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!