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Hatching Chicks

15 March 2010 11 Comments

This story has been a bit of a saga.

Remember back when I got Molly the leghorn to go broody and slipped some eggs under her? Well, none hatched. I think it was a combination of inexperienced first-time mother and low fertility rate of eggs. She was sitting on 6 eggs: three exploded in the nest (they weren’t fertilised, and so went rotten), and three were still there after about 25 days (incubation should take 21 days for chickens). Of those last three, two were rotten and one had a dead chick in it.

Chalk that one up to experience.

Not long after that I saw a second-hand Hovabator incubator for sale on the Backyard Poultry site. It was only $100, and very close by, so I bought it. We collected eggs again, and put 15 into the incubator.

For almost three weeks I monitored the temperature, maintained the humidity, manually turned the eggs twice a day, and kept my fingers crossed. Then I realised how bad my timing was – we were due to go away for the weekend that they were due to hatch!

So we lined up a friend to take the incubator for a couple of days (incidentally, how cool is my town that the local councillor will happily hatch your chicks for you?!). On the day that we delivered it, the chicks had just started pecking holes in their shells and were cheeping.

Upon return from holiday we were greeted with 7 beautiful fluffy yellow chicks (8 eggs were unfertilised – one of our hens must run faster than our rooster!). The kids went nuts, and we’re now all obsessing over their every move. I could watch them for hours – they’re better than goldfish!

These ones are all ISA browns (donated by a friend!) crossed with a light brahma rooster. ISA browns are a hybrid variety, and so don’t breed true. It’ll be interesting to see how they turn out. You can already see that they have feathered legs like brahmas, and I’m hoping that the large brahma father will put a bit of meat on their skinny ISA brown bones. Yes, these ones will mostly be for the pot.

Now that we’ve got the incubator worked out and are comfortable with hatching chicks, I’m planning to get some fertile barnevelder or faverolles eggs to hatch some layers in a few months.


  • Jason said:

    Well done Darren. I still have not gotten to the stage of hatching chicks yet. I would like Felicity to be a bit older before trying this.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jason: I’d give it a go now – it could be traumatic if you stuff it up with Felicity watching :-). Do you have a rooster? I can’t remember. If not, fertilised eggs are a cheap way to replace your layers as they get older, as long as you plan it 6 months in advance.

  • Greenfumb said:

    Oh how lovely, my Brahma chicks are now 13 weeks old and they are just so gorgeous. That should be a good cross, hopefully you will get the Brahma’s lovely nature and the Isa’s egg producing capacity – not the other way round!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Greenfumb: That’s what I’m hoping for, too! It’ll be interesting to see how they turn out, but there’s no real loss either way. They were surplus eggs that happened to be fertilised, so they were a good trial for the new incubator. In that respect they’re a success already (plus they have the cute factor!).

  • Darcy Moore said:

    How exciting, Darren!

    The girls just looked at the pics and made all the appropriate sounds for a 3 and 6 yo, ‘they’re so cute’ and all that.

    Congrats, it is kinda like being a father again!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Darcy: You’ll have to bring the girls out when you get a chance!

  • Avian Aqua Miser said:

    Congratulations! As you know, we’re still working on crossing that bridge. Glad to see we’re not the only one who failed miserably using the “easy route” of a broody hen.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Avian Aqua Miser: Thanks! I’ve been following your chicken exploits with interest. The chicken waterers arrived here in perfect order – I just haven’t had time to put them together yet. I’ll blog about it when I do.

  • Avian Aqua Miser said:

    I’ll look forward to seeing some photos! (In fact, I’m always looking for good photos to post on our chicken waterer site. If you don’t mind me sharing the photos there too, I’d be very grateful!)

  • Libby said:

    How gorgeous are those chooks? And how wonderful to raise them from birth. Our current girls are still scared to death of me (after a year) as we made the mistake of getting them older, rather than younger like our first lot.


  • Darren (author) said:

    @Libby: Our current chooks aren’t very tame either. I can catch them when I need to, but they don’t come up and sit in your lap for a pat. We’re planning to spend a lot more time playing with these chicks and getting them used to being handled.