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Incubating Eggs vs. Buying New Chicks

 
Destiny Hagest
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We're currently raising some Black Langshans for layers right now, and they're just awesome - good layers, mild mannered, and sizable enough to where you could eat a few if you had too many roos. We'd like to increase our flock this year, and Murray McMurray hatchery is the only one that sells the chicks. That's fine, that's where we got them originally, but since there are a few roos, we definitely have fertile eggs, and I'm considering just incubating some and seeing if we can get chicks out of those.

I've never incubated before - is it something a beginner can handle on the first try, or is the success rate a little wishy washy? I'm not sure if anyone will be going broody on their own, and I need to get plans in place now, as stock of these birds is limited. Either way, it's going to be over $100 for 25 chicks or over $100 for a decent incubator - where should I spend that money?
 
John Polk
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...it's going to be over $100 for 25 chicks or over $100 for a decent incubator - where should I spend that money?

Either way, it is about the same money.
If you plan to do this more than once (in your lifetime) the incubator is a better investment.
If you hatch more than you need, select the best, and put the rest on Craig's List for $10-15 each.

One thing to consider is that there is pressure on the postal system to cease shipping live birds. It's just a matter of time. If/when this happens, you will be prepared if you own an incubator. If you have a local supply of chicks, you could have a relatively secure income stream, plus NOT being dependent upon 'the system'.

Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon is probably the best book available for learning about raising chicks.

 
Charli Wilson
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No chance of a broody hen to do the work of incubating and raising chicks for you?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally I would buy chicks, including a breed which is likely to go broody, so you can raise your own chicks from scratch in the future.

Depressing about people wanting to stop sending chicks through the mail. I've had very good success with chicks purchased that way - zero casualties in transit.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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My first time hatching eggs was documented here in a fun way where I encouraged people to make guesses about how many eggs we would successfully hatch. You can read it through over here Place your bets on chicks hatching.

It was fun and not at all difficult as long as you keep an eye on things.

Here... two years later I can say that not many of the chicks turned out to be anything special. lots of mixed breeds which was fun to see.


I will be doing this again this year as I need to bring in some new layers. I'll be breeding Buff orpington and RIR hens with a rooster that is 50% Black Australorp, 50% black giant.


Anyway. it was cheaper to get the incubator in the long run because you can run it through a few cycles of chicks for the same price as buying in one batch of chicks.

Now... having said all that, I would suggest taking advantage of any broody hen you come across. Those birds almost always raise up better, stronger and more resilient chicks in the long run. Of course that can be hit or miss too.

Good luck
 
Michelle Doll
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For the most bang for your buck, do these: 1) get a breed that likes to brood. My lovely Banty Welsummer hen wanted to hatch eggs even before she had a mate. (OMW, the nasty things she called us when we "stole" her eggs! Damn humans, can't trust 'em at all ...) 2) Get your girl(s) a mate. I recommend the same breed, unless you plan to make hybrids on purpose. We got 2 boy Welsummer Bantams and she chose the nicer one. The other left home, after his advances were spurned. 3) Let Nature take her course, while you assist as needed.

Our biggest challenge was to locate where our crazy bird hid her eggs. We moved her, and all 10 eggs, one night after dark to a lockable cage to keep them all safe from predators (we've had trouble with rats, owls, snakes, opossums, & raccoons). Every morning, we opened her door so she could spend 15 minutes eating & drinking before she returned to sitting duty; every evening we locked it again. Three weeks later, 9 baby chicks were born over a 48 hr period. Whoda thunk...9 outta 10 hatched! Ok. (The next time, we only let her have 2, and only 1 hatched.) Her flock-mate, a giant gray mixed-breed hen, took pity on poor Goldie and started helping with the baby duties, especially snuggling them to keep warm and finding bugs to eat. All nine babies mixed in with the other adults: no drama, fighting, bloodshed, etc. Daddy would chase them if the strayed too far from either "mom", and give them a little peck to make them return. He acted like a gentle herd dog, keeping those 9 hatchlings near their moms for safety. One tiny one was attacked by our Ancona flock after getting into their cage, and unable to get out in time. But the rest grew up healthy & gorgeous, and the boys learned how to court the hens properly from their dad. Every time I try to introduce babies into an existing flock, it doesn't go well. This is why we have the Ancona's separate. Everyday, we let the Easter Egger hens out of their pen for several hours, and they mingle with the Welsummers, who have the run of the yard in the daytime. Goldie makes sure sure everyone stays a respectful distance from her kids while they are young. When they are about 3 months old, she stops the mothering and returns to mating with Mollie and laying eggs. I noticed the babies make a "peeping" sound when they are young, and as soon as the sound changes and they begin to sound like real chickens, mom cuts them off. She doesn't find bugs for them, doesn't let them eat 1st, & doesn't run interference if they are approached by another flock-mate. This one hen could conceivably hatch about 25 chicks a year, over 3 hatchings. Plus her daughters could begin to lay viable eggs at 5 or 6 months of age. If you let them all hatch, you will be knee deep in chicken in a year.
I guess it depends on your goals. We were very tired of separate housing for each group of hens (with separate food & water dishes to be filled & cleaned, hay to be laid then mulched, etc) , and wanted friendlier relations on out Urban Farmstead. We sure got that with our lovely mixed flock, thanks to our broody hen, Goldie.
 
Destiny Hagest
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I agree with John Polk, I'm not keen on being dependent on a company to have my chicks in the future. We're just getting started out, and living in Central Montana having cold hardy, dual purpose birds is a must, so our options were pretty much limited to Russian Australorps, Buckeyes, and Black Langshans, as far as heritage breeds go. We went with the Langshans, and they've been amazing birds, but there's little information out there on their abilities as mothers. I would assume they're well suited to it, but this is our first year with them, and I'm just not sure yet.

Thanks you guys - my time for reading is limited with a one year old attached to me all the time, but I think I may try to find an audiobook on raising and incubating chicks, or see if I can get my Macbook to dictate some of the titles you've recommended to me :) And I think we'll go with incubating! We had great luck with ordering chicks last year, very few casualties over all, but I would love to do it all here - miracle of life and such. Think I'll give it a go!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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