Like many people, my husband and I had a dream to live in the countryside and lead a lifestyle growing our own food, raising some livestock and only working when we chose to, not because we had to. In 2004 we decided to make this dream a reality. It was admittedly quite difficult at times, but our determination to achieve our dream was very strong. In 2009 we found a cottage with enough land based in South Lincolnshire. It needed significant renovation, but it was within our price range, so we made an offer which was accepted and the rest, as they say, is history.

We had always planned to keep chickens but only a small number. We could not predict how much these wonderful creatures would take over our lives. We purchased 7 hybrid egg layers and enjoyed the experience so much that within 3 months we bought our first Buff Orpingtons after completing a lot of research about the breed. Our plan was to generate a small breeding flock and Buff Orpingtons are perfect for the purpose as they are notorious for brooding so will incubate, hatch and raise chicks for us.

Broody hens are amazing but they don’t read the textbooks and will behave how their individual hormones dictate they should. Within 1 year our experience taught us that an incubator is absolutely essential to us during the broody hen season to support our team. We made the mistake of purchasing a cheap unbranded incubator and quickly realised this was a dreadful mistake. As is our nature we then researched incubators. Brinsea was the brand that was recommend to us as extremely reliable with great hatch results and ranked highly in all reviews. Our Brinsea Ovation 28 Advance has been with us for many years and have proved over and over again it’s worth.

Today we hold a small breeding flock of Buff Orpingtons with eight hens and one cockerel. As broody hens stop laying when they brood we also keep between 4 and 6 hens of other breeds to provide eggs for us. Our broody hens raise chick in the summer months and we hit our peak number of birds with a total of around 80 chickens being our largest. The chickens have become self-funding by covering the cost of feed and infrastructure through the sale of eggs and point of lay hens. As we gained experience we were asked many times through our social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram to start a YouTube channel. We decided to take the plunge and we now have a YouTube channel called English Country Life which has gone from strength to strength. We publish “How To” videos for anyone aspiring to live the good life and our chickens play a large part in the channel.

Many people ask us why we think an incubator is essential when we have broody hens. The simple answer is that broody hens have a mind of their own and are not always reliable whereas a Brinsea incubator can be trusted every time to incubate and hatch. We selected a Brinsea Ovation 28 Advance to support our broody hens. The features are fabulous with the ability to set temperature, monitor humidity, programme the turning intervals or even switch the turning mechanism off for hatching.

There are 2 main scenarios that we’ll use the incubator for:

  • Sometimes a young broody hen in her first year may not immediately recognise that she needs to cover all of the eggs in a clutch. With young hens we will sit her on 3 or 4 eggs for the first few days with the remainder of her clutch in the Brinsea incubator. Once we are comfortable that she is settled and will brood well we’ll transfer the remainder of her clutch from the Brinsea Ovation to her nest area.
  • During hatching our broody hens will generally stay in the coop on days 21 and 22 to hatch her clutch. At the end of day 22 she’ll leave the coop and take her chicks outside. We always keep a very close eye on the broody hens at this stage because we can find eggs still in the nest either pipped or partially hatched. At this stage we always have the Brinsea Ovation set up and ready to take the hatching eggs. Once the chicks are successfully out of the egg, we can return them to the hen by slipping them under her wing while she’s roosting. Every hen is different but with a broody, placid breed like our Orpington’s this has always been a success.

Fiona & Hugh Osborne, English Country Life

You can follow English Country Life on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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