• Tina

A Little Side Project

Updated: Jun 17

We’ve started a little side project here at the farm. I know, like we don’t already have enough little projects going on, right? I like to keep things interesting, if nothing else. So, when the pandemic began, we, like many, went into a bit of a panic mode. I didn’t hoard toilet paper; I already have my shelves fully stocked with necessities. I focused on things that I felt would make us self-sufficient. So, we put in a garden and got laying hens. Well, the garden was an epic fail. I hate to weed. I hate being out in the sun, and I don’t like feeling the dirt under my nails. Weeds make me itch. The sun makes me itch and gives me lesions…thank you, lupus and dirt make me think of germs…and fecal matter. I am not a princess; I milk goats. I’m just not a gardener.

Although the garden was a failure, I have found I really enjoy the chickens. I like gathering eggs multiple times a day. I enjoy watching the hens and feeding them. I even enjoy cleaning out the coop. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been three years since we got our hens. It’s been two years since we added our rooster, Romeo, to the mix. A few of my girls have gone broody. Broody is when they try to sit and hatch the eggs. However, nothing has come of it. They sit for a few weeks and inevitably walk away. Perhaps they have commitment issues? I’ve tried isolating them in a smaller coop with their eggs, but this just seems to stress them out, and they don’t sit. I’ve given up trying to get the girls to hatch their own eggs.

I have been contemplating ordering baby chicks from a hatchery, but I haven’t committed to doing so. My hens are now four years old. A chicken’s laying span is around three to four years. I have noticed that I am getting fewer eggs and the egg numbers seem a bit sporadic. Some days I get two or three eggs; some days, I get a dozen. I know I need to replenish my flock and add some younger hens. I just haven’t committed to buying any just yet. Until recently, that is.

My mail person and friend Cindy also has chickens. Last year, she took a dozen of the eggs from my chickens and incubated them. She successfully hatched seven of the eggs. She feels she killed three eggs by candling them in the last three days of the incubation period. The other eggs that didn’t hatch, she felt, were duds. I had forgotten about Cindy incubating eggs until The Bibbed Wonder reminded me.

I asked Cindy if she would be willing to incubate some eggs for me in exchange for some of the hatched chicks. She generously offered me the use of her incubator and said she thought Jordan would love to watch the eggs hatch. When she delivered my mail, she also delivered her incubator. A few days ago, I carefully chose a dozen fresh eggs. I chose four of each color. Our hens lay blue, green, brown, and speckled eggs. I chose the cleanest, best-formed, and largest eggs from the gathered eggs. I then sat down and read the manual for the incubator from cover to cover several times. I used a pencil to make a small x on each egg. I cleaned the incubator for good measure, got a gallon of distilled water, chose a quiet space in our dining room, and assembled the incubator. I added the water, closed the vent on the incubator, turned it on, completed a roll test to ensure the rolling mechanism was working correctly, and then allowed the incubator to sit empty but run overnight.

When I got up the next morning, I was like a kid at Christmas. The first thing I did was check the incubator. I happily discovered the temperature had reached the ideal 99.5 degrees, and the humidity was at the desired 50%. I excitedly placed my twelve eggs in the incubator, did a roll test with the eggs, added a bit more water for good measure, and waited. I have twenty-one days of waiting. Sigh. Patience is not one of my virtues.

I check the incubator several times daily to ensure it is working well, turning the eggs, and checking the humidity level. The eggs are scheduled to hatch on July 3rd. This has me a bit nervous because we have a graduation party to attend that day. Luckily, it is just over the hill, so I can easily run home to check on the eggs and, hopefully, baby chicks. If I happen to be late to the party, I know Jenna will understand because she loves animals too. Perhaps I will give Jenna some baby chicks for a graduation present. I don’t think she would be thrilled with chicks, but she would definitely love a piglet.

Of course, I am already planning for new and greater endeavors. I told my bib overall-wearing partner that if I can successfully hatch chicken eggs, I am going to get an incubator large enough to hatch swan eggs. I then plan on buying eggs and hatching cygnets and raising them. I have a fascination with swans. I also told him I thought I would need a round, stone swan house built down by the pond. I also think I will need a room specifically for my incubator and eggs, which of course, leads to a new building to house my room for my incubator. While we are building new structures, we should just plan on rooms to raise the cygnets. Dear reader, do you see why my husband gets “twitchy” when I have ideas? He, of course, told me to wait to see how the chicken egg hatching goes. However, he did get on the internet and look for swan eggs and incubators. He’s not totally opposed to the idea…wink, wink.

I will keep you posted on the incubation process. Fingers crossed, we will hatch twelve little chicks on July 3rd. I’m already thinking of patriotic names for the chicks. If you can help me out with this, I would appreciate it. As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, try new things, dream big, and of course, wash your hands.

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