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We may live in the boondocks of Maine, but there is one "urban convenience" in our small town that I've come to really appreciate. It's a Dollar Tree store. I've found myself buying things there that I'd never have imagined, before living near one. From seed starting supplies, to freeze-dried fruit, to homeschooling supplies and organizing bins.
I've gotten so that I think "can I buy this at the dollar store?", before ordering on Amazon or stopping at the hardware or grocery store. But it wasn't until getting set up for our busy season of hatching and selling chicks and ducklings this year, that I thought to look at the dollar store carries for all of the usual supplies that I keep on hand for hatching season. Turns out, it had almost ALL of them! While you may not have a Dollar Tree nearby, since so many of these "dollar store" chains carry very similar inventory, I'm betting a dollar store near you carries them too.
Stocking up on these items at $1 each is definitely a money saver! Here's what I'm stocking up on, and WHY I like to have each of these things on hand before hatching season gets into full swing.
Hatching supplies to buy at the dollar store:
If you've read my post about how to store hatching eggs, you know that I much prefer setting eggs that are already clean, without needing to be washed. But that's not always possible. When I need to wash eggs for hatching, I follow the guidelines from this study, and make a 5% hydrogen peroxide solution for washing the eggs.
When I'm incubating duck eggs, I spray them daily with light misting of water. I like to keep a small spray bottle right next to the incubator, so it's handy, and the small size they have at the dollar store works well. For more detail about how misting with water fits into my duck incubation protocol, this post will tell you about it!
I adore my Brinsea Octagon incubator, but I find that it has a hard time keeping the humidity quite high enough at hatch time, when I'm using it for hatching ducklings. I help boost the humidity by placing wet sponges in the incubator, and it works very well! I usually cut the sponges into 4-6 pieces, and use just a few at a time, so a pack of sponges lasts through several incubation cycles, even though I discard the used pieces after hatch.
Non-slip Shelf Liner
When hatching in my Hovabator or homemade incubators, which both have wire mesh bottoms, I like to put non-slip shelf liner down under the eggs at the beginning of lockdown. I find its helps chicks and ducklings keep their footing much better, without their legs slipping, like they can on the wire mesh.
The most common way to make use of a "hatching basket" is to separate eggs from different breeds at hatch time, so that eggs from multiple breeds can be hatched at the same time, but still kept apart when they hatch. This is not an item I use during most hatches, because I only incubate one kind of chicken egg - pure Icelandics from our flock. But I do find that they come in handy if a particular chick or duckling is having a more difficult hatch, and needs to be kept away from curious siblings who might trample or peck at the poor baby.
It's rare that I have to assist a hatch, but when I do, I want to have a sterilized pair of tweezers handy. I like keep a pair with my hatching supplies, just for this purpose.
When the hatch is completely over, it's time to clean the incubators. Many folks use bleach, but I'm extremely sensitive to bleach, and can't work with it or have it in the house. I like cleaning my incubators with a very strong vinegar solution (another use for those spray bottles!), and then dry them completely in full sun.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've felt I needed to give a newly-hatched chick electrolytes, and I usually take the time to make my own. That said, I still like to have some on hand, just in case. Using pediatric electrolytes from the dollar store is actually a tip I got from my dear friend Lisa, over at Murano Chicken Farm.
Now, I know that these last few items are all for after the hatch is over, but I really do think they're worth including, since those first days after hatch are all such a part of the process. I like to keep Epsom salt on hand in case I ever end up with a chick that has pasty butt. I put a little Epsom salt in very warm water, and then use a soft cloth to loosen any poop, and gently bath that poor little fluffy tush.
Non-Adhesive "Vet" Tape
It happens to the best of us. If you hatch chicks long enough, you're bound to eventually hatch a sweet little chick that has a case of curly toes, or spraddle legs. The sooner you begin treatment, the better the chick's prognosis for fully correcting the problem and developing normally. That being the case, it's important to have the necessary supplies on hand right at hatch, if possible. And thankfully - the same thing is used to help both conditions. Good old vet tape. You'll find it in the medical section, usually under the name "Gentle Tape". For how to use it, I think the Chicken Chick has absolutely the best tutorial about how to treat both of these situations.
Because I start hatching and selling chicks in February, it's still winter here in Maine when I'm sending them off to their new homes. BRRRRR! Because most chicks have a fairly long ride, I like to include a small heat pack in each box of chicks before I send them with customers. To make the heating packs, I put about half a cup of rice in a clean old sock, and simply tie it shut. My oven has a warming tray, and I find that putting the heating pack in there about half an hour before my customers arrive, make it perfectly warm for chicks or ducklings to huddle with for warmth. A microwave would work well also - I'd try two minutes to start with. If you're just hatching for yourself, you might not need these. But, if you're only hatching a small number of eggs and end up with only a couple that hatch, having a small heating pack can be a great comfort and it might be worth being prepared for any way.
Small Food Dishes
I pretty quickly get chicks eating out of a standard chick feeder. But for ducklings, I like something that gives them a little more room for dabbling with their bills. I start them off with small little dishes from the dollar store, and find that they work great, are easy to clean. I also like to keep extras on hand, in case I ever end up with a weaker chick or duckling that needs an extra day or two in the incubator. I like to be able to get them eating and drinking, and having extras of very small dishes makes it so I'm never rummaging in my cabinets, looking for something to feed them with.
Those are the supplies I like to be all stocked up on, before hatching season starts. For even more chicken-keeping supplies you can find at the dollar store, do check out Lisa's post over at Murano Chicken Farm. It's a good one!
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