Hatching and happy
The museum at Barneveld contains one of the largest
selections of incubators as they developed through the
th century that I’ve ever seen. Again some of them
reminded me of my grandfather and how he hatched
his birds, and the ‘Glevum’ paraffin- fuelled
incubator reminded me of my youth when hatching
out bantam and game bird eggs.
In my opinion, far better than an electric modern-day
innovation, these incubators (which were often so
beautifully constructed they looked more like a piece
of furniture than a practical and mundane piece of
equipment), produced wonderful results: due in part
to their simplicity and also to the fact that ventilation
and vital humidity were provided by the ‘wet’
atmosphere given off by the paraffin and the need for
an air-flow in order to keep the heater wick at
optimum efficiency.
The examples of brooders from the past – so primitive yet so crucial in a poultry world that was
becoming increasingly commercial – are brilliant. They ranged from a simple hay-box brooder to not
much more than a curved piece of tin under which a light bulb or two had been fitted and a curtain of
fabric fringes added around the sides; under which chicks could creep and feel instinctively secure as
though beneath their mother’s feathers. No bleak and stuffy display, these: the museum’s
organisers’ (and there are a hundred of them, all working on a purely voluntary rota system) have
given these particular exhibits ‘life’ by the addition of model chicks, all engrossed in doing what
healthy birds of that particular age should do – so much so that, during my visit, one of the curators
had to gently remove a girl of perhaps four or five who was sitting amongst the wood-shavings
cuddling a handful of these models. If only she had known that, in the next room, there were real
chicks waiting for her!
Because the museum caters for all – be they professional poultry-keepers, hobbyists, or just those
who want a day out, during the season, eggs are hatched on a three-week cycle. So it is possible for
anyone and everyone to interact with day-olds and beyond. The little girl would, I imagine, have
been delighted when she eventually discovered the real thing… my host around the museum told me
of a 90 year-old lady who, given the opportunity to watch a chick hatch from its egg, had tears in her
eyes when she said that she’d had four children but had yet never before seen anything quite so
magical and special.
If you’re heading to Holland, make a trip to the Museum part of your itinerary.
Dutch Poultry Museum
Hessenweg 2A
RB Barneveld
0031 (0)342 400073
The museum is open from March 1 – October 31, Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 – 17.00hrs
Incubators and hatchers of the time