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Hatching and raising little chicks
D. Irvin with hen eggs
A look at the hen eggs from Irving Zollers incubator. - photo by Photo provided

As the interest in the area continues to grow in raising chickens several local retail outlets sell baby chickens or “biddies” and little ducks. In the Springfield area, Ijon Webb’s has little chicks, B&S Feed and Seed has chicks and ducks and Tractor Supply in Rincon offers seasonal fowl.

The price today is not like it was years ago. I remember well as a child when my Aunt Rebecca Wilson was working for Rahn’s Feed and Seed Store sold little chicks for a quarter or less.  Now, the hens sell for about $2 to $2.50 each in this area and roosters for around a dollar less. Baby ducks are a bit more. At Easter time in the spring, I recall in the early 1960s that the feed store sold dyed chicks in pastel colors that soon washed/faded away. Now they are natural so the chickens are not harmed.

Once the hen and rooster breed, the eggs are collected and placed in an incubator or left under a setting hen to mature. The accompanying photograph shows Irving Zoller by his eggs in the incubator where he hatches eggs for the local market.

The incubator keeps the eggs tilting back and forth in a perfectly warm and moist environment. He also had a few peacock and bantam eggs incubating, which were respectively larger and smaller than chicken eggs. After the proper time for each breed’s incubation, the eggs hatch and the young chicks are moved to a brooder.

A brooder or chicken raising box has a covered area with light bulb to keep the chicks warm. At least one end of the brooder is walled in and most have a raised fine meshed wire above the floor and often an open wire runway surrounded by wire. Newspaper can be placed under the wire mesh of the enclosed box and can be changed frequently to remove the droppings. Some brooders have a tray to hold the paper.  In some handmade brooders, the wooden floor is covered in sand. Metal commercial brooders are available for sale.

Chickens need some grit to have healthy craws (or gizzards) and love to scratch with their feet. A plastic or glass automatic water bottle needs to be available to the chicks at all times. A trough feeder with starter feed is kept for the young chicks. A galvanized commercial feeder has small holes to feed through so the chicks don’t play in their food, scatter and dirty it.

The chicks require frequent attention. Some do not make it. They become cannibalistic and peck each other on the rear and the blood then attracts other chicks to peck. Keeping bright colored newspaper advertising circulars under the chicks can trick them into pecking on the red and brighter shades of paper instead of the wounded chicks. A commercial medicated anti pecking spray with a blue/purple color is available to apply on the chicks.

Once the chickens are up in size nearly laying eggs, they can be moved to the chicken house but must be guarded against predators day and night. Now, the chickens rarely survive predators without being closed inside a tight building at night. They progress from starter to finisher feed then laying mash and a little cracked corn. They need sand for grit and oyster shell for hard shells on eggs.  They like some green grass/vegetation or scraps to produce good eggs, too. The first eggs of young hens known as pullets are small and gradually increase in size up to regular sized eggs.

Chicken and egg production is a great hobby but it requires much attention and a good deal of expense now with corn/feed prices as high.  Most farm eggs in the Georgia Market Bulletin sell for around $2 a dozen.

Nothing compares to a farm fresh egg with very dark yellow yolk produced from happy, contented chickens that venture into a home range environment. This project would be great for a child/grandparent project or 4-H Club project. A rooster crowing in the morning is a natural alarm clock.

Next week we will discuss some varieties of chickens and commercial egg production.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: