I fell in love with the idea of having some Croad Langshans having read @mumsmuddyducks tweets about the breed. They are gentle giants, with feathered legs and a sweet disposition, or so I have heard. Twitter and the internet came up with a recommended breeder, Bev’s Rare Breed Poultry near Knutsford Cheshire, and so as soon as the Cream Legbars were hatched and the incubator was free, I arranged with Bev to collect some eggs. She gave me three black and four white Croad hatching eggs, sired by Monty (her black champion cockerel) and Harvey (her white cockerel). The incubator was cleaned and disinfected, the eggs were set, and so the waiting began.
Skip forward three weeks, and it was hatching weekend 28th/29th May. We have some lovely little chicks! We saw the start of the hatch and sat and watched it until the chick emerged. First came a white chick on Saturday 28th May at about 18:30. She came with a pink beak and feet and legs already covered in downy feathers. By 05:00 the next day she had been joined by a little black chick with black spots on his nostrils and gold tips to his wings. Chick number three took a long time, and after making a fairly large hole in the shell just laid there breathing but not pushing. I got very worried. I know lots of people think you should not help but after 12 hours of watching it I decided to pick off some of the shell from the edge of the hole and gently tear the membrane. It seemed to give the chick the impetus to push, and half an hour later it had hatched. Number three was another white chick. Chick number four, a second black chick, emerged only a couple of hours later; this one also had black nostrils and a black tip to its beak.
Sadly the other three eggs did not show any sign of emerging. I had candled them only a week before hatch day and all seven eggs had shown good development. I worry that the humidity may have been too high – my Brinsea Min Eco incubator comes with no humidity gauge, you just fill the central pot and hope for the best. I had run the incubator dry for the first 18 days, then filled the pot with water. But critically I did not account for the high humidity in the atmosphere at the end of May, as we had had three weeks of rain and generally cool days. If I use the incubator again, I think I will reduce the amount of water I put in towards the end, or get a proper humidity gauge, as the incubator gets very soggy once the chicks start to hatch.
One week on, and we have four fairly lively chicks. they are not as twitchy as the Cream Legbars were at this stage, and to my mind they are not growing at quite the rate of knots that the Legbars did either. Their feet frequently get caked with poo and we are washing their feet every day, sometimes twice a day, at the moment. They are slowly developing their wing feathers, the black chicks more slowly than the white, and the white ones have little tails also. The white chicks have given us cause for concern, as both developed an “angel’s wing” effect on the left wing, with the last few feathers towards the tip of the wing sticking out as though the wing were broken or deformed. This manifested itself when the chicks were 4 or 5 days old; I am waiting to see whether the problem is related to accelerated growth or injury of some kind. The black chicks do not have the same problem, although they are not growing as quickly as the white ones.