My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


Incubator hatch disappointment

We had the incubator humming quietly away in our kitchen for 23 days with no sign of hatching. The eggs were due to hatch on day 21. On the morning of day 24 I gave up and turned the incubator off.

I had candled the eggs at day 19 and thought that at least one egg (a cream coloured Plymouth Barred Rock) had a fully formed chick inside and potentially one of the Barnevelder eggs but it was difficult to see inside their brown speckled eggs.  This was also my first time candling eggs so I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for.

That evening I broke open the eggs to see how many were fertile and at what stage had any chicks died inside the shells.

Six of the seven eggs were either infertile or hadn’t started to develop for some reason, possibly because they were too old at the time of setting the eggs. The seventh egg had a fully formed chick inside that had absorbed most of the yolk so must have died just before it was due to hatch. I have since learnt that I shouldn’t have candled the eggs after day 18 when the incubator goes into lockdown, so I am guessing that may have harmed the chick.

I was of course disappointed with the outcome but then I did know there was only a slight chance that the eggs were still fertile after losing both our roosters a few weeks before setting the eggs.

So what next?

I now have six Speckled Sussex eggs that I bought off Trademe (New Zealand’s equivalent to eBay) in the incubator. They are a reasonably rare breed in New Zealand so I hope they hatch. They are due on December 6th.


A new incubator and a terrorising rooster


My chickens do not go broody so I bought an incubator.

Well, that is not entirely true of course. Aunt Dorrie, my bantam has been broody many, many, many, many times before but for numerous reasons, has not resulted in any chicks.

It all seemed to happen at once. We decided to increase our egg production and bought two beautiful Plymouth Barred Rocks in their first year of lay.

We also bought an incubator to hatch some of our own eggs since we had two roosters and were not having any luck with broody hens. Hannah Hen did go broody a few years ago and hatched chicks from fertilised eggs we bought, but hasn’t been broody since. Possibly something to do with the fact that she is almost 8 years old. The two Barnevelders have never been broody in their three years.

So an incubator, it is.

The weekend that the Brinsea Mini Advance incubator arrived, happened to be the same weekend that the Plymouth Barred Rocks arrived and the same weekend that we had King George put down.



The following weekend we had to get rid of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.



With King George gone, Jonathan Livingstone, my Silver Spangled Hamburgh, took his place but as the main rooster he started terrorising my girls. He chased them relentlessly. They were running for dear life and squawking and even flying against the glass doors to get away from him. Hilda, my usually slow moving Barnevelder, ended up running into the hen house with Jonathan close on her heels. She jumped into the nesting box to get away from his terrorising advances. Jonathan relentlessly paced up and down the hen house waiting for her to get out of the nesting box. He finally gave up and came out and chased the others. Hilda stayed in that nesting for a full 24 hours.

Needless to say all egg production ceased that weekend and Jonathan was “taken away” the very next day.

So now I have an incubator and no roosters. If I could get some eggs into the incubator this week, fertility shouldn’t be an issue. With George having been so ill, he had not been doing his roosterly duties but Jonathan more than made up for that. But did I really want his aggressive genes in any of my chicks?

We were going away on holiday in a few weeks time and if I set the incubator this week, we would be away when the eggs hatched. That would be no good.

So we set a mixture of Barnevelder and Plymouth Barred Rock eggs in the incubator a week or so later. The chances of the eggs still being fertile were fairly low, but it is worth a try. I have low expectations so won’t be too disappointed if nothing hatches.


Have our Plymouth Barred Rocks settled into their new home?


The two Plymouth Barred Rocks we bought a month ago have settled in surprisingly well. Even Helen, our resident “not very nice” chicken didn’t bother them, apart from the few raised hackles when the girls were confined to the coop. Maybe it helps that these girls are bigger than my Barnevelders.

We got these girls on a Saturday and kept them locked in a coop where the others could see them. On Monday I had to take a day off work to take King George to the vet where he was put down. That afternoon when I got home, I decided to let the new girls out for a few hours while I was there to supervise. Ever since they arrived at our place, they have been very friendly girls, even coming over to me whenever I opened the door of the coop and letting me touch them. I was pretty sure they were not going to run away.

I let the girls out and sat on the grass beside them to supervise. No supervision necessary. The girls all mingled together, a little bit apprehensive of each other but no fights. In fact they were so good, that when I went to work the next day, I let all of them out and they have been free ranging together ever since then.



And I can even tell them apart. Henley has a smaller comb and is not quite as big as Hillary.

I think I have been very lucky.


How many chicken coops does a girl really need?

Melissa at vuchickens had a new chicken house built. I watched her coop building posts with ever increasing envy but I already have three coops so I dare not to suggest to my husband that I would like a new one like the one vuchickens has. DSC_0001_2045 This is my very first chicken coop before I knew what I was doing. I bought this one for the stray chicken that turned up at my place but when I introduced 2 Barnevelders to the mix, it quickly became apparent that this coop was far too small. They did however, free range all day so they really only had to sleep in this. DSC_0108_2430 A very short time later, we decided to upgrade to this coop. This was advertised to house eight to ten chickens. That should be enough room for our girls.


But then my bantam went broody and we bought her some fertile eggs. She hatched her chicks but we decided they needed their own nursery coop away from the main hen house. So we got this chicken coop for her to raise her chicks in. We sold Hannah’s chicks shortly after but decided to keep the coop as a future maternity coop. We also kept the first small coop as a sick bay if it was ever needed.

Then somehow we had a chicken population explosion.

Firstly a rooster arrived from across the road. He preferred my ladies, my food and my accommodation. We kept him. His name was King George.
A few months later, his girlfriend from across the road also came to live with us. Her name is Aunty Dorrie and she is a silkie cross bantam.
A few more months went by and then a Silver Spangled Hamburgh rooster turned up, also from the farm across the road.
Then we decided we didn’t have enough egg laying poultry. We were only getting eggs from two of the six poultry living with us
. So we bought two Plymouth Barred Rocks who had just started their first laying season. So when we brought the Plymouth Barred Rocks home (Hillary and Henley) and my husband and I were outside  trying to rearrange the coops to fit everyone in, he said “I think we need to buy a proper chicken coop to keep all these chickens in”. DSC_0025 So after a quick happy dance and before he could change his mind, we went inside to do some internet shopping. We found the perfect chicken coop that houses up to 20 chickens and comes in a flat pack. The site for the new chicken house was cleared of trees and the footings have been put down.