Chic(k) Lifestyle – Part 1

After a hiatus of a few years, our family decided that this was the year we would jump into chicken owning again. Chicks were pricey and hard to come by this spring, so we belatedly coordinated with some homesteading family friends to get a dozen fertilized eggs and a loan of their incubator.

Next came the waiting game. The incubation period for chicken eggs is three weeks. During those weeks, the incubator sat running on the kitchen counter, and all we had to do was keep water supplied to it and rotate the eggs at least once a day. A handy little surrogate hen, with much less poop.

Sure enough, about 3 weeks later, my son was in the kitchen raiding the fridge when to his great surprise he heard a cheep. None of the chicks had hatched yet, but there was a tiny crack in one egg. Over the next few hours, we watched, enthralled, as one after another of the chicks waged a slow, agonizing battle to get out of their shells. Wriggle frantically for several seconds… rest for several more… repeat, over and over. As much as we wanted to reach in and help them get free, we had done enough research to know not to do that; the struggle is absolutely necessary for them to build enough strength to survive. Life lessons here, for sure.

One at a time, the little bedraggled chicks won their battles and emerged from their eggs. The following morning, there were 9 tiny fluffy birds tumbling around inside the incubator, learning how to use their legs. (The other 3 never hatched; a 75% success rate is normal.) The wake/sleep cycle of these tiny chicks is amazing and hilarious. For 30 seconds, they scramble around, cheeping madly. Then suddenly, their heads droop, they plop down, and fall asleep wherever they happen to be. 30 seconds later… up again, cheeping madly. After a few hours, all 9 of them had synchronized their sleeping schedules, to an even more hilarious effect.

The chicks can stay in the incubator for a day or two after they are hatched. During this period, they don’t even need to be fed – they are still subsisting on the nutrition from their egg yolk. Soon, however, it’s time for their first big move – from the incubator into their home for the next few weeks, the brooder as it’s called. This can be anything from a storage box to a spare bathtub (if you happen to have one lying around). In our case, it was a spare terrarium from our snake raising activities. However… more on that in the next installment. 

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Tim Carr

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