Chicken in the Freezer……Finally

We ran out of our chicken meat some time ago. You see, just like Frank tried to explain yesterday, things don’t always go according to plan, even when you’ve been homesteading for 30 years……

We followed our regularly planned, annual production run of chicken meat this spring, i.e. hatched and purchased baby chicks, with birth coinciding for ease of housing and raising them all together. Everything went according to plan…..until Frank had a serious upper respiratory infection. The chicks stayed in the stock tank brooder much longer than we planned, but finally made it out to the chicken house. They made the transition to a lot more room just fine…….for a while. Then the cannibalism problem cropped up, and in greater proportion than we had ever had. At the first signs of it, we doctored and separated as needed, just like we always had….but it didn’t work. We lost about six or eight birds in a couple of days. We had never seen anything like it. Finally, we killed all of the roosters, which appeared to be the major culprits. That’s what happens to major deviant behavior, it has to be removed. Maybe our world leaders should take some notes. Anyway……

Because of the problems that batch of birds had, staying in the brooder too long, then cannibalism, we decided we would not keep any of them in the long run. We ended up with 15 hens that managed to behave themselves long enough to make it to laying age. That’s where we are now. They are just starting to lay. But our long term plans to get rid of them are still in place. So, back when we made that decision, we ordered 25 brown egg layers which are now three months old. We found some folks that wanted some new layers for winter, so we sold them eight of the problem batch, keeping six for our own layers until the young ones are old enough. Then the final six will go as well, or that is the plan for now.

That finally brings us up to butchering time. We thought about selling the extra young hens, but they aren’t bringing much and we didn’t know anyone else that wanted them. So we decided to butcher them. We don’t usually butcher hens, but this time things changed…..again. You see, things don’t always work out the way you plan, and in a survival situation that can be very critical. If at all possible, redundancy can mean the difference between life and death. Other options for food, clothing, protection, water, heating, and shelter need to be thought about, if not prepared in advance. If you can. Just in case.

We received 10 white hens in our batch of 25, which is a large proportion. The thing is, we don’t like white birds. They are pretty enough, but white is the first color human and predator eyes notice. White is not a natural color for birds in nature unless they change to white for the winter up north, like the Ptarmigan or Snowy Owls. We prefer all of our animals, chickens, cats and goats to be a more natural color to blend in with nature. The exception is our Great Pyrenees, Pearl, and we would actually prefer she be another color, but after all, she is a Pyrenees.

Before we decided to butcher hens, we talked about not having any chicken in the freezer, and we only have one lonely jar of our canned chicken left. We still wanted a supply of chicken. So we ordered 25 day old, mixed heavy roosters. Just for meat. Well, if there is a stunning rooster in the bunch we may keep him and replace our Barred Rock rooster, we’ll see. These chicks arrived a couple of days ago. They are all named variations of Drumstick. The hatchery even sent a couple of Turkens in this batch, and they sure are ugly! 

When we looked at all the hens we had, there were just too many birds. So we sold 8, butchered 11, got down to 21, then got 25 in the mail, and ended up with more than we started with. Hmmm…..that is just how it goes sometimes. Things don’t always go according to the best laid plans. Prepare for that.

Butchering the 10 hens reduced our flock to 20 hens, 14 of them young. Having 2 roosters, would then be too many, so we picked one to stay and one to eat. That made 10 young hens and one six month old rooster to butcher. The morning we chose to butcher, Pearl came up with an eye abrasion that necessitated a trip to the vet. We had already been doctoring it with triple antibiotic ointment, but it wasn’t doing the trick, and that morning, it was much worse. Things don’t always go according to plan. Once we got her home and situated, it was time for lunch and our morning butchering session had been moved to the afternoon. We had gathered the chickens up the night before and put them in a pen. They had a longer wait than usual, but it couldn’t be helped. We do this to help their intestines empty out somewhat. It makes them easier to gut without leakage into the body cavity.

If you do not want to see some of our butchering process, please do not view the following pictures. The choice is yours.

We choose to use an ax when butchering our chickens. This routine has been tweaked over many years and many, many chickens. Initially, I would hold the head, and Frank the feet, as he chopped off the head. He was uncomfortable with how close my hand was to the landing of the ax, so we devised a simple noose to hold the head, which works very well and increases our safety. When we begin this task we always thank the animal for the food it is providing, and say a prayer of thanksgiving and a request for safety.

Since we had not butchered chickens in a while, we had forgotten a few details of the routine, like Frank’s gloves. The very first chicken, once we had relieved it of it’s head, curled up and started ‘pecking’ Frank on the wrist with it’s neck. Yuck! It managed to ‘get away’ and not land in the trash can we use for them to bang around in until their muscles quit jerking. So, you know that old saying, “Running around like a chicken with your head cut off.” That’s what happened. But we caught it by stepping on it’s feet. Interesting. Then it happened again with the last bird, the extra rooster. He managed to escape the trash can as well and bounced off the side of the garage and both vehicles leaving blood in his wake before we had him caught and safely ensconced again. This required a quick session with the water hose before cleaning the carcasses could commence. It just wouldn’t do to have the blood drying everywhere the rooster chose to decorate. Things don’t always go according to plan. 

As birds age, they get harder to skin. We don’t pluck them, we skin them, which is much easier and faster. It is one thing we will change when the SHTF because the skin is another source of food. And unless we plan to can up a batch, we won’t be butchering this many at once then. The six month old rooster was much harder to skin than the three month old hens. The connective tissue that attaches the skin to the muscle needs to be cut away in many places slowing down the process. If we had very many older birds to butcher, we would only do about five at a time. You can easily skin and dress out 10 young birds in the time it takes to do five older ones. This rooster will be baked slowly like a turkey, otherwise it would be very tough. The young hens make great fryers. 

I always use a knife with a guard to prevent slippage and injury.

We dressed out the birds on the tailgate of the truck, replacing the saw horses and plywood of the past, which works well. I did the rooster first, because I knew he would take much longer. I wanted to end up with the hens which were much quicker and easier. 

After they are all dressed, rinsed and soaking in a sink of cold water, we do the final washing and get ready to package them for the freezer. When we first started butchering our own chickens, we froze the carcass whole. This took up more space and allowed for freezer burn due to the airspace. We know many folks that use a vacuum sealer for all of their meat and vegetables. We have looked into them over the years, but in our effort to remain frugal, have never invested in one. The replacement bags have to be kept on hand and cost more than we care to pay.

Now we cut the birds up into these pieces, nest the parts together to allow for as little airspace as possible and double wrap them in plastic wrap. This box of wrap came here with us from Alaska six years ago. I don’t remember how many years we used it there before we moved, but it seems to last forever and is very inexpensive. Then, we wrap them in newspaper we save, seal with masking tape and mark it with the date. The rooster gets a circled ‘R’ for roasting. The rest are left with just the date to indicate fryers.

We really enjoyed our meal of fresh, homegrown fried chicken. It has been a long time since we were able to sit down to this meal. If you have never had homegrown chicken, you will be surprised at the difference in the taste and texture, and once you get accustomed to eating homegrown, store bought just doesn’t hold a candle to it.

The weight of a twelve week old homegrown bird is about half of a six week old store bought bird. That is because of all of the steroids, antibiotics and genetic engineering of production birds. We feel much better about eating our own meat that is fed a different ration from our recipe along with daily meals of comfrey, turnip greens, kale, other garden scraps and fresh goat milk or whey. They get to scratch around in the dirt and eat the passing bug. Once we make a few more modifications to some gates, they will also be able to range and increase their natural intake even more.

L to R: Two 3 month old hens vs. 6 month old rooster


We wanted to share our chicken story to help folks realize it is very possible to raise your own meat and eggs, but also to let you know that even after raising chickens for 30 years, things don’t always go according to the best laid plans. And when they don’t, there needs to be alternative plans that can accomplish the same goals in a different way. We all need to have the flexibility to change plans in midstream when the need arises. It won’t do to run around like a chicken with your head cut off yelling the sky is falling. Not if you want to survive.

Until next time – Fern

P.S. Fiona, over at Confessions of a Crazed Cattlewoman has started updating her blog. She and her husband, Ralph, are sharing the process they are going through to locate and set up a new homestead. Please take a look and share in their adventures.

Changes in Chickenville

Hello, Frank here.

Hope everyone is hopping right along. There have been some changes in the chicken house. As I mentioned last time, the Easter egg chickens were going to be leaving, and they are now gone. You don’t have to use your creative imagination to figure out where they went, because I am going to tell you. A neighbor of mine is a chicken dealer. Well, I’ve never really known much about chicken dealers. I have known some cattle dealers. So, I guess a chicken dealer is in the same category, just less weight involved. I called him up, he said he would take them to a chicken sale. He loaned me the cages. After dark, on a Thursday night, Fern and I loaded them into the cages, about four birds per cage so they had some room. The next morning, they were off to the chicken market. I really didn’t know that there was a chicken sale, but after the sale, he brought me a computerized printout of the transactions that occurred, and the girls actually brought $7.00 a bird. I gave him $3.00 a bird for his trouble and I kept $4.00. So, the girls are gone. And, their rooster buddy, he is gone too. Here is where you have to use your imagination.


Now, our big birds are the black Australorps that are about six months old. They’re just starting to lay. There are 15 of the black girls and we are just starting to see about 3 brown eggs a day. But, to our amazement, we got a green egg the other day. One of these black girls is a half and half from

the eggs we hatched at the same time. So, I guess technically, we have 14 black Australorp hens, one cross breed hen and two Barred Rock roosters. These two roosters we traded three black hens for. So, these are our big birds now. There is no cannibalism, they are a much, much more docile bird than the Araucanas were. 

 
We now have a dilemma. My new baby birds that were 25 mixed heavy brown egg layers are getting to be about 10 weeks old. Of the 25 about 10 of them are white, which could be an Orpington, a Rock, or a Giant, of the white variety. Here is the dilemma: Fern doesn’t like white chickens. So, all toll, 15 + 25 = 40. I will keep 15 of the now young birds, but I only need about 20 chickens, so I will keep 5 of the black Australorps. Which means I have 10 black Australorps, that are six months old, and 10 white hens that are 10 weeks old that need to go to a new home. This doesn’t need to happen immediately. So, here in a couple of weeks when the babies are 12 weeks old, I will turn them in with the older black Australorps and let everybody live happily ever after. For a while anyway.

 
A side note here. When it comes time to catch birds, for whatever the reason being, transporting, butchering or other, it’s much easier to take a bird off of the roost after dark, than it is to try to catch one in the corner of a pen during daylight. Especially if you’re older and have just had back surgery.

Of the 40 birds I have right now, I have a couple with some minor issues. I will cull these from the flock. In our decision making process of which birds to keep, we’ll take into consideration size, feather pattern and color, demeanor and we have some birds that have curled toes that we will not be keeping. 

With this last batch of baby birds, it was during a time frame when it was pretty warm at night and adequately warm during the day. We have normally kept chickens in the brooder for three to four weeks or longer, depending on outside temperature. Well, these birds we kept inside in the brooder for about five days. It was plenty warm outside, so we put them in a corner of the chicken house with a long extension cord and a heat lamp. Worked great. The little guys got to stretch their legs and flap their wings and become baby chickens a whole lot sooner than any other bird we had ever raised. Hopefully, this will affect the overall outcome of these guys. We’re hoping that they will be more mentally adjusted, if that’s capable with a chicken. 

Another topic. We didn’t hatch any meat birds this year. Well, actually we did, that was the cannibal group. All of those birds are gone, but the issue here is, we don’t have any fryers in the freezer, and we also didn’t can any chicken meat this year. The reason, mostly due to my back problems, which, by the way, are on a nice recovery path. So, the point here. We decided to order 25 meat birds. Not the big, white hybrid birds, but instead, 25 mixed heavy roosters. They’ll be here in a couple of weeks at about the same time the baby girls will be 12 weeks and going out in the pen with the big girls, and I’ll have pen space for the new babies. About 12 weeks after their arrival, I will butcher them. If there happens to be a stunning looking rooster among the group, I will keep him. If not, I’ll fry him.

In one of the other posts I mentioned that there appears to be no logic, or consistency in my chicken patterns. And, as I stated then, that may be true. But, I enjoy mixing and matching different breeds, seeing what the outcomes look like when I hatch them. It’s just something I find to be enjoyable and satisfying. We tried the Araucanas (Easter egg), and for me, it just didn’t work out. Maybe a flock of 20 with one or two Easter egg birds, maybe, maybe not. Because my chicken house is much quieter now than it was two weeks ago. Much quieter. Less ruckus, less chasing and stirring, more peaceful.

Over the next couple of months, I hope to start getting lots of brown eggs, and an occasional green one. All of the white birds will be going. And eventually, some of the other birds will be, too. So, I wanted to keep you up to date and give you an example, that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to do whatever you want to do. Because outside of your family, the only other person you have to answer to is your Creator. If you want chickens, go back and read the previous chicken posts. Or, if you’d like to see the antics of a small time chicken farmer, enjoy the posts. I’ll let you know in a couple of months how things are going with the new baby roosters, and any other changes we make.

We’ll talk more later.  Frank
 

Hatch Complete

Hello, Frank here.

If you’re still with us, thank you for reading. We have completed the incubation stage of baby chickens. As I mentioned earlier, about two weeks into the cycle I needed to decrease my temperature. That was a normal adjustment. My hatch rate came out to be about 50%. It was 50% of my birds and 50% of my friend’s birds. 50% is not a good hatch rate, by any means, but that’s about what I’ve been getting since I returned to Oklahoma six years ago. This means I had about 20 birds hatch.

A newborn

I did make one mistake. Since I only have 20 fingers and toes and it takes 21 days to hatch eggs, I miscounted when I took out the turner. I took it out four days before the hatch and it should have been three. You see, now you have a use for that sixth toe that you never thought would come in handy.

Another mistake. I normally use cardboard boxes and build a small brooder. But for a multitude of reasons, I was not able to come up with any.

Another mistake. When my birds started hatching, I looked at Fern and said, “We forgot to get baby chicken feed.” This was Saturday morning. Fortunately, there is a feed store near by.

These strings come in handy if you can get hold of them.

Something I learned. A freshly hatched baby chicken is not very hungry, but it is thirsty. My hatchery bought chickens arrived Monday morning, as they were scheduled, and since they had been in the mail for a few days, they were very hungry and thirsty.

Unfortunately, I received two with stiff legs, and I just went ahead and flushed them. But, overall the chicks came, they’re healthy, and now my big silver Rubbermaid tote, that is currently my brooder, is just about full.

 

So, tomorrow, I will start putting together a bigger brooder with cardboard boxes that I was able to find today. Some words to the wise. Avoid lifting your water and feed containers by the jar. It’s a whole lot safer to grab the container by the bottom and lift up. I’ve never had a water bottle separate from the water dispenser, but more than once I have had the feeder separate and spill feed everywhere. You might have noticed that the water has a green tint to it. That’s the electrolyte solution that I add to their warm water for the first couple of weeks.

Now, my job for the next couple of weeks is to keep the birds warm, hopefully, in a draft free environment, fed and watered. I will start looking right now, for birds with a crusted vent. This happens because of too high of a temperature and the birds dehydrate. It’s easy to remedy 

by lowering the temperature and a bird with a crusted vent can be soaked in warm water. Only the vent portion, though. Most of the time you can clean them with a damp paper towel. But remember, do not pull the little crusty thing off, or you might injure and kill the bird.

I’ve included a link here as a safety feature about washing your hands and bird diseases that can affect humans. Take it for what it’s worth.

And don’t forget, everyone needs that first drink. Take them one at a time and dip their little beaks a couple of times. Give them time to drink and they are good to go.

In the next few days I’m going to build a permanent type brooder, install electricity in my chicken house and upgrade some interior fencing. Well, there goes TV for this week. And that reminds me, I don’t own a television.

 


Here is another handy link that I borrowed from Murray McMurray hatchery on the care of baby chicks. It has some good advice.

So, my hatching is over for a while. Later in the summer, if I decide I need to can some more chicken meat, I might hatch another batch.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Baby Chicks, 3 Days Left

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody. Today is Tuesday, the eggs have been in the incubator for two weeks and four days. Today I’m going to remove the automatic egg turner. There are some things to take into consideration when doing this. But, before we get into this, some things that have occurred since the last update.

The temperature of the eggs started to rise a little bit at the two week period. There is nothing unusual about the fluctuation in temperature, but they stayed a little bit high. So, I lowered the temperature a little bit. This particular incubator has an extremely sensitive thermostat. When I started the eggs originally, I started early in the morning so I would have all day to set the temperature. I did the same with this temperature adjustment, I did it in the morning.

I’ve also found that with this particular batch of eggs, I need to fill the water troughs up every two days. Don’t ever let your water troughs go dry. Yes, there are much more sophisticated hydration systems. This is just the way this incubator operates.

The expected hatch date is Friday and Saturday, and maybe a few stragglers on Sunday. But, hatch or not, the unhatched eggs will be discarded Sunday night. We’re getting close here, three days away. There are a few things I’m going to remind you about that you need to have. Some type of a brooder, feed, water and the equipment to deliver them, a source of heat in a draft free environment. It needs to be dog and cat proof. This applies whether you’re hatching your own, or you’ve got chicks coming from a hatchery.

Now, back to removing the turner. Folks, this is the place where you want to pay attention. It’s easy to shift your incubator when you do this. It’s easy to drop an egg. I’m going to talk you through it right now. Follow me here. Always know where your cords are. There is a cord going to the incubator and a cord going to the turner. Do not be standing on one of them, no joke, I’ve done it more than once.

Remove the top portion of the incubator and set it down flat.

Before you remove the top, make sure the turner is in an almost flat position where there is no angle to the eggs. Read that last sentence again. 

 
Okay, the top is off, you’re not standing on one of the cords, very gently lift out the turner. Do not lift it by the egg trays, or you might find yourself holding an egg tray and the rest are on the floor. Set the turner down.

 At this stage you should have unplugged the turner from the electrical outlet. 

 

This is not the place to drop an egg. Grasp each egg and put it back into the incubator. I would start by putting a couple in each corner, because these guys like to roll and you don’t want to crack an egg at this stage.

While you have your turner out and before you put any eggs in, fill up your water troughs. Now continue putting in all of your eggs. Don’t get in a hurry. If any eggs have any gooey type substance coming out of them, discard them quickly. They will not hatch.

Now, all of your eggs are back in the incubator. You’ve got the water troughs filled up. It’s three days to hatch. Put the top back on and make sure it’s good and square and solid. Wait about an hour and check your temperature. Go ahead and put your turner back in the box that you saved. If it needs to be cleaned, and it probably won’t, but if it does, just follow the instructions on how to clean them.

You are probably going to have to adjust your temperature up a little bit. The reason being, the turner motor produces heat, and it’s not there now. And if you don’t believe me, when you first take your turner out, reach down and grab that little motor. As my grandmother used to say, “I bet you won’t do that again!” That little motor is hot.

 


The next three days, do not turn the eggs. Keep a very close eye on the temperature and humidity. If your incubator has a couple of plugs you can remove when your humidity increases, then remove the plugs. Because when these guys start hatching, you’re going to have a sharp increase in moisture, which is not necessarily bad. But you want your baby chicks to dry also. 

If you have one chick hatch real early, then just leave it in the incubator. It’s not going anywhere. Start removing baby chicks from the incubator when you have five or six that are dry and ready to go. They’re going to go in the brooder that you have ready and you’re going to need to give them their first drink. If you need a review, now is a good time to read back because you still have a couple of days.

2012

When you take that first batch of baby chicks out, it’s okay to go ahead and remove the old egg shells. Do this quickly. If you have other birds that have just hatched and are still wet, you don’t want to chill them. If a bird is still attached to it’s shell in any form or fashion, then don’t remove it. I’m not talking about a little piece of broken shell on it’s body somewhere. At this stage you also need to be prepared to discard bad chicks. As mentioned before, I flush mine. This may not be a thing to show little kids. Okay?

So, time is near. Watch your temperature. Enjoy the birds hatching out. Do not help them out of their shell, especially if it’s getting to be late Sunday evening and a bird has almost hatched and it’s been that way for the whole day. Then you need to discard that bird. There are people that would disagree with what I just said. But you need to discard that bird.

Okay. I’ve got baby chicks coming from the hatchery that should hatch about the same time as the ones I’m hatching at home. The eggs are hatching are from my Easter Egg chickens and from a friend of our that has an assortment of mixed breeds. My birds are going to hatch Friday and Saturday. About Thursday I will be tapping on the incubator and cheeping at the birds. Not clucking but cheeping. Cheeping is baby bird talk. Clucking is big bird talk. Hope you enjoy these little reminders.

We’ll talk more later. Soon. Frank

Baby Chicken Wrap Up

Hello, Frank here.

Hope everybody is doing well. We’re going to do a little chicken review here and try to put it together into one little package. If you’re planning on starting baby chickens this year, I encourage you to go back and read the other chicken posts. I got in touch with a hatchery a few days ago and ordered 25 straight run black Australorps. Now, what this means is, on or about March 10th I’m going to have 25 baby birds delivered to my local post office. Here is where the review starts.

I’m new to this region of the country and when we moved here we started off with the type of chickens that had worked well for us about 150 miles north. I don’t know why, but the Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks just didn’t work out for us. Yes, it’s a little bit hotter here, it’s a whole lot more humid and the winters are about the same. But the birds that I had used for years, just didn’t perform well. And the birds I have now are not performing well either, the Araucanas – Easter Egg Chicken. 

Asking around to many people, relatives, fellow workers, the most popular chicken around here is the black Australorp. I’ve never cared for an all black chicken, but at my age, it’s performance, not looks. So, like I said earlier, about March 10th, 25 straight run baby chicks will be at my local post office. March 10th, by the way, is a Monday. The last time I ordered baby chickens, the post office that sends mail to my local post office called on a Sunday morning and asked me if I wanted to come and pick up the chicks there. And they were only going to be open 30 more minutes and it is 25 miles. The good news is, most of our local police officers sleep in or attend church on Sunday morning. But, we were ready. The brooder box was ready, all the equipment had been tested, so it was just a matter of bringing the little guys home, giving them that first critical drink and we are in the chicken business. Now at that time I had adult birds in my chicken house, so these were my new replacement birds for the adult flock. I wasn’t able to hatch any of my own chickens last year because the rooster flogged Fern one day and I put him to rest, which meant I did not have any fertile eggs to hatch. 

So. Straight run means I take whatever I get, be it male or female. I have always found straight run to be 50/50 male/female. Now some mathematical whiz is going to say, “You ordered 25 birds, that is impossible.” But you get the idea.

I mentioned that first drink. It is critical to your baby chicks survival. To give them that first drink, you’re going to have to have a little chicken waterer. I

would highly recommend a vitamin/electrolyte supplement for their first few days of drinking. That means they’re also going to be inside of a box, a brooder, because these guys are about two, three, maybe four days old. They cannot produce their own heat, therefore, you have to supply it. That temperature has to be around 95 degrees. Like that first drink of water, this is critical. So that means you have

to have your brooder ready. Your heat source has to be tested, and it has to be tested overnight, because night time temperatures normally drop. And I know you have baby chicken food ready, whether medicated or not is your call. I use medicated. I feel it just helps to get the birds started on the right chicken foot. But again, on the feed, that’s your call. All of the baby birds that I have coming will also be vaccinated. This is my call, and while I still live in a free country, it is my choice.

Okay. So. We have a brooder, and you put something on the floor that won’t be slippery. If this is new to you, I really encourage you to read the previous chicken posts, because flooring is important, as are all the other items mentioned before. If you let your birds get too hot or too cold, it will kill them. And don’t forget about the problem of a crusted vent, or poopy butt. If the birds get too hot, they dehydrate and where they poop from will crust over. This happens around three to four days old, to maybe two weeks. But if it does happen it is not a major problem if you deal with it. It’s no big deal. You just soak the crusted vent area with a wet paper towel and it will come right off. Do not pull the crusted, dried poop off of the chicken’s butt. You could seriously damage and kill the baby bird. So soak it first. You are aware that cats and dogs like baby chickens too. And your little kids will like baby chickens also. They will just love them. And they can, if not supervised, love them to death.

Okay. You need a big enough brooder area for your birds to grow and they will grow quickly. Plan on expanding. Drop the temperature about 5 degrees per week. You can tell if the birds huddle under the heat source, that means they are cold. If they avoid the heat source, they are too hot. And don’t forget that when you turn the temperature down at night time, unless you have a fairly sophisticated system, your birds might get cold. Avoid drafts, I don’t mean move to Canada, just make sure there is no unnecessary air movement, especially when they are very young. Always provide fresh clean water and access to feed. And go back and read the other chicken posts where these items are covered in more detail.

Okay. Let’s say you have chickens at this time and you want to hatch some of your eggs with your styrofoam incubator so they will be the same age as the birds that you’re about to receive from the hatchery. It takes 21 days for a fertile egg to hatch. I’m not speaking down to anyone here, but there have been more than a few people try to hatch eggs that have never been exposed to a rooster. Think about Biology 101. It takes a male and a female. Okay?

So, you have your incubator, if you choose to use an automatic turner, that’s fine. If not, then you know how to turn your own eggs manually. And you also know how to save those eggs before you ever put them into the incubator. A few years back, I bought baby birds from a hatchery and I wanted to hatch some of my own eggs at the same time. So I called the hatchery and told them I had their birds coming, and I’m going to use this date, March 10th, and asked them when were those birds hatched. They told me March 7th. So that’s when I want my baby birds to hatch also, March 7th. It takes 21 days to hatch a chicken egg, so let’s count backwards 21 days. One, two, three………. twenty-one. Wa-la! I’m going to start my eggs in the incubator February 15th, so between now, today, January 15th and February 15th, I am not going to kill my rooster. Word to the wise. Okay, so much for humor. February 15th. That is the day I will officially start my incubator so my birds

will hatch March 7th. But before I start my incubator, I’m going to have cleaned it, put water in the troughs, put in the automatic turner and run the incubator for a couple of days. This tells me that everything works. Because when I put the eggs in there that Saturday morning, I do not want to find out that my heating element is broken, my automatic turner doesn’t turn or one of my troughs leaks. So, I plan a few days ahead. I have also been saving eggs properly until I have about 50 eggs. The reason for 50 eggs is I like to have a few extra so I can pick the freshest and best looking eggs. Remember that you have to turn these eggs while you’re saving them to put in the

incubator. You can put them in an egg carton and lift up one end. Don’t forget to date the eggs with a pencil, only, no pens or markers. The pointed end of the egg goes down and you do not wash or refrigerate the eggs, room temperature only. The fresher the eggs the better. So you have some extra eggs? Cook them and feed them to your dogs and cats. If you choose to use an automatic turner, take your automatic turner out of the incubator. Okay, let me explain this. Test your incubator, a number of days, with the turner in it, no eggs,

to make sure everything works. When you start saving eggs, take the top off of the incubator that you have tested. Leave the turner in the bottom half of the incubator and start saving your eggs. Let the automatic turner do the turning, but do not heat the eggs, let them be room temperature. Start saving eggs however many days you need to, to get the number you need on February 15th. The eggs need to be not over five or six days old. Saturday morning, the beginning of the incubation process, make sure your water troughs are full, put the incubator top on the bottom half, plug it in and you should be good to go. It will take these eggs a couple of hours to get to a steady temperature. But since you have tested the incubator already and you have the temperature preset, then you should not have a problem. But still keep a very close eye on the temperature. This is why you start this process in the morning. Then you can watch the temperature all day and make sure it is stable. If you overheat the eggs, you will kill them. That’s why you do all of the testing and preparatory work ahead of time.

I will start my eggs Saturday, February 15th. With proper maintenance along the way, 21 days later, we will have baby chickens. I have hatched hundreds and hundreds of eggs, and to this day it is still a miracle to me how you can get a baby chicken out of an egg. In this case, that hatch date will be March 7th, Friday, the same day my industrial grade chickens were also hatched. These baby chickens will get a free plane ride and land at a post office near me. My phone number will be on the outside of that chicken box and the people at the post office will be happy to call me to come and get my baby chickens. Make sure you open the top of the box to show the post office people your baby chickens. Everybody loves baby chickens. And then go home and introduce your industrial chickens to their country cousins. Now wasn’t that fun? 

No joke, I am fascinated by birth. You might have a few set backs here and there, not everything works out as planned when you’re dealing with live animals. But, overall, it is a wonderful experience and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Please go back and read the other chicken posts and don’t be afraid, this process has been going on since God made the egg, or the chicken, whichever. I don’t have to know which came first, because someday I will ask Him.

We’ll cluck more later, Frank.