On our farm we try to do things very naturally.
Some people believe that God created things to work in perfect harmony, and if you work with creation instead of against it things will generally work out better for you. You may not believe in things like God or creation. That’s okay, you are still awesome. Instead you may believe that nature evolved over billions of years to work together in perfect harmony and if you work with evolution instead of against it things will generally work out better for you.
No matter which way you believe, I think we can all agree. Working with the natural is better than working against it. This is why being a rocket scientist at NASA is considered a high stress job and being a kid rolling down a grassy hill is considered a low stress job. One is working against nature, and the other is working with it.
I like low stress, so on our farm we try to do things naturally. This is why we rotate pastures. It is also why we have a lot of chickens, even though chickens aren’t very profitable. Birds of any kind are great to keep with livestock because they do a good job of cleaning up spilled feed, which prevents rats, and also because they get rid of parasites. This is why in nature you rarely see a water buffalo without a bird on its back.
I like low stress, but a couple of months ago I decided to put the whole natural thing to the test. I decided to try hatching eggs three different ways.
It all started when I began thinking about incubators.
Incubators seem like a really good idea at first. You can hatch lots of eggs in them without tying up your chickens. Also, when those lots of eggs hatch, you get lots of chickens. When a chicken hatches out eggs, you just get some new chickens. Lots of new chickens sounded like a much better deal to me so I decided I needed an incubator.
Incubators are expensive, though, and The Pastor and I didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on the “need” for an incubator. The Pastor was pretty sure that this would be a waste of our money and I was pretty sure that being able to hatch out hundreds of new chickens each year was a deal at any price. We were both pretty sure.
Also I am not in charge of the checkbook because I tend to buy things like puppies and new goats before I buy things like electricity and house payments.
Raise your hand if you’d rather have a puppy than make a house payment.
Long story short, in the end, I found someone who was willing to trade a small incubator for some of my goose eggs so I didn’t even need a silly checkbook.
After I brought home my incubator, I spent weeks perfecting things like humidity and temperature. Once I was sure that these things were absolutely perfect, I stuck some eggs in the incubator.
I was super excited.
We turned those eggs several times a day and kept a close eye on the temperature and humidity. Everything was perfect.
After a few days I had to deal with a broody hen. I had three extra duck eggs so I just stuck them under her and pretty much ignored her.
I continued to tend carefully to the eggs in the incubator.
After a few more days, one of my female ducks went missing. There had been coyotes in the yard the night before so I wasn’t too surprised. I forgot about it and tended carefully to my incubator.
After twenty one days in the incubator, I prepared for the great hatch. Everything was quiet.
After a few days of waiting, it became evident that nothing was going to hatch. I was a little sad because when you are expecting an incubator full of happy baby chicks and instead end up with an incubator full of dud eggs, that’s how you feel. I felt a little sad because exactly zero eggs hatched. I had a zero percent success rate.
A couple of weeks later, I was out doing chores. I walked by that broody hen I was ignoring and heard something unusual. I heard the distinct peeping sound of baby chicks! She had done it! That momma hen had hatched out two of the three eggs I had given her. That is a 66% success rate. 66 is a lot more than zero.
I was not done being surprised, though.
About a week later I was out working in the garden. As I was working I heard a familiar peeping sound from in a clump of stinging nettles. Soon, curiosity got the better of me and I went over to investigate. There, in the middle of all those stinging plants, was my missing duck. She was sitting on a nest. A nest that she had apparently sat on during some pretty severe rain storms, including some with hail. Peeking out from her feathers were a bunch of baby ducks!
By the next morning she had abandoned her nest. She brought her babies over to the duck shelter where I counted them. She had hatched out eight baby ducks! I went over to where her nest had been to count her dud eggs. When I got there I found yet another surprise. There in the nest I found one dud egg, and one newly hatched duckling. It was wet and cold and still. I didn’t have much hope for the little guy, but I scooped him up and stuck him in my chick box and turned on the heat lamp. I also stuck his brother, Dudley the dud egg, in there with him, just in case he needed something familiar.
That was five days ago. The chilly little duck has made quite the rebound. He is running around, peeping, and gobbling up his food. This morning, as I was looking at him, I thought “90% is pretty amazing! Oh! I need to get rid of Dudley before he starts to stink up the place!” But then something shiny happened and I walked away.
Tonight, while doing chores, my daughter went in to feed the little duckling.
“MOM!” I heard her scream, and I came running.
She pointed at Dudley. Dudley was broken. I covered my mouth waiting for the stink to make me gag. There was no gagging. Instead, there, next to the chilly little duckling, was Dudley. Dudley was all hatched out and looking great.
As a matter of fact, Dudley looked every bit the 100% little duckling that he is.
So to recap, Snarky = 0
Chicken = 2
Duck = 10 – with some help
Nature is winning.