Spring Hatch


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.

Eggmobile with breeding stock

Eggmobile with breeding stock.

Jack the guard dog protecting his food from pesky chickens.

I always appreciate when a rooster leaves me a present on the four-wheeler.

I always appreciate when a rooster leaves me a present on the four-wheeler.


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.

Loading trays

Loading trays

Once I have collected enough eggs to fill an incubator, I set them in the incubation trays pointy side down.

Eggs in the incubator.

Eggs in the incubator.

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.

Eggs on lock down

Eggs on lock down

Around day 21, the eggs start to hatch.

Hatching chick

Hatching chick

Hatching tray

Chicks in the hatching tray that are dry and ready to be transferred to brooder.








Once hatched and dry, I transfer the chicks to the brooder where they will stay for the next four weeks.



Don't worry, this chick is just sleeping. Sometimes I fall asleep over my dinner plate, too.

Don’t worry, this chick is just sleeping. Sometimes I fall asleep over my dinner plate, too.

peep peep

peep peep



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About Heather Juda

Heather was born in Atlanta, GA, but spent 19 years in Colorado before moving to Virginia. She came to Polyface for the 2012 internship and has stayed on as the first female apprentice. She became interested in the food industry when she was in high school, and over the years sought to eat in a healthier way through community gardening, hunting and supporting local farmers. She had a very blessed and “comfortable” life in Colorado complete with a good IT career and condo, but on a calling from the Lord, she left it all to start a new life in farming at Polyface. She looks forward to seeing what the Lord has planned for the future and hopes to use what she learns at Polyface to provide healthy food for people!
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7 Responses to Spring Hatch

  1. Heather, how do you store eggs while waiting to fill an incubator? How long can you wait to start incubating a fertile egg and still get a successful hatch?

  2. Congratulations Heather! What a wonderful way to help Polyface increase in health and vitality. May your hatching season be blessed.

  3. Erin Cross says:

    Love seeing all those healthy chicks in a safe clean cozy brooder and being carefully handled during the set and hatch. What a great job y’all do caring for your animals and leading the way in commercial chicken products!

  4. Heidi Dickens says:

    If you are looking for a new source for breeding stock or broilers, I highly recommend this family run hatchery in Oklahoma. I have had nothing but superior birds from here for the past 3 years. Their broilers are especially hardy.

    Country Hatchery, Inc.
    P.O. Box 747
    Wewoka, OK 74884
    Ph: 405.257.1236

    Email: info@countryhatchery.net

  5. Rose says:

    fun fun FUN!! ^_^

  6. Paige says:

    They’re so cute! That’s a mighty snazzy incubator too. 🙂