What a wonderful experience incubating eggs has been.
Given our experience with chickens for both meat and eggs here at Life On The Land, we wanted to further develop our knowledge base by hatching our own eggs.
While we do have egg laying chickens, it is on a small scale as we work out the ‘kinks’ to a much larger system. As we are mainly a protein producing farm, we first thought that chickens for meat would be a great place to start.
It is not the intention of this entry to detail the issues surrounding commercial meat chicken breeds; there is plenty of that on the internet. The one thing I will say is the genetic availability of meat chickens is a sticking point.
Don’t get me wrong, the corporations who have heavily invested and selectively bred chickens for decades are entitled to their genetics. They have put in the hard work and have the right to protect them. My issue is that there is no real alternative. There is much to say about heritage breeds and it is something we are looking into – perhaps we can compliment old breed chickens with our modern breed chickens? Only time will tell.
So with chickens not an option, ducks became the alternative and I was very impressed with their potential. Ducks intended for the table have a growth rate comparable to the hybrid broiler chicken, their feed requirements are not as complex, they are structurally sound through a fast growth period – but most importantly, they are available! I was able to find a breeder who lived ten minutes away and after $45 had two dozen fertile eggs to hatch. That’s what I’m talking about!
My daughter and I had a lot of fun putting them into a $50 incubator we also found for sale locally. Every day we turned the eggs and kept them moist – her job was to spray the eggs with a little water after I turned them. Twenty-eight days later they hatched and it was a wonderful sight.
Even if just for the family bonding experience, this is something special to share with children and I would recommend it to any parent. It’s in these little things that will bring back the next generation closer to the natural world.
Our ducklings were so strong and able bodied. We let them dry off in the hatching tray and then moved them into the brooder. Quite quickly they found their water and food – these are the signs you need to monitor if you expect a successful brooding rate.
It is still early days, although we are very impressed with their growth rate and hardiness. Their needs are very low in comparison to meat chicks and we hope this will continue over the coming weeks.
Our plans are grand, but like most things you need to take it one step at a time. We are very keen to incorporate their natural habits into the regeneration process of the farm and wouldn’t it be a great alternative to offer our customers as a natural and locally grown food option.