Eight little hatchlings this time, and I think it was because I screwed up. I didn't write down the date I started the eggs in the incubator, and therefore wasn't sure when they would be hatching. Oops.
The next morning, I was greeted by the first four little peeps.
In my previous hatches, it's been nearly 24 hours between the first and second chicks, and sometimes two or three days before the last one makes it out of his shell. By Tuesday morning, all eight were out and chirping loudly, no latecomers on Wednesday or Thursday. There was one who didn't quite make it out of his shell on Wednesday, but I'm afraid I may have drowned him. I refilled the water pan Wednesday morning, a little too full I think, and the way the shell was turned, chips toward the bottom, it might have wicked water up inside.
Otherwise, this has been the loudest, most active, and largest hatch so far. My plan is to wait until I hear the first cheeps from the eggs before removing the egg turner from now on. Four of these were my eggs, and four were from the neighbour who washes and refrigerates. The other neighbour had agreed to save me a dozen unwashed, but lost her rooster before she got the chance. :(
I have no eggs saved right now for another batch- since I wasn't paying attention to when the last batch was supposed to hatch. The incubator will be taking a little break.
In the meantime, I need to catch the last batch while I can still identify them, and band their feet. The first two batches are all about the same size as my meat birds now, and since I'm raising Frey's dual purpose, their colours are a bit of a mix and I'm not sure who's who. The male meats are supposed to be white, and the females are supposed to be red. Most of my hatchlings had a reddish tinge to them, and there are far more whites with black than I could have hatched.
Since the meat birds grow faster than the layers though, I should be able to tell again in the next few weeks. The whites (males) far out number the reds (female) though, so likely I'll be keeping all of the hens to over winter and incubate their eggs next spring. Provided of course, that I don't get too overzealous and screw things up.
Because I've decided to free range the birds a bit. They are so hungry all the time, and not really interested in the raspberry bushes and few weeds that are still growing in their pen. I let them out into the yard in the morning now, water them, and go to the garden. They have complete freedom to wander, eat bugs, and forage for greens while I'm in the garden picking their weeds for the day. When I'm done I take the weeds back to the turkey pen, and most of them follow me to see what I've got. The rest are soon lured in by the sound of grain and happy munching sounds. A couple get caught outside the fence, but are easy to catch and toss in, as they're eager to get to the food.
It's only an hour or two in the morning, but still, it seems to make them happy, and hopefully will cut down on the feed bill a bit. They're up to four bags a week now, two each of turkey grower and scratch grain. I also mixed in a bag of whole corn yesterday, as I think the ducks and geese can handle it, and maybe it'll entertain the chicks for a bit while they work at pecking it out.
I am seriously regretting not planting a row or two of mangels for the birds this spring. The turkeys seemed to enjoy them last fall, and I think they'd make an easy fodder crop for them as well. I am tossing buckwheat and clover seed between my rows as I weed- growing weeds on purpose for the birds. I figure I have to pull weeds there anyway, it might as well be something a bit more nutritious for the birds.