As soon as we moved to Spain, we decided we wanted our own chickens. What’s better than eating a fresh egg in the morning, from your own free-ranging chickens?
Our chicken adventure started in September – friends of ours were going away for a few months, and we offered to chicken-sit their chickens. That’s how Sanchez and his ladies (we soon started calling them “the Sanchitas”) came to live with us.
In January, we realised our friends were going to come back and chances were they would take the chickens back; so we decided to get ourselves an incubator, and hatch a few of our chickens’ eggs. The hens we have are ex-battery; their breed is made solely for the purpose of producing eggs, and they very rarely get broody (getting broody means a chicken starts to sit on the eggs in order to hatch them).
We got a Brinsea Mini Advance incubator, which is fully automatic: it turns the eggs dozens of times a day (like a hen would do if she was sitting on them) and regulates the temperature and humidity inside. Then we collected 6 eggs; with only 1 chicken laying daily at that time, it took a few days and we kept the eggs like instructed, on their sides in a cool room. On Saturday January 9th, those 6 eggs went into the incubator. Exactly 3 weeks later, 5 of the eggs were showing movement: they were moving a bit, some chirping came from inside the eggs, and we started preparing the brooder to welcome the chicks… Unfortunately, not everything went right during hatching – only 4 of the chicks hatched, and the last one died not long after.
The remaining three are thriving: they are nicknamed Calimero, Ginnie and The Little One (he is much much smaller than the other two) and currently living in an old rabbit cage. They are being VERY noisy, especially as they’re learning how to fly… It feels a bit like we’re living in a birdhouse 🙂
Three hens would never be enough to provide us and our guests with daily fresh eggs though (and at least one of them is probably a rooster anyway), so we decided to put a new batch in the incubator… This time, we got 7 eggs in the incubator. And we bought an Ovascope to make our operation a tiny bit more professional; this device allows us to look inside the egg, to see if and how the chick is developing. We can even take a picture of it… it’s really fascinating. After a week, we noticed one of the eggs wasn’t developing (probably not fertile), so we discarded it; the other eggs made it to the end, and on Wednesday February 24th, we found ourselves with 4 brand new chicks. These are way more orange than the first few, so we’re curious to see how they will grow up!
Still, our thirst for more chickens seems to be growing. We would really like about 12-15 laying hens (which would give us 8-10 fresh eggs a day in summer, probably none or only a few in winter). I decided to get some variety in our chicken run, and contacted somebody I know who has “Gallina Serrana de Teruel” – they are very beautiful chickens, and a local heritage breed. They are quite rare nowadays, and I’m always in for saving an endangered species! So on Wednesday, we went to pick up a dozen eggs for our next batch… I got 9 eggs into the incubator. It’s only supposed to fit 7 eggs (otherwise, it can’t turn them automatically); turning is less important during the first days though (and I don’t mind doing it manually from time to time) and I figured a few eggs might not be fertile anyway so I’ll have to take them out in a few days…
So now, we’re counting down again. The eggs went in yesterday, so we’re expecting new chicks around the 18th of March… fingers crossed!