I decided to get the hatching over with early this year so set 33 eggs (Bresse Gauloise) on 7th January. Today they hatched, 24 chicks from 33 eggs isn't bad (72%) considering they were sent from Germany so had to contend with temperature change, pressure changes and all that shaking about in the post.
I seem to have 10 females and 14 males. How do I know that? I don't really but I was given a chick sexing device last month.Its a pair of magnets suspended on a string and I am sceptical.As soon as someone who isn't a Physicist starts talking about magnetic fields and forces scepticism kicks in. I need evidence.
Jimmy who gave it to me sells the "Magnasexers" on Ebay and is convinced that they work on poultry, fish and humans. You hold the egg in your hand and suspend the device just above the shell. If the magnet starts to rotate the embryo is female, if it swings back and forth it's male. So I did this on all 33 eggs then marked them M or F. When they were transferred to the hatcher from the incubator the F went in one side and the M in the other with a strip of plastic between them so that they could not get mixed up. The F chicks now have a black spot from an indelible marker on their heads.
|Magnasexer in action
You'll have to wait six weeks for the results. I'll be able to tell which are hens and which are cocks, when their feathers replace the down. May have to put coloured leg rings on one batch in case the ink wears off. There will be no statistical analysis at this stage ( I've forgotten how to do analysis of variance, there is not replication and you probably wouldn't be interested anyway). We will have a straightforward count of Ms and Fs.
There are pros and cons to hatching as early in the year as this. Its cold and dark and this affects fertility, more heat is needed for brooding and the chicks need to be well protected from draughts. There's a widely held belief too that you get more males with early hatches. However, as the chicks grow day length increases and peak daylight should coincide with these starting to lay in late June. The adult birds are also bigger than later hatched batches for some reason. In any case I want to get the hatching out of the way. One more batch of Ixworths next month, then a batch of geese for Christmas in March and I can put the incubator away until next year.
The incubator has to be kept at 37.5C until the chicks start to hatch when the temperature is reduced slightly because the chicks are creating their own heat.Just as important is the humidity. It should be low (40%) until the chicks start to hatch. They need to lose about 11 or 13% of their weight during the incubation period so that the air sac increases in size and the chick will have air to breathe until it breaks a hole in the shell, "pipping". I work out the average weight of each batch of eggs when it is set and then graph the ideal weight loss against actual weight loss once a week to make sure that the eggs are losing weight at the correct rate. In the graph below the rate of loss has been a little more than 11% so within the ideal range.