Chick talk

Well, folks it looks like the January thaw has come and gone.

The high temperatures, the strong winds and the occasional sunny hours, have lapped up the near foot of snow that covered the ground only days ago.

I have no objections to this, but I’m sure it is hurting both the skiers and the snowmobile fanatics. Nevertheless, we need the seepage water; our pond is sitting about six feet short of its natural depth, and our water table is much, much too low.

In the meantime folks, life goes on in my bird castle. Since I extended the lighting to 16 hours daily, the canaries are busy singing their little heads off and the hens are busy building their tiny new nests. Some have already laid their blue speckled eggs and are sitting on them, so I can expect some little chirpers in about 14 days.

The six species of show bantams, too, that I raise just for the fun of it, have started to lay their neat little chalk-white eggs. They do not lay an egg each and every day as larger hens do, but they will come up with three or four each week. It is kind of fun collecting these eggs, as you don’t always get the expected. Each egg I mark with a soft leaded pencil indicating from whom it came, on what date, and when it is set in the incubator. The markings on the eggs help keep track of which side goes up when turning and when they are due to hatch.

I don’t let the hens sit on their own eggs until much later in the season when I can move them out to their outdoor runs. But I do have a small incubator that I have had for 30 or more years and it still works fine. It holds 50 standard-size eggs, so I can usually squeeze about just short of 100 bantam eggs in at the same time. They only take 21 days to hatch, and I turn them manually three times daily.

When turning eggs it is advisable to turn them as often as possible, but be sure and stop on odd numbers only; this assures that the egg will be positioned opposite side up during the long nighttime hours throughout the incubation period.

It is also possible to make multiple settings of, say, 10, 15 or 20 eggs in the same incubator if you stagger the hatching dates by at least 10 days. The reason for this is to discourage the later-hatching chicks from pipping their egg too early. If they hear other eggs hatching, they will try too early and end up dying in the shell.

I find it fun hatching eggs in the incubator as I usually get chicks of multiple colours from eggs from six breeds of bantams at the same time. It is not unusual to have yellow, black, brown, white and variations of colour scampering around their brooder cage at the same time.

The Silkie chicks are cute as a button, as they have cocky little fluffy crests on their heads the moment they dry off.

I’ve got a fun season coming up, folks!

Take care, ‘cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins