The main events at the homestead this week were garden harvesting, building the rabbit herd, and hatching chicks.
We have been continually harvesting the sweet peas, snap peas, and strawberries. I think the strawberry patch is beginning to wind down for the season, but it has been wonderful to have so many strawberries this year. The peas are still in full force and I expect that harvest to continue the next couple of weeks.
The Valiant grape-vine is doing well for its second year, but we aren’t sure the fruit will ripen in time to beat the first frost.
We had a successful hatch this week, and the results proved to us – yet again – that the hens are better at high altitude hatching than the incubator is.
Hatching at high altitude is very tricky because you are dealing with lower oxygen levels and at the same time more rapid air transfer. Getting the humidity just right and keeping it right is hard, and thus hatch rates at high altitude are lower than those at lower altitudes. Over the years we have figured out the best balance that we can and have been able to hatch successfully in our hovabator. A “successful” hatch for us is around 50-55% hatch of fertile when using an incubator.
When we use broody hens, however, our hatch rates are usually closer to the 70-75% hatch of fertile range. Especially with our best broody hen, our Silkie, named Eve. Clearly, their instincts help them adjust the setting process to suit the higher altitude.
This hatch we were using two broody hens (Eve and Banana) as well as the incubator. The plan was for the incubator to supplement any natural losses so that each hen ended up raising as many chicks as possible, and we wouldn’t brood any ourselves. If you recall a post from a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked with 100% fertility on the eggs. So we went into the setting with 29 eggs. Here are the final results:
Incubator: Hatched 7 out of 13 eggs – 54% hatch of fertile
Banana: Hatched 6 out of 10 eggs – 60% hatch of fertile
Eve: Hatched 5 out of 6 eggs – 83% hatch of fertile
TOTAL: Hatched 18 out of 29 eggs – 62% hatch of fertile
We are very happy with the results. We wanted the hens to raise all the chicks for us, so after each egg hatched in the incubator we would take it up and put it under one of the hens. Eve is raising 6 chicks (she is bantam size), and Banana is raising 12 (she is full-size).
Meet the Herd
We bought our last two breeding stock rabbits. We now have 3 does and 1 buck. The buck and one of the does are too young to breed. But the other two does are old enough, and one of them came already bred from the breeder. She is due this week! It is exciting to already be getting ready for our first litter to be born so soon after getting back into raising meat rabbits.
Let me introduce you to the newest members of our farm. Since we bought the first two on the 4th of July, the kids decided to give them all names themed with that date in mind.
Independence (Indy) is a Rex/Silver Fox doe. She is about 9 months old. We took her to our friend’s buck to be bred this week, so we are expecting a litter from her in about a month. As you can see, she is a bit camera-shy and would only give me her back.
Liberty is a Palomino doe. She is a year old. She was bred before we bought her and is due with a litter this week.
Justice is a Rex/Silver Fox doe. She is 10 weeks old.
Uncle Sam is a White New Zealand/Flemish Giant buck. He has the typical ginormous ears of the Flemish Giant breed. He is 12 weeks old.
We are all excited to have our meat rabbit herd up and running again!