I forgoed (forwent?) hatching chicks in 2018. It is a lot of work, they’re stinky and messy, and we would wait another year, I told myself. There are many reasons why I keep chickens and love it so much, but the extra work is not one of those reasons. A few of the reasons are:
beautiful eggs in colours that we can’t find at the grocery store
the satisfaction of knowing that these birds are living relatively safe lives where they are free to roam and forage and be chickens
the delight of watching them running to eat their morning seed treats
being able to use their coop litter in the garden
In order to have blue/green egg layers where we are, you can buy unsexed day-old chicks for $13 each, or you can find a friend with a flock and a rooster and get some hatching eggs. Our wonderful rooster died this past winter, so I got some eggs from my friend Ash, and into the incubator they went. It was my first time hatching eggs myself - I had teachers hatching them in their classrooms in previous years with mixed results.
As the eggs began to hatch, I was coming down with a nasty coughing sickness. I fell asleep on the floor next to the incubator more than once. I fretted over the temperature, the humidity, and had convinced myself that something was sure to go horribly wrong. Trusting knowledge from people who have done something before is a wonderful thing, and it worked to my advantage.
I am happy to report that things did not go wrong at all. 24 eggs went into the incubator. Four were removed after about 10 days, as they showed no signs of development. Most of the shells were too dark to candle, so I held on to hope that chicks were growing in there. Out of the 20 that remained, 16 hatched. All of the chicks were healthy, and watching them emerge from the shells was remarkable. Chicks begin peeping from inside the shells before they even hatch - it serves as encouragement to the others. The only mildly worrisome thing that happened was that one chick hatched and had one eye closed for a day or so; it eventually opened and the chick is fine. No fretting necessary.
Because the chicks are a “barnyard mix”, only time will tell how their feathers will come in and what they will look like, as well as what egg colours they will lay. Time will also tell how many are roosters - which is always the magical number when it comes to chickens. We’re hoping to keep one lovely, gentle rooster to raise - there are about four chicks with remarkably large combs right now, but I’m still hopeful for several hens.
It’s dusk as I write, and a hummingbird is drinking from the feeder on our dining room window. It feels like a magical fairy visitation each time I look up and one is there. Chickens aren’t nearly as graceful, agile, delicate or iridescent as hummingbirds, but their practical, goofy, not-very-bright-ness is so endearing.
The chick pics in this post were taken by my wonderful husband Adam.