Today, I attempted to separate the flock for the second time this spring. We attempted this earlier, but weather prevented it (the outdoor water was freezing and my hours are too erratic at work to be able to provide fresh water regularly enough to keep it liquid). But since everyone has been outside in the Ussery Modified Tractor for more than a week without any water problems, and I finally ordered our incubator, it was time.
So how are we doing things? I have divided the flock into two subgroups. I moved Elliot, Little Broody and Henrietta into our old A-Frame. This group will not be reproducing in our 2012 hatch. We’re not breeding Little Broody because she is by far the smallest of our hens, and though she is a reliable layer, we’re going to use the majority of these chickens for meat. We’re also not breeding Henrietta because of her earlier crop issues. I’m hoping that this is only a temporary problem and not a hereditary issue, and I think it’s best to watch her for a full year before letting her produce offspring. Elliot will be our sire next year; he’s a great rooster, but we are only using one rooster this year, so we can trace lineage through the roosters (and I haven’t figured out how to keep track of the chicks once they begin to hatch in the brooder). The side benefit of separating the flock like this is that Henrietta and Little Broody can keep Elliot company and with only one rooster in the main flock, hopefully we’ll see a decrease in rooster tracks on the girls.
In terms of our brooder, we decided to go with the Hovabator 1588 because none of the girls are showing any signs of broodiness and our summer is so short (and weather so unreliable) that it’s much less stressful to just do a controlled hatch in an incubator. We’ll likely use broody hens in the future, and may even slip nearly pipped eggs under a hen if she goes broody in the next few weeks, but for now, an incubator will provide us with the most reliable way to hatch between 15 – 25 chicks this spring, while still planning a wedding.
We chose the Hovabator 1588 because of the remarkably positive reviews. It is safe, included an egg turner (in the package we purchased), and apparently has fewer problems with extreme temperature spikes. It also has a window on the top, so I can keep an eye on progress without having to open the incubator.
Now, we’re just waiting fourteen days to start collecting eggs, so we can know for sure who sired what.