GullyRumpus Farm in Rio Linda is offering an innovative program that allows families to incubate and hatch chicken or quail eggs at home.
GullyRumpus owner Linda Easton came up with the idea for Hatch@Home as a way to expand her farm’s flock by sharing hatching duties with people in the community. She’s marketing the program as a hands-on science experience for families with children.
“I used to be a teacher and would hatch chicks with my students every year,” says Easton. “I saw the difference that it made for students to see that process of birth. It’s an amazing, awe-inspiring thing to watch a chick struggle, maybe for hours, to hatch from its shell.”
The four-week program costs $175. A participating family receives fertile eggs and a rental kit with everything they need to incubate and hatch the eggs, including an incubator, video orientation and hatching guide, egg candler, brooder box and bedding, feeder and waterer, organic chick feed and chick heater.
Once the chicks hatch, the family cares for them for about a week before returning them to the farm to join Easton’s flock. A family can also choose to keep the chickens to raise themselves.
Easton raises Black Australorp chickens, a heritage breed that can be used for both meat and eggs, and Coturnix quail, a rare breed that lays pretty blue eggs. To her surprise, about half of the families participating in the program since January have chosen to hatch quail rather than chickens. There are several advantages to quail over chickens: They are quiet, cost less to feed and, because they prefer small living spaces, don’t take up as much room as chickens. “They’re really amazing birds,” says Easton, who believes quail “are the new backyard chickens.”
Three families have already completed the program, 19 more are booked through the end of June, and there’s a waiting list. Easton plans to buy additional equipment so she can expand the program to more people.
Easton currently has about 50 chickens in her flock. Last year, she sold eggs at Oak Park Farmers Market, but she’s taking this year off to concentrate on the hatching program. As Hatch@Home grows, her flock will grow, too. “I’m going to let it grow naturally,” she says. “I mostly want to provide families with a good experience and let the farm grow in the direction it’s going to grow.”
For more information, go to www.gullyrumpus.com.