To hatch or not to hatch…
Two years ago the wife and I took our two kiddos, along with the nieces and nephew, to town for some reason or another. We happened to stop at the farm store for the good Lord only knows what. When we walked in there was a stacked brooder full of little tiny balls of fluff. So cute, just chirping away. Eva and I talked for a minute and decided, “Why not?” We let each of the bigger littles pick one out and we each picked one. They were named on the way home. And thus was the legend of the first chickens and how it came to pass…
Since that first chick purchase ($18), we have gotten other chickens from other means, as well. One local gentleman had gotten too many and his wife threatened to divorce him. Bad for him, good for us. We got six laying Rhode Island Reds from him ($0). Another girl that I work with had too many and she gave me an Americauna and a Maran ($0).
Then… I discovered the chicken swap, an event dedicated to Poultry and Homesteading. This was an amazing thing for my love of chickens. But, not so much for my wallet. It was like a little tiny slice of Heaven. I went to the first one and brought home a Spanish Minorca ($25) and a Phoenix Chicken ($25). The next swap, my wife accompanied me. Since she is a bit more “frugal” than I am, we spent considerably less. One Americauna pullet ($10), and five straight run chicks ($0). The next swap I found a Crested Cream Legbar ($30); a funny little helmet-headed chicken. We went to the swap this spring and were a little disappointed at the selection and the prices folks were asking. I did, however, purchase four Cream Legbar hatching eggs ($4).
Wallowing in our disappointment, we left the swap and drove straight to Wilco, a farming supply store. To our amazement *wink*, they had chicks! We purchased twelve ($66). The cost for these was a little higher because I wanted a variety and I have champagne taste in chickens, apparently. My “frugal” wife and I also decided to purchase an incubator at the same time ($99). She is a big advocate for, “Why pay for something we can do ourselves.” Incubator and chicks in hand, we left the store. We got home and set up the brooder for the chicks we bought. Immediately after, we set up the incubator.
Of the seventeen chickens we have, two are roos so we have fertilized eggs. As soon as the incubator was set up and had been running for a full day, we loaded it with seventeen eggs. The gestation period is twenty-one days for chickens. The kiddos, Eva and I all waited, very impatiently, for the eggs to come to term. On day twenty, the first pip arrived! Yay! Sadly, the hatch rate was not what we had hoped. Of the seventeen eggs incubated, on seven hatched ($0). We tried again a week later. We loaded the incubator with five duck eggs and seventeen chicken eggs. Of that batch, none of the duck eggs and only six of the chicken eggs hatched ($0).
There is a lot to consider when incubating eggs. You have to maintain a certain temperature and humidity for the entire period. The ventilation has to be just so. When I read up on the process it says it is really hit or miss and you have to find what works best for you. We are still learning, that is for sure. Of course, we will never have pure bred chickens, but we were never about blue-blooded chickens. We just enjoy having them, hatching them, and raising them. Hatching eggs is such a great learning experience for the kids and they love watching the process. The excitement in a little’s voice when they see that first pip is wonderful!
For us, the question of buying or hatching really comes down to this…
Cost of purchasing chickens over the last two years: $168
Cost of purchasing the incubator and hatching our own chicken eggs: $99
You will have to ask yourself, “to hatch or not to hatch?”