Incubation and brooding questions

Q. Where do I find an incubator and how much will it cost me?

A. Incubators can run you anywhere from around $45 to around $800 and up. I recommend to the novice that you start out with a simple and inexpensive "Hovabator" (around $45) available at most feed stores. They come as still air hand turn models (around $45) or with a Turbofan (around $70 and/or an automatic turner (around and additional $40). You can also watch for used incubators at yard sales, auctions and Uncle Henry's. Of course a used incubator like a used car can be a real lemon. Proceed with caution.

Q. Where should I set the incubator up?

A.     Anyplace that is draft free, has an electric outlet, is out of direct sunlight and holds a relatively steady tem­perature. The colder the location the harder it is for your incubator to hold the correct temperature and the more electricity you will use to run it. Your basement, the attic, the spare room, the barn. Where ever it is most convenient for you and meets the above requirements.

Q. What do I do if the power goes off?

A.     Leave the incubator closed and cover it with a blanket or feather pillows to hold in the heat. The eggs can chill fur a few hours and chicks still survive. Depending on how developed the chicks are at the time, eggs within a few days of hatching will generate some heat and the chicks will live to hatch a day or so later than the 21st day. Placing the incubator near the wood stove works as long as it isn't too near and you turn the incubator every hour or so to help keep the heat even. Heating blankets by the wood stove and placing over the incubator also works. Don't expect to bring the incubator up to the hatching temperature but this method will keep the eggs from chilling too much. If the power is off for a day or two you may give serous thought to starting over. Candle the eggs once they have bad a day or two of normal hatching temperatures to determine if there is still life in them.

Q. Where do I get a brooder for my chicks and what other items win I need?

A.     Any draft free space will work as long as it has a heat source, feed and water. A cardboard box, a wooden box, a washtub, a watering tub. The chicks need enough floor space to be able to move away from the heat source when they get too warm. Other items you will need are at least one thermometer (directly under the heat source) a second thermometer near the side is helpful. Light bulbs of different wattage, a wire top is helpful but not necessary unless you have cats. Do not attempt to keep the entire brooder the same temperature the chicks will gather under the heat source if they feel chilled and move away from it if they feel too warm. Chicks bunched up under the heat source are too cold and chicks bunched up in the furthest comer from the heat source are too warm. You may want to increase the heat at night and decrease it during the day to keep a relatively even temperature for the chicks to live in. Gradually decrease the temperature as the chick’s feather out.

Q. What if I don't have access to chick feed when the chicks are ready for the brooder?

A.     Hard-boiled eggs work well. Shelled and chopped fine. Mixing in a little corn meal or ground oatmeal doesn't seem to hurt the chicks. Even after you have chick feed you can give your chicks a treat of chopped hard-boiled eggs.       .

If you plan to keep all that you hatch don't produce more chicks than you have room for adult chickens. ­Over crowding makes for the incubation of disease, cannibalism and unthrifty birds which are doomed for the compost pile. GOOD HATCHING, GOOD KEEPING, GOOD EGGS, GOOD CHICKEN.