It’s Spring! And for most, the chicken keeping year starts in the spring. Perhaps you’re bringing home your first chicks, or maybe last year’s pullets are beginning to lay. Maybe you’re collecting eggs for the incubator, or maybe you’re a seasoned chicken keeper who’s just thankful that you don’t have to haul buckets of warm water out to the coop anymore.
What ever the reason, spring lends a sense of renewal in the coop.
I thought it might be exciting to catalogue a sort of documentary of one year in the life of a chicken; A full circle journey from egg to laying hen.
Some seasons of a chicken’s life are more exciting or educational than others. So some posts may be completely devoted to what the chicken is experiencing at that time. Like hatching, feathering out, feed changes, molting etc.
Other seasons are rather lack luster. In these cases, I might just give a brief update on how the chicken is doing in a post of a different topic. Updates like: if it’s grown any since the last post, or things I’ve noticed about its developing personality etc.
I hope to include videos on the Iron Oak Farm You Tube Channel whenever possible so you can really see the progression of the featured chicken. Be sure to subscribe! I would really like this to be an interactive experiment. I’d love your help with choosing a name for the chicken, and ideas about what you’d like to see in future posts. Also, if you’re raising a new chick this spring, feel free to share updates about your Year of the Chicken as your little ones grow.
Collecting Hatching Eggs
In this first post, I’d like to talk about collecting hatching eggs for an incubator.
The breed that I will be focusing on for this experiment will be our Buff Orpingtons. The Buff Orpington is my favorite breed. I love their temperament, their large, substantial size and the rich golden buff color. It reminds me of the sunset.
Over the next few years I’d really like to improve our lines of Buffs and perhaps show some competitively in the future.
This past winter we separated our Buffs in the wing off our main coop with the intention of cleaning the girls “lines” of other rooster’s sperm. I also wanted to encourage laying so we decided to light the coop.
For more about this, check out my post Raising Show Quality Buff Orpingtons and Video Coop Tour.
After about a week into the coldest part of January, the girls started laying. It was nice to be enjoying farm fresh eggs during the winter months. So nice, in fact, that we decided to add a few more girls to the “Wing Coop” to take advantage of the additional light source.
I wanted to make sure, however, that I would be able to tell the Buff Orpington eggs from the other laying hens. So I chose breeds that lay distinguishable colored eggs from the pinkish-brown of the Buffs.
With our 3 Buffs and 1 Buff Rooster we also have:
1 French Black Copper Maran- deepest dark chocolate egg
2 Welsummers – dark brown spotted egg
2 Easter Eggers- blue and green eggs
1 Olive Egger- olive egg
For a total of 10 chickens in that coop.
The Buff Orpington hens should now be clean of other rooster lines and fertilized by our Buff Rooster so it’s safe to begin collecting hatching pure bred eggs for the incubator.
Check out the first video below in the Year of the Chicken Series, Collecting Hatching Eggs!
Some Breeding and Incubating Facts
Once a hen mates with a rooster, it will remain fertile for 1 to 2 weeks.
You should expose a hen to a new rooster for at least a week, and witness mating before collecting eggs for incubation.
Fertile eggs should be stored between 45-70 degrees if waiting to collect enough to fill an incubator.
Eggs should be stored for no more than 10 days before placing in an incubator. The longer an egg is stored, the less chance of a successful hatching.
Date eggs with a pencil to keep track of day laid.
Collect eggs often (sometimes twice a day) and keep egg box bedding extra clean to ensure clean eggs for incubation. Extremely dirty eggs can breed bacteria in the incubator and effect hatch rate.
Some people wash hatching eggs, I personally don’t. The blume (or protective layer on the outside of the eggshell) provides a barrier against bacteria from entering the embryo via the microscopic pores on the egg shell. It also helps regulate humidity within the egg.
For more information on collecting hatching eggs visit my 4-part my Incubation Series
This week, I plan on collecting about a dozen eggs, then choosing the best 7 from those 12. Our Brinsea Mini Advanced Incubator hold 7 eggs and I plan to fill it.
In my next post I will be choosing the eggs to hatch and filling our incubator.