Well, after having my incubator running for almost a month and having no problems with it I decided to bite the bullet and buy a dozen Beilefelder eggs for $93 (this included shipping.) Everything went well or a few days… and then for no apparent reason my incubator started to run constantly low. By the time day 21 rolled around I wasn’t feeling good about this. I couldn’t hear any peeping and sure enough there were no chicks.
Still, I’m an optimist! Knowing it was running low I kept the eggs in there… and then I started to hear peeping on Day 22. Two started to hatch but after watching them all day I had to go to bed biting my nails. In the morning I found one chick running around and the two who started the day before dead in their shells. A fourth was trying. I cracked open the dead ones. They were clearly not completely developed and wouldn’t have survived either way.
Meanwhile the survivor was a hen. I was thrilled and hoping the fourth egg was a rooster. That’d be perfect! I left her in the incubator to cheer on the fourth and went about my day. The fourth one died in its shell. By this time my lone girl was screaming at the top of her lungs, lonely perhaps. She’d flipped over on her back earlier in the day, which I found odd, and I broke the lock down rule to right her. At 10PM on day 23 I decided this was going to be it and took her out to be placed in the brood box. She screamed. And screamed some more. I dipped her beak in water, and food, and gave her a plushie to cuddle to no avail. She just kept screaming. I kept going over to check on her but at 3AM I was toast and needed sleep. That’s when I hear, “What’s wrong with your chick?” So I looked over – there she was on her back like a stranded turtle – dead as a door nail at less than 24 hours old. I was livid. And I wanted to kill my incubator pretty hard at that point. In previous shipped eggs I got a roughly 75% hatch rate, sometimes higher. This time around I had 8 eggs develop and only one to hatch and die soon after. UGGGGGGGH.
So here I am, still chickenless, and now severely annoyed. There’s someone selling Cream Legbar eggs an hour from here for $60. I could do that…. if my damn incubator worked! Meanwhile I’d been waiting for better weather (we’ve been slammed with more than a foot of snow every week for about a month now…) to ship in 100 Gold Brabanter chicks from their source, a large hatchery. I’d been watching their website and it seemed everything was cool, I didn’t see any sold stickers up and I was looking. Last night when I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and order a big red warning popped up, “SOLD UNTIL 2016.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It’s nearing Spring and all I have to show for this is one dead chick. Wonderful. I was in a mood. I am *really* tired of eating rubbery store bought eggs. They’re gross. I’m also really tired to run a farm that consists of nothing but a few stray cats who wander in and out. Looking at our empty brood box is depressing…
So my boyfriend asks me what other breeds I might be open to. I said I don’t know… I mean there’s a ton I’d love to try but I hadn’t had solid plans for anything outside of the Brabanters. He asked if I had a chicken breed book, which I did, and I gave it to him. He started to flip through it and without any of my input randomly picked the same breeds I’d been looking into. He liked the Silver Grey Dorkings, the Welsummers, and the “Boekel birds” (This was a name we called our Dark Cornish, our favorite hen before that damn raccoon ate her.) I’d been eyeing Cornish for a long time. I LOVE the breed, they’re actually great layers, and rumored to be even better foragers requiring extremely little grain in the warmer months but they come with some pretty harsh draw backs. For one the roosters are notoriously evil but curiously delicious as well. Also their greater foraging skills comes with the risk of never being able to catch them once they are let loose. I have a deep suspicion that being as fiercely intelligent as they are they somehow know they’re used predominantly as meat birds. I’m told catching them… is sometimes impossible. Oh what the hell lets get some “Boekel birds,” but this time instead of Dark Cornish lets get the somewhat more fancy White Laced Red Cornish. So we made two orders… in a couple weeks I should receive 25 Welsummers and 25 White Laced Red Cornish. The Welsummers I will keep until they start laying and then I will likely only keep a small handful that lay only the most speckled of eggs because that’s where my interest in the breed lies… all those damned adorable freckles on the eggs! If any of the Cornish are of OK quality to breed I will consider keeping a rooster or two, likely tethered so they can’t kick my ass. If I decide I don’t mind some tethered roosters I think I will bring in some high quality Cornish bantams to cross breed and get their standard back up. Or I could just cross the Cornish to other things for good meat birds. Either way I think I will always have a handful even if they aren’t an active project. I just like the little buggars too much. How can a Machiavellian chicken not be endearing??
And in about six weeks time we’ll be bracing ourselves for an order of 50 Silver Gray Dorkings. Why 50? Because my boyfriend ordered them….and apparently decided he really likes them… Since we’ll be getting so many maybe I will just use them as practice and do the same thing I was planing to do with the Brabanters – whittle them down to only the best in the lot. Ten birds perhaps? I also put myself on the wait list for Brabanters so maybe if they have extras I still might end up with some before next year…. (Sorry I couldn’t find a good photo of a Gold Brabanter so this cream had to do…)