I started with a couple production hens, and a rooster. A couple years later, after I had some experience under my belt, I decided on SOP Black Australorps. I got my trio from a very reputable breeder. The rooster was fantastic, and in his prime. The two hens were fantastic quality, but older. They had already begun to taper off in their laying. Between both hens, I was getting around 12 eggs in a 10 day period. I had no equipment for hatching eggs, had never hatched, but knew I was going to have to get busy fast if I was going to maintain my line.
I got a Little Giant styrobator from TSC, with the turner, and proceeded to try to hatch out some eggs. It holds 40 eggs, and I couldn't even half fill it. Remember, I live in Florida, and it was a rainy year, so the humidity fluctuated wildly, shooting up to 95% on the rainy days, and there were a lot of them. In addition to all of that, the older the hen, the more porous the eggs, so with all the humidity that was working against me too. I believed the biggest part of the problem was my inexperience at hatching eggs, so I even enlisted the help of a gal that works at my local feed store, and she's experienced at hatching eggs. I gave her 16 eggs. I managed to hatch out 3 chicks, a cockerel, and two pullets. She too managed to hatch out 3 chicks, a cockerel, and two pullets. I did manage a bit later to hatch out one more cockerel, but one wing was not right. The only thing that saved my bacon at that point was that I was blessed, and the first 6 were good quality.
I was concerned about their quality, so I took them to the APA show in Inverness. They did really good. All of them got either first, or second place, except one cockerel got third place. They are 2 years old now. From the original trio, the rooster is still good, but is 4 years old now, and the hens are down to about 2 eggs a week. I have the original hens in with my back-up rooster, and the original rooster with the hens I hatched out. I again, am forced to hatch more birds out to maintain my line. I seriously dreaded the thought of having to hatch eggs.
One thing I did to help the hatching situation is that I just got an Rcom 20 Pro. First off, I can fill it with eggs within the 10 day collection deadline. Even if all 20 eggs hatch out, that's not too many chicks to deal with at a time. So far, temp is rock steady, and I will know more about the humidity when I candle in a few days, but it is holding steady too. I will be forced to cull a few of my existing older birds to make room for the new ones. I don't relish the thought of culling, but the thought of losing my wonderful line is even worse, so I will do what must be done. In about 5 months, my coop should all be running smoothly again, and that will hold me for a couple more years. Something I forgot to mention is that I rent the property my coop is on. Hopefully, it won't be too much longer, and we can buy a home with a few acres. At least, that's our plan.