Farmers’ Diaries: Moloko Swanepoel

Moloko Swanepoel, Beska, Lephalale, Limpopo

We run a battery/cage layer operation hatching and raising our own birds. We buy fertilised eggs from a supplier in Witbank. We want to start a free-range operation and have been developing parent stock of Australorps and Rhode Island Reds as these two breeds come highly recommended for free-range egg production.

We’ve just hatched 120 eggs that were collected from parent stock on the farm Fertilised eggs must be handled carefully, as a disturbance of the air cell may reduce the chances of a successful hatch. We also clean and sterilise the incubator to make sure newly hatched chicks don’t get infections.

Eggs are placed in the incubator with the big side facing upwards and the incubator is set at 38.5°C. The incubator is automated and rotates eggs three to four times a day up to Day 18, so that the developing chick does not stick to the shell. Chicks start hatching from Day 21.

This process normally takes about five to seven hours. We leave the unhatched eggs for up to 24 hours. Once the chicks are dry and have adjusted to the environment, we move them to the brooder.

At this stage we vaccinate the chicks against Newcastle disease and gumboro, and put them on a weekly stress pack for the first month. The chicks eat starter feed for four weeks and then go on to grower feed until they are 16 weeks old.

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