Monday, 7 April 2014

5 Questions and Answers about Incubation, Hatching and Rearing

The arrival of many cute little chicks to to the Flyte so Fancy team this last week has turned the blogs attention away from my usual bumbling adventures getting in the way of everyone actually doing some work, towards incubation, hatching and rearing chicks, with five answers to five questions we often get asked here at FSF HQ.
If you have the space to have a hen sit on some eggs then I would personally always choose a natural incubation. Ensure that the hen is definitely broody. You don't want her standing up after a few days and giving up. A broody hen is pretty easy to identify but if you're still not sure put some fake eggs under her and see how she reacts. Using a broody mother hen makes less work for you as she does all the incubating and turning the eggs for you and it also doesn't require a brooder. If she messes near the nest however, make sure to clean it up.

Ducklings

  • What is candling?
If you are incubating your eggs in an artificial incubator, then candling will be part of your routine for the incubation period. Candling takes its name from the old practice of holding an egg up to a candle to check its progress. Nowadays there are better options with candling lamps and torches taking the place of the candle.
  • I'm keeping my chicks warm with a heat lamp, how do I know if it's positioned properly?
The chicks themselves will give you the best indication of this. If they are all gathered in a group like penguins and making lots of noise, then the lamp is too high and they are too cold. If they are sat on the extremities of the lamp then the lamp is too low, they are too hot and they are trying to get out of the way of the heat. By around six weeks old the chicks should have developed enough feathers to keep themselves warm and the lamp can be removed (this of course does depend on the weather). 
  • Why do I have to rotate the eggs in my incubator?
Eggs need to be rotated to keep the air pocket at the blunt end of the egg clear. This air pocket is where the chick emerges from during hatching. Make sure you mark the egg with some sign, or breed and date if you are logging data, so that you can keep track of which way up it is facing and whether it has been rotated on schedule. Turning the eggs allows the embryo to develop properly, if manually turning the eggs you will want to do so a minimum of twice a day. You should turn the eggs through 180 degrees, then next time turn them back through 180 degrees. This is so the "strings" do not wind themselves around the embryo.

  • Which are the best hens to use as broody chickens?
If you are going to go the natural way of incubating a clutch of eggs the best breeds are Cochin's, Orpington's and Silkie's, not only of chicken eggs, but goose, pheasant, quail and even turkey eggs too.

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If you have any other questions about incubating or rearing be sure to check out Flyte so Fancy's Information Page on the subject, or give us a call on 01300 345229 and we will try to answer any questions you may have. 


Thanks for Reading
James

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