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We had a good hatch this week. The New Hampshire Reds burst from the shell – they are always the first to hatch. Some breeds like the Dark Cornish take longer to hatch. Because we have a full range of breeds, our “hatch day” can stretch across two days. On the first morning of “hatch day” we hear little peeps as we enter and leave the office. Sometimes my 2 year old grandson comes over. “See peep peeps?” he asks, his eyes wide like saucers as he watches the tray of apparently static hatching eggs become a tray filled with soft, fuzzy chicks.
Our New Hampshire Reds are laying at around 75% (meaning that we get about 75% as many eggs each day as we have hens). That will be 275 eggs a year if they maintain this rate all year. Even if they slow down later in the year, which is likely with the change of seasons, they can easily end averaging over 200 eggs a year. In my book, any breed that lays over 200 eggs a year is very good for a family homestead. In our “grow out pens,” the young New Hamps are growing faster than the Delawares. I’m looking forward to weighing both breeds at 16 weeks to see how they compare at processing age. Speaking of processing, we’re also taking some 22-week-old Delaware males to the processor this week. Because we are raising the males and females together in the pasture, when we take the males in, we’ll probably have some Delaware pullets for sale, too.
About our White Cochins – previously, I didn’t think much of this breed for home use. Feathers on their feet just does not appeal to me. But I should know by now not to “judge a book” primarily “by its cover.” I ended up with a pen of White Cochins as part of the backup flock that we’re keeping for McMurray Hatchery. I noticed that they seem to go broody and stay broody. Some of my friends who live up north want Delawares. Since they don’t have electricity in their barn, I’m raising some Delawares for them up to an age at which they no longer need supplemental heat. On a whim, I stuck some Delaware eggs under the broody White Cochins. Normally there’s an elaborate procedure to follow to get a broody hen to accept cold eggs. But I didn’t follow it – I just poked the eggs under the hens. 21 days later, a little group of Delawares hatched, and they’re doing great. I’ve read that chickens hatched and brooded by a hen are 50% more likely to go broody than incubator-raised chicks. So these Delawares will being going north, where my friends are establishing a small self-sustaining flock.
Several of you have asked us about turkeys. We have turkey eggs in the hatcher now, both Heritage Bronze and Beltsville Small Whites. They should be hatching in a couple of weeks. We’re starting to take orders for turkey poults now. If you’re interested, call our office at 254-829-5333.
That’s all for now. We hope to see many of you soon at our upcoming Farm Days in April and early May.