We’ve got very exciting news at Harrogate Mumbler, we’re fostering a clutch of eggs and we will get to watch them over the course of 3 week or so while they hatch and grow. We decided to do it in lieu of a birthday party for my 7 year old daughter. She has experienced a hatching experience at school before and was absolutely desperate to do it again.
As with anything to do with animals, research is key. I was resolute that the eggs would need to come from a reputable breeder. One who would take back and look after the chicks as they turn into hens & cockerels. There has been some really upsetting media coverage about hatching experiences over recent years. I don’t want to have anything to do with that and so a reputable breeder was non-negotiable. Basically I wanted a local farmer who would in-effect “loan” me some hatching eggs. Fortunately this is entirely possible in our area and I looked on the Harrogate Mumbler Facebook Chat Group and quickly discovered that others were recommending Eggs to Chicks Hatching Adventure
They are based at a local farm called Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm (who as an aside are fantastic and are open to the public; read more here) Run by Becky, they supply everything that you need for a sucessful hatching experience. Most importantly, if you decide not to keep the chicks they will keep them all on the farm or rehome them (boy chickens and girls!)
My two girls were beyond excited! We received 7 little eggs in an incubator on Monday 21st May 2018. It’s not an exact science but the eggs were due to start hatching around the 23rd/24th. Becky had “candled” the eggs prior to delivering them, that is to shine a very bright light behind them to see if the chick is forming properly and is likely to hatch. All 7 were looking good, but there was no guarantee that they would hatch.
Becky supplied the eggs in an incubator, a very large cage (with heat lamp, water bottle, food, sawdust & newspaper) She also gave us a detailed manual and a full handover brief. Reassuringly becky also reminded me that I could contact her day or night with any questions or concerns.
Excitingly, you could actually hear a “cheeping” sound from the eggs and one of the eggs started to show signs of hatching that first night. Tuesday morning, we came down to our first “baby” (who was promptly named Luna) As per- Becky’s instructions we left Luna in the incubator for a day to allow her to dry out and fluff up. Also the movement and cheeping is a stimulant to help encourage the other eggs to hatch.
Over the next 2 days, four more eggs hatched (Margaret, Louisa, Greg and Egburt) Unfortunately the last two eggs didn’t hatch and after another 4 days we decided to bury them in the garden. It was a bit upsetting for the kids but actually provided me with a good opportunity to teach them about the circle of life. By burying them in the garden (in a solemn little service- my girls insisted on wearing black and saying a few words about the unhatched chicks) I taught them how they would help our plants grow and be part of the vital life cycle.
The 5 hatched chicks were moved to the large cage within a day of hatching. Over the first few days we didn’t handle them much and like new born babies, they spent an awful lot of time asleep. It was amazing how quickly they became fairly robust. Within about a week their feathers were starting to appear and they soon became much more “chicken” than “chick.”
By this point the girls and I had fallen in love with them a bit and so we have been looking to buy a secondhand henhouse on e-bay. I am fancying a plastic Eglo “Omlet” style. The chicks are “Pigmys” which are a true Bantam (a small chicken) apparently they are not great layers (maybe laying an egg every 2-3 days) however they look awesome as they have feathered feet and so have the appearance of wearing feathery trousers! They are a really friendly and easy to look after breed and so (apparently!) make a great “first hen” for the budding hen-keeper.
We have been regularly introducing the chicks to our family dog. So far so good! The chickens aren’t at all bothered about the dog, although I suspect that unsupervised, the dog may want a nibble on a chick!
We have been letting the chicks have a bit of time outdoors each day (weather permitting) and although they can run free as our garden is secure, we have actually fashioned a fantastic run out of the dog’s old puppy crate!