” which means to me that they fit in the egg cartons for large eggs. I have some that are clearly small for this carton and some that are clearly too large for this carton.
The shape of my hen’s eggs are also somewhat variable. Some of my eggs are more oblong than I think is usual and some have an exaggerated egg shape. Some have rougher surfaces than others. I will select only the eggs that have the typical “egg” shape and a smooth shell.
The Eggs must not be cracked.
I have read that some eggs will have micro fractures which cannot be seen without candling and these should not be used for hatching. We candle with a flash light through a toilet paper tube in a dark room. This is sufficient to show cracks in the shell allowing us to select only eggs without cracks. Candling also reveals the size and shape of the air space in the egg. It is important to use fresh eggs which have small air spaces. It is also important to use eggs with the air space at the large part of the egg.
Storing the eggs before incubation.
Since I have only 10 hens that lay 7 to 9 eggs/day and not all of those eggs will make it through the culling process it will be necessary to collect and save eggs over several days or a week before starting the incubation process. Most sources suggest an environment that is draft free not too humid or too dry (not sure what that means) and between 40oF and 60oF. Apparently below 40oF the embryo will die, above 60oF the embryo will start to develop. I am going to try to store my eggs in a Styrofoam container in the garage which tends to stay warm in winter and cool in summer (about 50oF. I will not be controlling humidity this way so I will be taking my chances that the eggs will not dehydrate significantly in the 7 to 10 days it takes to collect enough eggs.
How do I know my eggs are fertilized?
I have a rooster who regularly services my hens (they do not seem to like it much. There is a lot of squawking and complaining going on)but I have been told by a friend who used to raise chickens for show that the Rooster might be “shooting blanks” as he put it or might not be young and strong enough to service all of my hens. One rooster for 10 hens is a reasonable ratio but I still wanted to be sure that most if not all of my eggs are fertilized. We started checking for signs of fertilization when we open eggs to eat. A fertilized egg will have a tiny cloudy white spot (germinal disc) on the yolk perpendicular between the two white stringy structures (Chalazae) which hold the yolk in place in the white of the egg. What we found is that all of the eggs we cracked to eat have a geminal disc so I guess my rooster is doing OK.
So I am now ready to start collecting the eggs.
Today I was able to collect 6 clean eggs but only 5 of them were shaped perfectly. The egg on the right side of the picture bellow was slightly bulbous on the large end and pointier than expected on the narrow end. I used this egg in the picture above to provide a photograph of the geminal disc.
So I now have 5 hatching eggs waiting for the incubator to arrive. I will collect a few eggs for storage every day until the incubator arrives or I have 12 eggs to hatch whichever comes first.]]>
A really animated argument ensued. “I am not plucking any more chickens”… “YOU WILL PLUCK THOSE CHICKENS”!… “NO I WONT”…. “YES YOU WILL NOW SIT RIGHT BACK DOWN THERE AND GET BACK TO WORK!”
Horrified but subdued Mischele and I went back to work dipping and plucking and trying really hard to ignore the creepy crawly stuff in the fluff. Dip…Pluck… Dip…Pluck until finally all of the birds were done. (My Head still itches when I think about this)
Well if we had to suffer through that process at least we should enjoy a nice roast chicken dinner after right? So our mother cleaned and dressed two of the freshly plucked chickens and put them in the oven. I was relishing the smells coming from the kitchen I think because I wanted revenge.
In the kitchen waiting in anticipation for the birds to come out of the oven I was standing behind my mother as she pulled the pan out. Something was terribly wrong. Both birds had the legs and wings sticking straight out from their bodies like two day old road kill. Argh! Mom tentatively poked the bird’s wing. It did not give. Then she pulled on it and the entire bird moved in response. Cutting it with a knife proved to be impossible. The things were like hard rubber. I wanted to gloat at my father for making us pluck those birds in the first place but the gloating did not last long because he had a solution. All the birds came back out of the freezer and went into soup pots with lots of onions, carrots, celery, and spices. They simmered most of the night and then put into wide mouth canning jars and pressure canned. We ate those birds all winter long as chicken soup and stew and pot pie. With each chicken meal I thought about the creepy crawly bugs and the stiff as a board roast birds.
So now many many years later I am repeating some of what my father wanted to do. I am growing food on my two acres any way I can and am even about to raise meat birds but there is no way I am going to kill and pluck those birds myself. For $2.00/bird there is a local butcher who will do it for me. Birds will go off in cages and come back ready to cook or freeze and all winter long we will be eating Fried chicken, roast chicken, stewed chicken, chicken soup, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings…..Yum I hope!