Last year in May I bought some fertile hen’s eggs locally and set them in an incubator inherited from a dear late friend. The incubator is quite old but I knew it worked as I had hatched out chicks a few years ago and hoped for success again. It’s a very simple machine, a tray for water to give humidity and a heater and fan to circulate the warm air. The fertile eggs were mostly from Cream Legbar hens who lay blue eggs, the hens are very pretty and I was hoping to add some to my flock.
The eggs were placed in the warm incubator in racks and then turned gently two or three times a day for eighteen days, making sure the water tray was topped up regularly. It takes twenty-one days for chicks to hatch and after a week or so I candled the eggs using a light source to see the air sac and the tiny chick moving around inside which was so exciting! From day eighteen to twenty-one the eggs are not turned, the rounded end (the air sac end) is kept facing slightly upwards and the humidity levels are kept higher by spraying the eggs regularly during the day.
On day twenty-one when hatching was due to happen any time, the chicks started to break through to the air sac and there was lots of cheeping coming from the egg and I knew it wouldn’t be long until they broke through. It seems incredible that in such a short time the chicks develop enough to break through the shell and hatch.
From a dozen fertile eggs I ended up with ten chicks which was a really good result. The chicks were a mixture of colours, black, yellow (which would change to white plumage) and the lovely pinky speckled plumage of Cream Legbar that lay the blue eggs. The chicks started off under a heat lamp for a few weeks until the weather was warmer at night and their adult plumage had grown, at this stage they are fed chick crumbs.
Then they were transferred to the great outdoors into a smallish fenced area to explore, switched to grower’s pellets and left to grow a little more before being introduced to my older girls.
By September time they were all running together and the pecking order had settled down and from February this year they started laying really well, a mixture of blue, brown and green eggs, so pretty and delicious to eat!