The first hatch of the season is in full swing here at Greenmont Farm. As Joel recently said in the spring newsletter, “Frustrated with the quality of hatchery chicks (small, fragile, stupid) several years ago Polyface embarked on a bold plan: saving healthy, productive older layers, mating them with select roosters, and hatching in-house pullets. The goal: create a robust, pasture-based, intelligent, drug-free laying hen.” So here I am in my fourth season hatching laying hens (and heritage roosters) for Polyface. My goal this year is to hatch 3000 chicks.
My breeding stock this year consists of my in-house hatched roosters from last season (now 3th generation) along with some hatchery hens (Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Black Australorps) and some of my in-house hatched hens from last season. Clearly, Polyface is not necessarily concerned with breed. As Joel said, we simply want a healthy, robust, pasture-based hen. I have about 450 hens and 50 roosters in my eggmobile.
I currently have three incubators…two Brinsea Ova-Easy 380 cabinets and one 580 cabinet which means I can set about 1000 eggs at a time.
Once I have collected enough eggs to fill an incubator, I set them in the incubation trays pointy side down.
Then I load the trays into the incubator and turn it on, adjusting the many settings as necessary. These incubators automatically turn the shelves mimicking the hen turning the eggs in the nest.
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. On day 19 I put the chicks on lockdown which means I level the shelves and put covers on the trays so the hatching chicks are contained and cannot roam all over the incubator.
Around day 21, the eggs start to hatch.
Once hatched and dry, I transfer the chicks to the brooder where they will stay for the next four weeks.