GETTING THE BEST FROM YOUR EGGS

FROM YOUR EGGS

Breeding birds need a diverse and nutritious diet to ensure the highest level of hatchability from eggs. Second year hens, which lay larger and better eggs for hatching can be used where achievable, in spite of the fewer number of eggs laid by each. Eggs for hatching should be discarded after a fortnight, if they haven’t been set.

Eggs are laid over a period of time and when the mother knows the time is right, she will begin to sit on them. She does this so that all the new babies will hatch at the same time, as incubation starts from the day the mother begins sitting; not from the day the eggs are laid.

Each day until the incubation begins, the mother turns the eggs to keep the nutrients inside the egg in contact with the “germ cell” and to ensure that the yoke sac does not stick to the inside of the shell. Eggs are kept at around 18°C in normal conditions, so if you are collecting them before putting them under the mother, do not refrigerate them, as the 3°C inside the fridge is too cold and will kill the “germ cell”.

When eggs are newly laid, they contain a protective coating, which acts as a protection against outside infection. Washing the eggs, will remove this protective layer and needs only to be done if the eggs are badly soiled, in case the “germ cell” is permanently damaged by contamination. Eggs should be rotated regularly before they are set in the incubator or under a hen. This can be easily done if you store them in egg cartons and rotate the cartons frequently by turning each on its side and then on the other side the next time. Do this daily, at least, but more frequently is better.

If using a clucky hen to hatch eggs, place a batch (between 8 to 12 eggs depending upon the size of the hen) in the nest and watch to ensure that the mother can cover all the eggs while sitting (remove any not covered, as these will slowly be rotated out into the cold, eventually destroying all the eggs). You need do nothing more until the mother brings all her babies off the nest at the end of incubation. She will sit very tightly for the last 3 days of hatching. Do not lift her up at this stage to see how the chicks are hatching, as this will drop th humidity around the hatching chicks and dry them out. Then they will stick to the shell and die.

If you are using an incubator, set the temperature to the required level (usually 103°F or 39°C for still air incubators and two degrees C lower for fan forced incubators) and put water in the required area to maintain the humidity level correctly. It is safer to run your incubator for a few days before setting eggs in it to ensure that the temperature remains stable and the thermostat is functioning properly.

Before putting your eggs in the incubator it is best to mark one side with an “X “and the other side with an “O” and start them off by lying them all out with the X showing or all with the O showing. This way when you come to turn the eggs next time, you know which ones have been turned and which have not. Eggs should be turned regularly and al least twice daily (more often is better). The incubation period varies but is around 21 days for fowl (18 to 20 for some bantams), 28 days for geese, turkeys, guinea fowl and most ducks and 35 days for muscovy ducks. See our table of hatching times for poultry eggs.

Candling involves shining a light through the egg and observing whether the embryo has formed or not. This is done at seven days after incubation has started. If the egg is fertile, you will see a small blob like a passion fruit seed (the eye and brain forming) and sometimes a network of veins and arteries branching from it. If the egg is infertile, it will be clear or evenly shaded throughout with no blobs at all. The infertile eggs should be removed from the incubator as they may contaminate the fertile eggs if left behind.

When the eggs are three days off hatching, cease turning them. This allows the young birds inside to orient themselves and it ensures that the incubator builds up sufficient humidity to stop the young from drying out and sticking to the shell as they hatch.

Young can be heard chirping / squeaking a day before hatching. This happens as they begin “pipping” and breaking into the air sack in the egg and then through the shell. At this stage, never open the incubator as the sudden drop in humidity and temperature can kill the young birds. Wait until all the young have hatched and fluffed up before you do so. This can be up to two days after the first young have hatched. The young will not die, as they have sufficient nutrients and water in their stomach to last 48 hours or so.

Avoid “chilling” young as they are removed from the incubator and put in the brooder. Many chilled young contract complications and die within a few days. Young turkeys that flip themselves over, should be returned to the incubator until they are a day older and their legs are co-ordinated.

For information about looking after chickens, ducklings, goslings and turkey poults from this stage onwards, visit our page Raising Young Poultry.

Eggs are laid over a period of time and when the mother knows the time is right, she will begin to sit on them. She does this so that all the new babies will hatch at the same time, as incubation starts from the day the mother begins sitting; not from the day the eggs are laid.

Each day until the incubation begins, the mother turns the eggs to keep the nutrients inside the egg in contact with the “germ cell” and to ensure that the yoke sac does not stick to the inside of the shell. Eggs are kept at around 18°C in normal conditions, so if you are collecting them before putting them under the mother, do not refrigerate them, as the 3°C inside the fridge is too cold and will kill the “germ cell”.

When eggs are newly laid, they contain a protective coating, which acts as a protection against outside infection. Washing the eggs, will remove this protective layer and needs only to be done if the eggs are badly soiled, in case the “germ cell” is permanently damaged by contamination. Eggs should be rotated regularly before they are set in the incubator or under a hen. This can be easily done if you store them in egg cartons and rotate the cartons frequently by turning each on its side and then on the other side the next time. Do this daily, at least, but more frequently is better.

If using a clucky hen to hatch eggs, place a batch (between 8 to 12 eggs depending upon the size of the hen) in the nest and watch to ensure that the mother can cover all the eggs while sitting (remove any not covered, as these will slowly be rotated out into the cold, eventually destroying all the eggs). You need do nothing more until the mother brings all her babies off the nest at the end of incubation. She will sit very tightly for the last 3 days of hatching. Do not lift her up at this stage to see how the chicks are hatching, as this will drop th humidity around the hatching chicks and dry them out. Then they will stick to the shell and die.

If you are using an incubator, set the temperature to the required level (usually 103°F or 39°C for still air incubators and two degrees C lower for fan forced incubators) and put water in the required area to maintain the humidity level correctly. It is safer to run your incubator for a few days before setting eggs in it to ensure that the temperature remains stable and the thermostat is functioning properly.

Before putting your eggs in the incubator it is best to mark one side with an “X “and the other side with an “O” and start them off by lying them all out with the X showing or all with the O showing. This way when you come to turn the eggs next time, you know which ones have been turned and which have not. Eggs should be turned regularly and al least twice daily (more often is better). The incubation period varies but is around 21 days for fowl (18 to 20 for some bantams), 28 days for geese, turkeys, guinea fowl and most ducks and 35 days for muscovy ducks. See our table of hatching times for poultry eggs.

Candling involves shining a light through the egg and observing whether the embryo has formed or not. This is done at seven days after incubation has started. If the egg is fertile, you will see a small blob like a passion fruit seed (the eye and brain forming) and sometimes a network of veins and arteries branching from it. If the egg is infertile, it will be clear or evenly shaded throughout with no blobs at all. The infertile eggs should be removed from the incubator as they may contaminate the fertile eggs if left behind.

When the eggs are three days off hatching, cease turning them. This allows the young birds inside to orient themselves and it ensures that the incubator builds up sufficient humidity to stop the young from drying out and sticking to the shell as they hatch.

Young can be heard chirping / squeaking a day before hatching. This happens as they begin “pipping” and breaking into the air sack in the egg and then through the shell. At this stage, never open the incubator as the sudden drop in humidity and temperature can kill the young birds. Wait until all the young have hatched and fluffed up before you do so. This can be up to two days after the first young have hatched. The young will not die, as they have sufficient nutrients and water in their stomach to last 48 hours or so.

Avoid “chilling” young as they are removed from the incubator and put in the brooder. Many chilled young contract complications and die within a few days. Young turkeys that flip themselves over, should be returned to the incubator until they are a day older and their legs are co-ordinated.

For information about looking after chickens, ducklings, goslings and turkey poults from this stage onwards, visit our page Raising Young Poultry.

Poultry Fertility

Poultry Fertility

There are many factors that influence the fertility of eggs used for hatching. Fertility depends on the hen but also the vigourness of roosters, their feeding and genetics

Whilst it is quite obvious that the female plays a vital part in the fertility of hatching eggs, an overlooked factor can be the fertility of the male.

Small numbers to select from

In-breeding and selecting breeding birds from a small pool of stock, as often happens with dwindling numbers in rare breeds, are two factors that can influence fertility and cause it to fall. When birds become very closely related, it is usually time to seek outcrosses of other strains of the breed to maintain a vigourous and hardy breed. Early signs of poor fertility traits are birds failing to hatch or birds which are weak and do not live beyond a few days or week.

Good health

Breeding stock (in fowl, guinea fowl and turkeys) should be maintained on a diet that has at least 16% protein and probably closer to 18% for the light breeds. Minerals and vitamins are essential and deficiencies in these can occur without being obvious when the birds green pick dissappears in the dryer months. Add extra vitamins to the feed each second day to keep breeding stock healthy. Black sunflower seed and lucerne meal are excellent for adding oils and essential vitamins.

A good dose of milk whey powder sprinkled on rations each few weeks keeps the digestive tract stocked with healthy bacteria. It is also important to worm you birds regularly (every few months).
As fat hens lay fewer eggs and are more stressed, keep your feeding regime sensible. Fowl of average size need no more than 125 gm of quality feed daily, so keep your hens and roosters lean for best results.

Healthy birds will be active, have bright combs, stand erect or alert and be producing firm stools. Constantly runny stools are a sign of worm or coccicidiosis infestation and should be fixed quickly to avoid bowel tract damage.

Spring Hints

Spring Hints

Eggs and Fertility

With winter sniffles and wet weather over, the grass begins to grow and young roosters begin to show their mettle. It is a vitally important time for the breeding fowl as they need good vitamin supplies – usually double that found in layer rations.

Hens and pullets should not be allowed to grow too fat as that makes them poorer layers. A good average is 125 grams of quality feed a day (probably half of what those of you who “love” you birds feed them!). Quality feed is around 17% protein and contains trace elements, vitamins, calcium for shell growth and greens (lucerne meal is good if there is no grass around).

Watch the fertility of your eggs and change your rooster quickly if it is poor. Fertility may start at 20% but should rise to a normal level for the breed within a month – this could be from 60% to 95%.

Stopping Cluckiness

You may not want to stop you hens from going clucky, but beware the one that goes clucking in the main laying area. If you allow it to stay there, you will end up with a massive pile of eggs under her which she cannot cover and which will come out at odd intervals. Don’t let this happen.

Shift the clucky hen into and area of her own under a few eggs. In a day or so, place under her a dozen of her own sized eggs (preferably at night) and take the others away. She will now sit and hatch them all at the same time.

If you don’t want clucky hens, place cluckies in an uncomfortable environment, not is a nice warm straw filled box – somewhere with a wire floor and with lots of greed feed to eat. They usually get over it in 3 or 4 days that way.

Faverolles – Large Salmon

Faverolles

Faverolles are a very placid, easy care, dual-purpose breed. They originated in France in the late 1800’s and are renowned in that country for their tender juicy meat. They also lay a fairly large egg and are very reliable.

The females have the Salmon colouring and the males the wild colouring. They have a beard and muffs, and have five toes and lightly feathered legs on the outside of the leg only.

The males are particularly striking with their black beard and muff, straw coloured neck and tail hackles. The back and wings are cherry mahogany.

They are a pleasure to have around with their very friendly nature. I have had them for almost sixteen years now.

Wyandotte Bantam

Wyandotte

This miniature breed was developed from the large Wyandotte, originating from the U.S.A. The Wyandotte bantam is a medium heavy fowl with an almost round body. They have a friendly, placid nature.

The cocks are not aggressive so they are ideal for people that only want to keep a few birds as a hobby. They are very suitable for children.

Giving them a free run is usually not a problem, as they do not feel the need to wander far. Hens are excellent layers and reliable broodies, sometimes they are used as foster mothers for eggs and chicks of less reliable breeds. They are not inclined to fly hence can be kept behind a two foot high fence.

Without a doubt, Wyandotte bantams are among the most popular bantam worldwide. Not only for their ‘cuddly’ appearance but for their hardiness, lovely nature and vast color range.

Cochins

cochin

These birds are of the Asiatic Class and were originally called the Chinese Shanghai Fowl because they originated in the Shanghai district of China. The name was later changed to ‘Cochin China’ and finally shortened to ‘Cochin’. Until recently this breed was almost lost, but are now being recreated.

They are a large bird, with feathered feet, easily contained, very docile, and easily tamed. Hens lay a medium sized egg, but are good layers. They are good broodies and very capable of looking after their chickens.

Hopefully by the end of this year I shall have Silverlaced Large Cochins also Black Cochins.

Silkies originating in China

silkies

The Silkie reigns supreme when it comes to feathered pets. With their silky fluffy plumage they look as if they are formally dressed for a special occasion.

Its persistant broodiness is a breed characteristic,some people keep them just to hatch eggs from other fowl. They are good layers, although can be spasmodic.

They make an excellent childrens pet as they have a very quiet nature, easily tamed. They come in quite a collection of colors: Black, Blue, Buff, Partridge, Red, White, and shades of all the above. Although for show purposes, variations do not apply.

Orpingtons

orpington_blue

This Breed was developed by an Englishman, William Cook from a small village in Kent, named Orpington.

Originally bred for meat and laying capabilities. A stately majestic breed, in general they are a very docile bird, responding well to human attention. Despite their large size, they lay an average sized egg, but are reasonably consistent.

Hens are very capable mothers and broodies.

I keep Large Black, Blue, Splash and Buff.