Happy Hatch Day!

‘Tess is lying curled up under the shed. She’d been slow coming down the Eglu ramp this morning, and at eleven years old, well past her laying days, we knew to keep a close eye on her. She pecked and wandered the lawn through the day, but as it turns out, she crept away from the others at dusk, curled her head to her chest and gently expired. Tess, our first, oldest and most favourite hen was gone.

After a suitable burial and a teary chat about ‘good old Tess’ with the children, we decided it was time to expand the flock. A few natural losses, a few non-layers, and we were no longer getting enough eggs each day. So, to go out and buy a few more? Bird fairs are few and far between in this remote area, and we thought we were ready to try and hatch our own.

Looking online it seemed there were plenty of ‘cheap’ incubators out there. But further research showed that these machines were not at the welfare or quality standards we wanted for our eggs. We did not want the kids to find failed hatchings each morning as they eagerly checked the incubator.

Brinsea customer reviews seemed overwhelmingly positive, the engineering, build quality and ease of use made it our first and only choice. But what really confirmed them as an ‘above and beyond’ supplier is their amazing on-going help and assistance. All out amateur/ silly/ worried mother hen questions dealt with quickly and with genuine curiosity and care, either online or by phone. The Brinsea Facebook page was informative and encouraging.

In terms of the set-up, we had a Mini II Advance Starter Kit. I had been worried about space, but the Mini II Advance incubator is compact and rather natty! Fully automated (thank you Brinsea!) so we didn’t have to worry about turning, or constantly checking temperature and humidity, we just kept an eye on the computerised screen on top.

When school found out we were about to start hatching (Ysgol Dinas Mawddwy in Gwynedd) , they asked if they could observe. They were in the middle of studying dinosaurs, so the egg hatching process was a wonderful ‘real-life’ experiment that fitted the curriculum exactly. The present scientific consensus is that birds are a group of theropod dinosaurs that originated during the Mesozoic Era.

So, we put in 7 eggs, and excitement levels rose dramatically. We have an Ayam Cemani cockerel and the hens laying at the point were a bantam Light Sussex, a White Star and a Partridge Wyandotte. Eggs were white, light brown and green (olive). Candling was a revelation! Other parents had been interested in watching our progress, and some remembered their grand-parents doing it ‘the old way’ with an actual candle. Others remembered trying to juggle a torch and a fragile egg. But the Brinsea OvaView candler meant we could all safely take a look at embryo development and egg sacs. Our 5-year-old was fascinated.

Egg started hatching a day early (Brinsea reassured us this was totally normal with our bantam eggs). They held our hands through pipping and unzipping, and after two days we had 6 amazingly pretty chicks. Two pure black, one palest lemon and three yellow with brown stripes (complete with stripy ‘eyeliner’!). One egg didn’t make it. We suspect down to our failure to watch it closely enough after that first ‘pipping’. Certainly, the incubator was showing humidity and temperature were fine. But, lessons learnt and one out seven isn’t bad for starters.

 

Hatching Eggs using the Mini II Advance Starter Pack

So now we have six new chicks to add to the flock. They’ve been bounding around inside the converted (and fully sanitized using the Brinsea disinfectant provided in the kit) ex-dog crate we are using as a temporary home. The Brinsea kit also included the brooder heater. We’d heard warnings from other smallholders about the dangers of Infra-red lamps and chicks either over-heating or getting too cold. This EcoGlow heater was simplicity itself. Set it up on its own sturdy, adjustable legs and plug in – that’s it! And as the chicks have grown, we can adjust the height of the heater plate to accommodate them, while they have a safe and warm hiding place for snoozing and relaxing.

I cannot speak highly enough of the quality of the Brinsea Mini II Advance Starter Pack. It really does have literally everything you need for successful hatching. Add to this the knowledgeable and friendly staff and you have a company that knocks the socks off any competitors! Thoroughly recommended. Happy Hatching!’

 

Candy Bedworth – Author and Smallholder. Candy’s biography describes her as ‘raising sheep, chickens and children with varying degrees of success.’

You can read some of Candy’s articles by clicking here…

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