All Things Great and Small
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 13 June 2011 09:39

Incubator Day 5Our Marans eggs are on Day 5 of incubation. We spent some time yesterday trying to hone in the temperature to 99.5 degrees F. We were using 4 different thermometers and they were each giving us different readings. The good news is, there was some consistency in where we placed the thermometers in and around the incubator. Right now we think we are somewhere between 98.8 and 100.2. Hopefully our growing chicks are finding it juuuust right. On Day 7 and 14 we will have the chance to "candle" the eggs, i.e., hold a special "flashlight" up to the eggs to determine if there is any growth inside. It's harder to see with these dark eggs, but we should be able to make out an embryo in most of the eggs. I can't wait!


Last night we spent some time locating organic feed suppliers and making plans to build our chicken "run" and moving the heavy coup to a designated spot in the backyard near the Sugar Maple tree. Before they go outside, they'll be indoors with us for a few weeks. We'll need to get pine shavings for the young chicks and dry chick food, and each week until they are mostly grown, their feed changes to accomodate their growing needs. Friends at Fertrell recommended Organic Unlimited so we're looking to see if they distribute to a store closer to us.

The other big decision we're in the process of making is what to do with the extra chickens that hatch. Our goal is to have a dozen hens and one rooster. His name is Earl. I told myself I wasn't going to name the birds, but it has been decided that the rooster's name is Earl. His father was "Duke" and so he will be the Earl of Duke. :)

Anyway, we are hatching 26 chicks. We only want to keep 13. The dilemma is that if they all, or most of them, hatch, we'll have around 13 birds to find a home for. We don't want to give them to just anyone. Folks like Wynette at Adamson Acres have worked very hard to maintain the Marans purity in breed. "We are proud to state that our French Copper Black Marans bloodlines include Davis, Jeane, and Presley lines. We feel we have made very good choices on these bloodlines, and we will continue breeding for dark egg color and excellent conformation of birds." Marans should always have feathered shanks and lay dark eggs and if they are bred with another kind of chicken all that hard work to maintain the French breed in the US will have been neglectfully dismissed. We know of at least one chicken breeder that keeps Marans, but what if all our leftover birds are male? They are much harder to find homes for. So then we face reality - Marans are known for their excellent meat quality. While we were at Fertrell, I found a flyer for a local poultry processor. Do we take these young birds to be processed for meat? Would we be able to eat them after having hatched (and loved) them? Mmh... lots to think about.

In the meantime, we have a lot to do to prep for their arrival. On Day 21, they'll begin pipping (chipping away at their shells in order to hatch) and within 3 days, they'll need to be placed in a brooding box. We have the infrared lights, the waterers and the feeders. The Earthy Cowboy is going to fashion a box for them under the table with greenhouse plastic, deer netting and other bits of DIY kinds of things. Pine shavings will cover the floor of the box and within just a week, we'll give them a perch to try out. Stay posted for more details on our experiment.