We’ve had 22 Scots Grey eggs in the incubator for the past three weeks, with an expected hatching date of June 5 or 6. Usually, we expect poor fertility with high numbers of congenital deformities. Their low numbers mean Scots Greys have a very restricted genetic pool, which is not helped when breeding stock often come from small geographic areas. In the past, we’ve had a 75 per cent hatch rate with lines sourced from one breeder and 30-40 per cent from stock sourced from three other breeders. This time round, however, we were using a cockerel we’d bred ourselves from two of those lines with hens bred from the other two.
The results were good with 20 chicks hatched. Fertility was 100 per cent at three days. The hatch rate was 90.9 per cent. Only one live chick had an obvious deformity—severe knock knees. The two chicks that failed to hatch were live when candled at 14 days but died between then and the others pipping at 21-24 days. The results are a substantial improvement on our previous hatches, especially as the live chicks are all a good size and robustly healthy. (The knock kneed chick will be monitored for a couple of days. It can’t be used for breeding, so it will either be culled early on if less mobile or kept for the pot if mobile.)
The next benchmark will come when the chicks are sexed. We’ve consistently had a ratio of three cocks to every pullet hatched, regardless of the lines used. It makes for good chicken dinners but doesn’t help the breeding programme or the supply of eggs. As for the chicks, they’re now in the brooder where I’ve put in several sessions teaching them how to eat and drink. They all seem to have the hang of it now and were settled in well when I checked them at 10.30pm. As for the next hatching, I’ve found someone selling eggs fertilised by a show champion rooster on ebay so I might see if we can some of those to add another line to our collection.