After a rough spring and fall in 2020, with many flock losses due to predators, we were feeling a bit discouraged on the farm. Egg production was way down, and we couldn’t keep up with demand from our regular customers. We decided to stop selling eggs at the farm, and I even had to go to other farms so I could have eggs to sell in my shop!
It was too late to hatch more eggs for the year, with winter coming, and we didn’t have the heart for it at that time anyway. We had offers from some people to take their older birds, but we didn’t have the energy to go through integrating them with our current flock (it’s recommended that you quarantine any older birds you add to your flock, which would mean we’d have needed a whole separate area for the new ones). With a busy Christmas season ahead at the shop, it was a good time to take a break.
Once we got through the holiday season and caught up on our rest, the remainder of the long winter loomed ahead; so we started talking and thinking about flock additions once again. I asked my hubby if there was any reason we couldn’t try hatching some eggs now? We’d have to go back to raising them in the house instead of the coop, which is not ideal, but it is still doable (it just means more mess to clean up inside). They’d have to stay inside longer, until they are fully feathered and can take the cold, but we could manage. It would mean we could potentially have more hens laying by the end of the summer! We love our incubator, a Nurture Right 360*, which makes things easy. We only have to keep the water level correct and monitor the humidity. It maintains the correct temperature at all times, and automatically turns the eggs.
There are concerns for hatching eggs in the winter, however. For example, the potential for strong storms and power outages is the big one. That’s why our incubator is set up on our kitchen counter (luckily we have a huge island with plenty of extra space), plugged into an outlet that is connected to our generator. Power outages could be a concern once they’ve hatched as well (we have a Brinsea brooder heater* that works perfectly to keep the chicks warm but does need power), since the room we plan to raise them in is not connected to the generator. We have other places we could move them to, however, if necessary.
Here we go! It’s fun to have something positive to look forward to, especially since 2021 hasn’t gotten off to the start we’d all hoped it might! This will be a bit more work, but most everything with farming is hard work, and we enjoy that. Wish us luck!
We are also waiting for our one remaining young hen, Annie Oakley, to lay her first egg. She is over 26 weeks old now, so it’s possible; but I won’t be surprised if she waits until spring. Her breed is not known to be early layers.
On another fun note, I placed my seed order, so I’m also thinking ahead to the garden this spring. Additionally, I’m starting some herb plants in the house; I have some ideas of things to make to sell with those. Normally I don’t do my seed order until February, but last year a lot of things were out of stock by then, so I figured I’d better get a jump on it this year. There were some things already out though, but I got most of what I wanted. The rest I will find locally once I start venturing out more (we’ve been doing the minimum because of Covid and simply being too busy!).
We will be planting plenty of all the veggies we use for Luke’s food – carrots, beans, peas, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and extra potatoes since they are a favorite of the humans! I’ve made a deal with another local organic farm that I will buy some of her vegetables to sell at the shop and for our own use, so I can focus our garden on the things that she does not plant. I think (hope) it’s a good plan, I do feel positive about working with and supporting other local farmers, while having a little less work for myself!