Our first batch of Scots Grey eggs for 2008 started hatching early this morning. I woke just before 5am as sun started to filter through the bedroom window, and the first thing I heard was the peeping of a chick. We keep the incubator in the snug, so I padded through to find one chick out of its shell and several more pipping their shells. By the time I took the boys to school, we were up to three and when I returned home four. A further one had emerged by lunchtime. I took them out to the brooder cage in the old cottage to free up space in the incubator, and took the opportunity to photograph this one on the way.
Three of the chicks in their brooder cage. When they’re loosely scattered like this, the heat lamp is at the correct height and they’re neither too hot nor too cold. If they’re clustered together in a pile under the centre of the lamp, it’s too far away and they’re cold. If the chicks are well away from the centre of the lamp, then it’s too close and they’re too hot. We bed ours on cardboard covered with a layer of wood shavings. The drinker is placed on a plank so the chicks don’t fill it with shavings. It’s important to teach them to peck and drink at intervals throughout the first 48 hours. I splash the water with my fingers and pop the tip of their beak in the water to kick the drinking instinct off. To get them pecking, I dribble chick crumbs onto a cleared piece of cardboard. Eventually, one of the chicks will peck at the crumbs and then the rest will follow suit.
This Scots Grey chick has only been out of its shell for a few seconds. We started with 18 eggs, all fertilised by Johnny (our Inverurie cockerel) and discarded one at first candling. Five of the remaining 17 have hatched, while another two have started pipping in the last hour or so. All but one of the other eggs show signs of movement when candled so we should have more hatching overnight. In theory, hatching should have been from noon tomorrow, being three weeks from the date the eggs went into the incubator, but nature doesn’t work to an exact timetable. Over the next week, we’ll collect eggs fertilised by Orville (our Welsh cockerel) and start them off in the incubator next Tuesday. We need at least a dozen pullets, and preferably 16, to replace our oldest ISA Browns, so we’ll probably need to do a third hatching later on.