Notes from Windward: #67


Our First Chick

Mo's efforts pay off

     We've had chickens of various sorts for many years, but last winter a pack of coyotes came through and wiped out our flock, so this spring we ordered in a new stock of Rhode Island Reds, a heritage breed that's good at producing both meat and eggs. At about six months of age, they started laying and have kept the kitchen well supplied.

     This fall, Mo undertook the next step toward chicken sustainability--incubating eggs so that the flock could replace itself. In the past we've let broody hens set a clutch and then move the hatchlings to the brooder since our experience is that free-range hens lose more than half their chicks to various pitfalls and predators. And while brood hens will expand the flock over time--predators permitting--we wanted to be have the ability to produce chicks at times more aligned with the availability of feed than the mood of the hens.


     Mo took on the challenge of seeing if our warmer-a-tor could be used as an incubator. While it was late in the season, and there was a real concern about whether eggs laid this late in the year would be viable, it seemed like a reasonable way to invest some of our surplus eggs.

     About ten days into the project, we had that serious snow storm, and as is often the case with the first heavy snow of the season, our power went down for the better part of a day which was long enough to allow the eggs in the incubator to freeze. Undaunted, Mo kept checking the laying boxes for warm eggs, and rebuilt her stock.


     This morning, when we went to rotate the eggs, we were delighted to find a freshly hatched chick peeping away, so we gathered it up and moved it down to the brooder now located in the Propagation Greenhouse.

     That one chick looks and sounds very lonely, and it's questionable how well a single chick will fare since they're used to interacting as a clutch of chicks, but whatever happens, we've passed another milepost on our journey to sustainability. Well done Mo!

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67