Saturday, May 19, 2012

Official hatch announcement - seven baby chicks!

Whew--it has been busy over here with the new chicks and they have finally settled in! 

Wednesday, 5/9/12 the eggs started making 'peep' sounds and a couple of them starting moving a little bit as the babies tried to peck open their shells.  On Thursday 5/10/12 (day 20), we had 2 or 3 shells crack and the first baby chick hatched.  It was amazing to see the wet, weak little hatchling bust open the shell, stagger around quickly and blindly, stumble and sumersault!  Within about 24 hours, 7 of the 8 eggs hatched.  Amelia (and a couple of the neighborhood kids) were able to see a couple of them emerge from the shell--we were all so enchanted. 

We kept the little fuzzballs in the incubator more than 24 hours from the time the first one hatched, until all of the chicks became dry and fluffy.  Amelia was anxious to feel them and see them up close.

We set up the brooder in the upstairs bathroom in order to contain the dust that they create with all the scratching.  Lluckily, our housemate, Kristin, will tolerate sharing the bathroom with animals.  We will see how she likes it when they start flying out of the box, right?  The temperature under the heat lamp is supposed to be 95 degrees the first week and reduced by 5 degrees every week thereafter.  This seems about right.

Although we continued to run the incubator for an additional day, the eighth egg showed no movement and no signs of cracking.  Sad.

As it goes, we discovered that the rooster, Ricky Glisten, an Australorp (black with dark glistening green tail feathers), only mated with Amelia's hen, Fern, a Barred Plymouth Rock (basically black and white striped).  There are slight differences between all of the babies, but they are mostly black or dark grey, with cute fuzzy white bottoms, white tips on their wings, and some white on their faces.  They will look totally different (like teenagers...not so cute) when their feathers come in.

How do we find out which chicks are roosters?  Well, the best indicator is the type of feathers, which will not usually show any noticible difference until about 12 weeks.  These are the shank feathers along the bird's side, toward their back end (roosters are pointy, hens are more rounded)  However, other indicators include overall size, spurs, brighter and larger comb, crowing, etc.

We are feeding the babies organic non-medicated feed.  We went with non-medicated because they are offspring from our own hens, and were not exposed to a hatchery environment.  We want to use medication only if absolutely necessary.

Thanks for following our adventure!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Preparing eggs for hatching - three more days!

The eggs are meant to hatch on Friday (day 21), so it is time to prepare them for the big day!  We have stopped turning them (we have been doing this 3x per day), so the chicks can move into the pipping position.  Apparently, moving disorients them. 

In addition, we have added an extra dish of water at the bottom of the incubator (below the mesh) to increase the humidity.  The humidity should be increased from 55-60 percent to 65-75 percent at this time, which is meant to help the little peeps break through their shells.  We don't have a hygrometer, so we will just do our best on this.

The incubator instructions indicate that we also need to remove the two red plastic vent hole covers on the top of the unit to enable more air circulation.  We did this and then taped them to the top so they do not get lost :) 

As difficult as it may be, we must resist the urge to open the incubator at this point, in order to keep the temperature and humidity constant.  Will the water in the trays will evaporate before the eggs hatch?  It is not possible to see this through the viewing window.  We will have to just wing it.

We wait!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

After 11 days of incubation, we "candle" the eggs again.

We want to confirm the number of live embryos, and compost the ones that have not developed.  WE HAVE 8 live, active baby chicks developing!  We are thrilled that all of the 8 eggs which we thought were good on day 7 are actually doing great!

Here is our candling video of an egg that is a "dud", you can see it is very transparent, with the yolk coming up to the top of the egg, leveling itself.  Apparently, eggs with very porous shells, like this one, usually do not successfully hatch.

This one is also for the compost bin...

And here is our candling video of an egg that is developing....

Now we is so hard to be patient!

Friday, April 27, 2012

After 7 days of Incubation, we "candle" the eggs.

Today is day 7 of incubation and it is the day to "candle" the eggs.  The objective is to see how many eggs are developing normally and how many eggs are infertile (or are fertile but no longer developing).  Using our bicycle headlamp, which is amazingly bright, and a cardboard box with a hole cut for the egg to sit in, we did the test.  With squeals of delight, we discovered that 8 of our 18 eggs showed a spider web-like veining, and 5 of those 8 actually had wiggly little embryos inside!  The remaining eggs, which we were unsure about, were either very transparent, with the yolk leveling itself at the top of the egg, or they were cloudy and did not have any visible veining. 

Instead of waiting until the recommended 14th day to candle the eggs again, we plan to do it sooner to avoid any smelly eggs or egg explosions inside the incubator.  At that point, we will probably compost any eggs that look like duds.  The incubator is actually made of Styrofoam, and an egg explosion may just ruin it.

Here is a photo of our candling process.  The photo does not really show much.  The eggshells are brown and some were very hard to see through.

Here are some examples of what we actually saw, although these are just copied from the Internet.  You can see the veining, and the little dark area is the embryo.  The YouTube video shows movement like what we saw with the 5 eggs.

Thanks for following us--we will keep you updated on our incubation!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Carl made a plywood scarecrow and Amelia scantily dressed it with a bandana loincloth, work gloves, safety glasses, straw hat and a lacey white tanktop.  Hopefully the neighbors don't call the police :)
Our three ladies each layed an egg.  They usually each lay one per day.  Millie's is the darkest one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

This is the moment when we introduced Ricky to our three hens.  The girls were brave!

So we placed 18 eggs in the incubator at 1:30 pm on April 20.  We did not wash them, just placed them in after marking them.  We are supposed to let them sit in there for a whole day before starting to turn them.

Introducing....drum roll please....
Amelia's first blog!  (Written by Amelia's mom and dad, mostly)

We want two more chickens, so....we borrowed Amelia's friend's Rooster, "Ricky Glisten", from their farm.  We picked him up in a cardboard box, and brought him home.  He was such a gentleman, and the hens really liked him, we think.  However, we did not see any mating going on, so after three days of 5 am cockle-doodle-doo, we took him back to his farm.  Apparently, he immediately mated with his hens!

Wednesday, we were making a carrot cake and discovered that our eggs were fertile.  They had a little donut shaped white dot on the yolk.  We looked at photos online, and confirmed the fertility.

Our hen, Millie, has broody tendencies, but it does not seem like she really wants to sit on the eggs.  We really want to hatch these eggs, and after looking for an incubator to rent or borrow, and having no luck, we bought one from Urban Farm Store for $119 (they were really nice and gave us a discount)

Apparently, you need one with water trays, to keep the air humid.  A circulating fan is also essential, to keep the air temperature consistent throughout. An automatic egg turner would be handy, but we opted to save the $50 and turn them ourselves.  You are supposed to turn them three times a day, and you mark an X on one side of the egg, and an O on the other side.

We plugged it in at 9am, filled the water tray, and turned the thermostat on fully. We reached temperature immediately.  Now, we are micro-adjusting the temperature to stay exactly at 99.5.  The instructions recommend waiting 6 hours prior to placing the eggs inside.