The first Ameraucana chicks of 2017 finished hatching overnight. Currently there are twenty babies, an excellent hatch rate any time. The hatch is particularly impressive for eggs that were collected when the temperatures were at or below 0 degrees F and the majority of eggs set had been stored in the refrigerator for several days. When the best breeding rooster for the next generation is killed by a weasel, any possibly viable eggs that could contain his DNA should be set. Of the 42 eggs I placed in the incubator, 37 grew embryos. Of those, 22 pipped and 20 hatched. Had I owned a better incubator, I believe the hatch rate would have been higher.
In the photo above, the last two chicks to hatch are in the lower area. They appear less fluffy than the rest because their down has still not shed all the albumen residue that keeps them wet and lubricated so they can escape from the egg shell. In a few hours they will be as fluffed as the others.
I’m saving my pennies to purchase a Brinsea incubator to replace the styrofoam Hova-bator currently in use. Had I known that such an early hatch was necessary, I would have begun saving sooner. The usual hatching season begins in March for me. By then all the hens are laying well, the days are long enough to assure good fertility and when the babies hatch, the weather is warm enough to keep the chicks in the barn.
Now I am faced with twenty chicks that must live in the house until they are old enough to go outdoors. They will need to stay in with us for at least three weeks! Anyone who has raised chicks knows they can get smelly. They usually go in the barn after one week. I will need to provide a large brooding area and consistent attention to bedding to keep the odor of chicken at an acceptable level. The cats are another concern. One of our cats, Chloe, killed some newly hatched chicks the first year she lived with us. Since then she has mellowed, but we now have two one-year-old males who consider themselves mighty hunters. The baby chicks will need to be enclosed in a cat-proof system.
Still, my hopes are high for a good outcome with these babies. I’m certain many of them were fathered by my best rooster since he was the dominant male in the chicken house. So far they are a beautiful hatch of silver Ameraucanas. I look forward to seeing their adult plumage and the color of the eggs they produce.