May 14, 2010

Working on my "Chicken Plans" in 2010!!!

I haven't updated my blog FOR A LONG TIME, but decided I should update the chicken posting.  These posts have been a great reference/record for myself.
My GOALS for 2010 are: 
1)  See what 2nd generation Austra White chickens do.  Austra White is a 'hybrid', so the sucessive generations will not be the same.  Mom kept hers through many generations with some changes, but the good traits remained.
2)  Hatch eggs from our 'heritage' greys/blacks/speckles to improve and increase my flock.
3)  Seperate my hens/roosters in such a way to see how breeding grey to grey, and speckled to black, hatch out.  This will be one step to determining if our greys are 'blue' or 'self-blue/lavender'.

In January, I made three pens within my coop.  I kept the Austra Whites and Black Australorp chickens in the largest pen, and divided my 'old heritage' chickens.  One pen had the grey rooster and my grey hens. The smallest 'cage' had the speckled rooster with my black and speckled hens.

Right and in the foreground, are the Austra White chickens. Left is the 'cage' with my speckled rooster and hens. In the back, behind, is the grey chickens.

Mid January, my sisterinlaw gave me back three grey and one black hens that I had given her several years ago.  They would be getting some age on them, but still laying and I was very glad to get them.  I thought it would 'increase' the genetic pool ... even though they would have been chickens I hatched, they would be a different generation, and more distantly related from my rooster.

For nearly a month, the grey and speckled hens stopped laying many eggs!  They were not happy about any part of my plan!  They could still see the nests they were used to laying in... and tried desperately to get back to them.  They didn't like different roosting places.  And the speckled rooster was used to being The Boss and he was so hurt that he was penned up with only 7 hens! 

In February, I ordered a new incubator, and my mother and I began setting the incubators.  I had so many questions!  I marked each egg as to which pen it was from (sometimes, I knew exactly which hen laid it).. and the date it was layed. We could tell by color and shape, which type of hen had laid which egg.  The Austra White #1 bunch had a tapered tinted egg.  Austra White #2 bunch had a nearly round white egg.  The Black Australorp hens laid a dark brown egg.  The black hens of our old ones laid a darker, almost pink egg.  The speckled hens laid a very, very light tinted egg with a defined pointed end.  The grey hens gave us a pinkish-beige smaller egg.

I built a set of wire dividers to put in my incubator when I took out the turner near the time of hatching, to act sort of like a big 'pedigree cage'. Each type/breed of egg went into a different section.  I put little rubber bands on the chicks hatching in each section.  We kept track of which eggs hatched best: fresh, average, or old.   We kept track of percentages of hatch, length of incubation, etc.

From February to May, we set an incubator 8 times.  I must admit that Mom's old Brower galvanized incubator with hand turning, did very well.  And my old Little Giant incubator 9 years old, did terrible.  The new Hovabator incubator didn't do as well as it should have the first three times... about 44% hatch.  The last time I set it, I decided to throw away all the instructions and follow my instincts as far as temperature and humidity, etc.  The hatch was 62%.. but the Austra White, Black Australorp eggs hatched 100%, with the very poor hatching of the eggs from our hens bringing down the overall average of that set.

Last year I had 11 hens go broody... this year, I had very few, and they began late!!!
The hens I set had a better percentage of hatching, but again... the Austra White eggs hatched much, much better than the ones from our 'heritage' hens.