When we first got into chickens I wanted Barnevelders. They’re a Dutch breed and they laid big dark eggs and had a pretty lacing pattern. I had bought some eggs and they were some of the first birds I hatched — but they died of Marek’s not long after that. This was on the old property with my first flock. Later I learned this breed is particularly susceptible to the disease so I never tried to get them again…. until I moved to a fresh new property and learned how to vaccinate chicks.
But this is a simplified version of what happened. In reality I was looking for nearby hatching eggs when I found something wonderful. Just a few hours away was an old Dutch man who had a flock that he had kept since the 1970’s that were descended from eggs he smuggled home on the plane from the Netherlands – you know back in the days when you could still buy Bowie knives at the airport and no one gave a fuck about whose suitcase was stuffed full of chicken eggs… I fell in love with the story and was greatly dismayed to see a paragraph later that he’d died and his flock was being run by his widow. Still… I couldn’t resist. I contacted her and asked if I could buy some eggs. She said she’d sold the flock to a woman in NY. So I contacted the woman in NY who said she’d send some eggs in the Spring. Well Spring came and nearly went when I contacted her again. I had been forgotten. Not only had I been forgotten she refused to sell me eggs collected then…. instead saying she had a handful of chicks she’d just hatched if I’d like to travel four hours to get them…. well, at the time that was just not feasible and I should have taken this as the first red flag. Who can’t give up a dozen eggs in summer?? Were her birds that bad at laying despite being from a flock that were supposed to be machines? If so whhhy?? I was polite about it, didn’t ask why, told her I would be happy to wait until the following year… and I did.
So this year I got a dozen eggs and she asked if I wanted any form her Blue Barnevelder pen. Not really, but at this rate I am paying full price for something I waited two years for… adding extras of ANYTHING seemed fine by me. So she sent six extra eggs from her blue pen. On the box was suddenly noted these were from heavily mixed lines… she had not kept the old man’s line pure. I was pretty annoyed at this point. Had I known that two years ago I probably would have found eggs elsewhere… but I popped them in the incubator hoping for the best. At day ten I candled them and found four of the regular Barnevelders were infertile as well as four of the extras. So I was probably hatching eggs from poor layers and less-than-vigorous roosters. Sigh.
In the end I got eight to hatch, seven regular, one blue who now was sort of lonely and purposeless. One of the regulars died a few days after hatch. It hadn’t acted right since I vaccinated it for Marek’s. We’ll see how they turn out. With any luck they’ll be fucking spectacular and all this will have been worth the frustration and wait! For now I did get the damned cutest photo out of the Blue pen Barnie…