Archive for December, 2013

Incubator Extraordinaire

Unnie    9 days

Unnie 9 days

A tiny yellow puff of fuzz, darting about, insisting on her share of feed off the floor, she was one of four tiny chicks who had  arrive at last.

Finally here, after four months and one mis shipment from the hatchery, Unnie, was destined to show I had spent a lot  of  unnecessary time, frustration, and money in five years attempting to increase my flock using artificial incubation.

Unnie is a white silkie bantam.   She was the only female of the four.  A  little under two pounds of white furry growth, wearing heavy white stockings, she is one productive, good looking girl!

But I am getting ahead in my story

Five years ago, I ordered fifteen chicks from a commercial hatchery.   Included in the peep were four tiny silkies.    All I knew about silkies was they were cute.  Those little creatures stole my heart and were the beginning of a love affair.

Incubation seemed a logical way to maintain my flock.

The parade of incubators followed

First came the styrofoam unit.    Quail, chickens, even ducks successfully hatched in this setup.    While the hatch percentage was good, could I build a unit that was sturdier, less labor intensive, I wondered.

That’s how the square pine box, complete with egg turner came about.

Folks, I could have bought a ready made unit for less money, but, hey, I would  not have bragging rights to “I made it myself, and it works!”  I was moderately successful, but after a few tries with parcel post shipped eggs, all incubators became a put away toy.

Unnie provided a perfect excuse

Then came Unnie!  My standard flock is hens, no roos.   img_1887 With the silkies I now have two roosters, and Unnie.   Unnie is productive, almost an egg a day, until she has laid  a dozen or so eggs, she becomes broody.

I wonder?

Now, more chicks is the last thing I need, but chicken folks are not the most disciplined creatures on God’s green earth.

In early June, Unnie began to cluck.  I left eight eggs for  her to hatch.

The wait was on.

In  about three  weeks Unnie was the proud Mama of four little black balls.  Maybe I was mistaken about the partridge, but I swear, I know I heard him crowe!  She raised three black young’uns in the warmth of summer, with no help from me, except feed and water

In September, Unnie was laying again, she was partnered with the partridge roo.  Sixteen eggs this go around, I left them all in the nest.

???????????On October 16 her clutch was complete, fourteen patridge colored chicks!

An early freeze—could she care for them?

Freezing weather came early this year.  Less than a week after the hatch,  temps dropped to freezing several nights in succession; temps remained abnormally low. Could this tiny hen, weighing less than two pounds, successfully care for fourteen chicks under adverse conditions without my oversight?   I provided normal shelter, feed and water.

Now, six weeks of age, twelve of these chicks are balls of partridge fluff, each about half the volume of the white, ??????????????????????????????????????????diminutive, Unnie.

My lesson

While fairly successful using artificial incubation, I was also spending a lot of money and time caring for the hatch during the 21+ day incubation period; with this tiny hen I can hatch all the chicks I need for a season with little effort or frustration.  Unnie has shown that Mama can care for a family.

Postscript: December 9, 2013    When we went out to feed Unnie this morning, we found an animal had come into her coop during the night and killed her.     Only the brain had been eaten.     All twelve of her chicks survived the attack.