Baby Chicks

What do you get when you have hens, roosters and a mother who teaches preschool? You get baby chicks, of course! We haven’t had any “natural born” chicks on the farm yet because none of our hens have expressed interest in sitting on a nest of eggs long enough to incubate them. By collecting eggs from the coop every day we discourage broodiness, after all we don’t really need anymore chickens on the farm– 23 is plenty! But my mom is a preschool teacher and she teaches a class/program called Environmental Arts at Knollwood Preschool and one of the activities she does with her kids is incubating chicken eggs and then raising the chicks. In the past she has gotten fertilized eggs from the county extension office but now that we have mature roosters to fertilize our hens’ eggs we offered some of our eggs this year. She is also incubating some eggs from a friend’s farm.

Listening to the Eggs Peeping

Chicken eggs take 21 days to incubate but can be left at room temperature for up to a week before incubating, if necessary. This gave me a few days to collect eggs and then carry them with me from our farm in Kentucky to my parents’ house in NC.

I was going to NC for The Knit and Crochet Show anyway so the timing worked out well. The eggs were put in the incubator on September 20th, making their “due date” October 11th. By the evening of October 10th quiet peeps could be heard coming from inside some of the eggs and on the morning of the 11th two of the eggs began to hatch.

Chicks Hatching at Preschool




The timing was perfect and the eggs hatched during the school day and the preschoolers were able to watch the process. In the photo above you can see a baby frizzle standing in the incubator and a baby barred rock half way out of the egg.

It takes quite a bit of effort for the little chicks to break through the egg shell and squirm out of their tight packing and once they are free of the shell they tend to be very sleepy.

Frizzle Chick

When baby chicks sleep they collapse flat on the ground, sometimes on their backs and other times flat on their bellies with their heads out. When I first saw this happen I was alarmed because they look dead, but they are just sleeping. As they get older they learn to sleep in a more dignified position and finally learn to “roost” or sleep standing on a perch.

So far we have had one frizzle egg, one barred rock and one “mystery” egg hatch. I can identify some of the eggs but not all of them– I have to catch a hen laying the egg in order to know what her particular eggs look like. Two of Imogene’s eggs look and sound like they will hatch today and there are a few other eggs that we are still waiting on. When I collected the eggs I had no way to know if they were all fertilized. We have three roosters with 20 hens so its likely that they are all being mated with, but we don’t always see it happen and its hard to guess at how frequently each hen is being fertilized. So it won’t be too surprising if not all the eggs hatch. I’ll post an update in the next day or two to let you know how the rest of the eggs fared!

Frizzle, Barred Rock and mystery chick


Today's Eggs

Now that some of the chickens that hatched this spring have started laying we are getting about 6 eggs a day, and every few days the number increases!


Henrietta and Imogene are a year older than the rest and so their eggs are the largest. Henrietta’s are about the size of a grocery store egg, for scale, and Imogene’s are unusually large! The younger chickens start off laying smaller eggs, they should get larger as the birds mature. I hope so, otherwise we are going to have lots of tiny eggs! The only exception are the two bantam frizzles that we have (one white, one red). These two hens are miniatures- that’s what Bantam means- and they lay miniature eggs. The teeny tiny egg at the bottom of the photo is from the white frizzle. They are fun to hard boil since you can eat them in one bite, or they make pretty decorations on salads. We know that the pinkish egg near the top is being laid by our Delaware hen. For some reason she prefers to lay on top of the nesting boxes rather than in one of the nests. And one of the Barred Rocks lays in the hay loft in the barn. She and Arnold are the only ones to even go in the barn since its all the way across the yard from the coop but apparently it feels like home to her. We haven’t figured out who laid the other three eggs in the picture. We have to catch them in the act to know for sure!

Nesting Boxes

Nesting BoxThe chickens will be 4 months old in about a week and that is the age when some of them may start laying eggs. So today Chris made a new nesting box cabinet. He was able to use scrap wood and some old shutters that we found out in the barn such that nothing had to be bought new. Hopefully the chickens will actually use it. To encourage them we placed some ceramic “nest eggs” in some of the spaces, you know, for inspiration.


These are most of the chickens that we got as chicks this spring. Most of them are hens, but we have a few roosters. They will be 3.5 months old this weekend. We’ll start looking for eggs when they are 4months old, though some may not start laying till next spring. Click photos to make them big.

Chicken Update

Yesterday evening we moved the young chickens from their baby run in the barn to the adult chicken coop in the old play house. The adults pretty much ignore the younger chickens if they are all out in the yard but once they are cooped up together they pick on the little ones so we separated the coop with some chicken wire. This way the adults can come and go  through the front door while the little ones are safely contained inside. After a few days with this arrangement we hope that the adults will be used to the presence of the new flock and that the little ones will recognize the coop as home and will go back there are night once we start letting them free range.