I’ve incubated a couple of batches of chicks. I’m taking advantage of a peculiar genetic phenomenon called sex-link, where when a red- or buff- colored rooster is bred to barred-colored hens, the offspring are different-colored by sex. In this case, I have a Rhode Island Red rooster and Barred Rock hens. The chicks hatch black, but the male chicks are destined to have the barred pattern, so they have a white “thumbprint” on top of their heads. Voilà, instant sexing of day-old chicks (which is much more accurate than a layman trying to eyeball their teeny genitals to guess). This hybrid “breed” is often called Black Star. They are supposed to be good egg layers, due to coming from two good egg producing breeds, and leveraging heterosis.

I still use the standard cheap-o, foam cooler-style incubator, and the yield out of it still sucks for me. They are really best suited to be operated in a climate-controlled room, and we don’t have any of those! Winking smile But, I’m resigned to the reality of the low yield, as I’m not serious enough about hatching eggs to buy something nicer. This gets me the few replacement hens I need, plus some, if I want. Of the 41 eggs set, I’ve gotten as high as nineteen chicks, and as low as eight.

One interesting accident in my second batch was that I skipped candling the eggs to pull out the non-fertile ones at seven days. I just plain forgot to do it. But, my yield was higher than usual, and more of the eggs hatched on time. So it could be that every time I fiddle with the eggs or cool them down, it causes some to perish or experience delayed maturation. I think I’ll stick to the simpler method in the future. 

My yield also seems to be impacted by the fact that my poor, kindly rooster is getting old, and I don’t think he’s able to cover twenty-something ladies anymore. So a good 1/3 of the eggs are infertile. I am hoping to get a replacement red rooster in this batch. I did get some purebred RIR chicks, but fewer. My RIR hens are two+ years old, and it seems it shows up in the viability of their eggs.

This last batch gave me a ton of Black Star roosters. Grr. I will grow them out and butcher them, for lack of anything better to do with them. But they are not very fruitful as a meat breed, so the work to butcher them is not entirely justified. I guess nature is making up for my generous number of ewelambs born by giving me lots of boy chickens!