Last year a neighbor lent us an incubator and we hatched two loads of eggs. The first hatch was Quail eggs which went very well. For the second hatch, we ordered fertile eggs from a small backyard breeder of heritage birds. Unfortunately, this hatch did not go very well. We had what is known as a sticky hatch. This is when something goes wrong with the hatching and the chicks have trouble getting out of the shell. We had about 50% mortality in the shell and in the first few days of life. There was also a number of birth defects in the chicks. This sticky hatch really put us back last year. We ended up having to buy some point of lay hens to get the right number of birds.
A few days ago, we received our order of day old chicks from Miller Hatcheries. The chicks come in the mail from Westlock, AB. When the call from Canada Post came in, we drove down to the post office and picked up the birds. We have found getting live chicks from a respected hatchery will ensure healthy birds and less mortality. We get the chicks without immunization and do not have them de-beaked. Chickens that are not in confinement do not need be de-beaked for their own safety and actually need their beaks for foraging in the pasture. We ordered 50 Cornish Giants, a meat bird, and 50 sexed Red Rock Cross laying hens.
It is very important for the chicks to be kept at a constant temperature, so for the first week we have the chicks in our living room. Shaen got two large cardboard boxes, which he joined together into one very large box. He covered the bottom of the box with a few inches of spelt hulls from Fieldstone Granary. He set up the water and food. We use a standard un-medicated chick starter. When the chicks get a bit bigger we will put them on pasture and a homemade chick scratch made from organic grains from Fieldstone Granary. Shaen uses a red heat lamp for warmth. Miller Hatchery sends detailed instructions about the care of chicks, but Shaen likes watching the chick’s behavior for a better gauge of comfort. If the chicks are crowded around underneath the heat lamp, it is too cold, and he will lower the lamp to increase the temperature. If the chicks are crowded around the perimeter of the box, it is too hot, and he will raise the heat lamp. Shaen likes to see the chicks actively moving around in comfort.
Later we got a call from Rochester Hatchery. They specialize in heritage breeds. Originally, they had no extra birds available for this year, so we got put on their call list for order cancellations. We got the Rochester’s Heritage Group Pack. There is a mixture of 50 Ameraucana, Buff Orpingtons, Danish Brown Leghorns and Buff Brahams. There are a lot of chicks in my living room this week!